What would you say if I told you that we could load you on the motor coach at 9 a.m. and by 10:15 a.m.we could have you standing in a chapel viewing Leonardo’s The Last Supper?
In Nashville, Tennessee, near Music Row (the area where country music publishers have congregated) and just off the campus of Vanderbilt University is a phenomenal little place that is completely worth a visit.
The Upper Room Chapel®, Museum, and Garden was created by the United Methodist Church, which like many Christian denominations, chose to headquarter its publishing operations in Nashville. The chapel and its services are ecumenical, meaning worship are open to people of all Christian faiths and visits to the chapel are open to all.
You may recall that on the eve of his arrest, Jesus gathered his disciples for a “Last Supper” in an upper room. The story of that meal (possibly a Passover seder, but that’s arguable) as told in the Gospel of John is, in itself, filled with enough cinematic potential as to generate a movie. The Christ called out Judas on his betrayal, which to all the other disciples in attendance was still a mystery.
Thousands of years later, the polymathic genius Leonardo da Vinci created a mural at the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie to commemorate this event, at the commission of the Duke of Milan, circa 1496.
From this event come the core principles of most Christian practice. Catholics, among others, call the practice Holy Communion. Many more congregational groups call it the Last Supper. Whether you subscribe to the doctrine and theology or not, the artwork is affecting.
While it’s going to be difficult to travel to Milan, we can hop down to Nashville and see the carved frieze replica and can even worship quietly in the chapel that houses it.
Commissioned for the opening of The Upper Room Chapel in 1953, the woodcarving of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper sets the mood and theme of the chapel. Fifty craftspersons worked for fourteen months under the direction of sculptor Ernest Pellegrini to create the work. It was carved from linden (basswood) and walnut and is 17 ft. wide and 8 ft. high.
Those dimensions are said to be just slightly smaller than the original painted mural, which today, as a simulated fresco, is suffering greatly from the ravages of time. The woodcarving at The Upper Room is masterful, too. The perspectives are deceiving – the greatest depth of the carving is only about 8 inches.
The site also includes the World Christian Fellowship Window, a stained-glass construction containing more than 9,000 individual pieces of glass.
The museum, gift shop, and garden are open to the public as well. The Upper Room Chapel is open weekdays (except major holidays) from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nashville is on U.S. Central time, allowing you to gain 1 hour of clock time if traveling from the Take Life on the Road® home base in Southern Indiana.
Rest assured, The Upper Room will be on a future tour. But if you are traveling alone, exit west on Broadway from the Interstate 24-65-40 cluster and head for Vanderbilt. When you reach the law school, look for a left turn onto Grand Avenue. The chapel is about a block to the east.