Since at least the early
4th century AD, a site on Mout Zion, known as The Cenacle, which means
"dining room", was a popular place of pilgrimage for the early Christians.
It is believed to be the site where Jesus celebrated the last supper with
his disciples. The New Testament records that after Jesus ascended into
heaven, the apostles gathered in the "Upper Room" to pray together (Acts
1:13). The culmination of their 9 day vigil was the outpouring of the Holy
Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
The original building which
housed the upper room became a center for the first century Jewish Christians,
and was described as a Judeo-Christian synagogue. It was spared during
the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It became known as the Church
of the Apostles. In 382 AD the Roman emperor Theodosius I built an
octagonal church, called the Hagia Zion, on the site. The church was destroyed
in 614 AD when Persia invaded Jerusalem. It was destroyed and rebuilt several
times during the Muslim occupation of Jerusalem which began in 637. The
structure which stands today was rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th century.
Portions of the original first century walls of the Judeo- Christian synagogue
(see floor plan diagram
below) can still be seen today.
Jesus' Last Supper
with his disciples
In Jesus' time, every male Jew,
who was of age and lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem, was bound to celebrate
Passover every year in Jerusalem. This annual feast commemorated
the deliverance of the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt (see
Exodus 12). On that night the angel of death slew the first-born
of the Egyptians; but he "passed over" the homes of the Israelites, because
the lintel of their doors was smeared with the blood of an unblemished
lamb sacrificed for the occasion.
Jesus chose the time of Passover
to fulfill what he had announced at Capernaum Ė giving his disciples his
body and his blood (John 6:51-58). This is the most significant
meal of Jesus and the most important occasion of his breaking of bread.
In this meal Jesus identifies the bread as his body and the cup as his
blood. Christians have understood Jesusí passing over to his Heavenly Father
by his death and resurrection as the new Passover, which is anticipated
in the Last Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, which
fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the
church in the glory of Godís kingdom.
upper room rebuilt by the
Crusaders in the 12th century
painting depicting Mary
Magdalene running to the Cenacle on Easter Sunday morning to tell the sleeping
apostles that she had just seen the Risen Lord
Go to | Holy
Week in Jerusalem | Church
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