Traditional site of the room in which Jesus had His Last Supper with His Apostles. The term comes from the Latin coenaculum (dining room), which is used in the Vulgate as the translation of two different Greek words. The first of these, ἀνάγαιον (upper room), used in Mk 14.15 and Lk 22.12, refers to the large furnished upper room chosen by our Lord for the celebration of His Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. The average ancient-Palestinian home was one storied and flat roofed. The homes of the wealthy, however, often included a guest room, penthouse-fashion, on the second or upper floor, often having an outer staircase leading up to it. The other word, ύπερ[symbol omitted]ον, also meaning upper room, was applied by St. Luke in Acts 1.13 to the place where Mary and the Apostles stayed in prayer after the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, presumably until Pentecost day. Since both Greek words are practically synonymous, as shown by the single term coenaculum of the Latin Vulgate for both and by their use in the Septuagint, where the two words are employed interchangeably, it seems probable that Luke wished to identify the "upper room" of the first Christian Pentecost with that of the Last Supper.
Today, southwest of the present walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, in Israel, the memory of the Cenacle is attached to a large (45 by 29½ feet) Gothic room of the 14th century on the second floor of an ancient building. This is a reconstruction of an older chapel that had been left in a dilapidated condition at the departure of the Crusaders (a.d. 1187). A cenotaph of David is venerated on the ground floor and has become, since 1948, a favorite pilgrimage spot.
The history of this site, according to St. Epiphanius (d. 403), goes back to the first century of the Christian era. According to him, a small church that had been built here in apostolic times survived the destructions inflicted by Titus and Hadrian. About a.d. 350 this old church was given needed restoration, and in 390 a great basilica, known as Holy Zion, was erected near it. The basilica is clearly represented on the famous sixth-century mosaic map of Medaba and was lovingly referred to by the Byzantines as "The Mother of All Churches. " As early as the fourth century, and more generally in the sixth, this church was clearly identified as the site of the Last Supper. The Crusaders, when they captured Jerusalem in 1099, found both churches in ruins. They restored the basilica in Romanesque style, but of this construction nothing was left after the destruction ordered by the Sultan of Damascus in 1219.
The title of Holy Zion contributed to an erroneous identification of the hill of the Cenacle with the Davidical Zion, which actually was on the opposite hill to the east, Mt. Ophel, beyond the Tyropeon Valley. A tomb of David, therefore, made its appearance here in the 12th
century and prompted the Muslims' desire to possess the site. In 1342 the Franciscans received from Pope Clement VI the care of the Cenacle in perpetuity. It was then that they built the small Gothic chapel described above. In 1523 the Muslims transformed the chapel into a mosque and finally, in 1551, expelled the Franciscans from the site.
Today's Cenacle building cannot evidently be anything but a commemoration and an approximate localization, yet it clearly deserves reverence and respect. The Franciscans were able to return to a new monastery ad coenaculum (near the cenacle) on March 26, 1936, but were obliged to evacuate during the troubles in 1948. In 1960 they were allowed to reoccupy their monastery and chapel, which had been badly damaged by mortar fire.
Bibliography: c. kopp, The Holy Places of Gospels, tr. r. walls (New York 1963) 321–334; l. h. vincent and f. m. abel, Jérusalem Nouvelle, 2 v. (Paris 1922) 1:421–481. e. power, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928–) 1:1064–84. d. baldi, Enchiridion locorum sanctorum (2d ed. Jerusalem 1955) 597–675. f. h. dalmais, "La Sainte Sion, mère de toutes les églises, " Bible et Terre Sainte 11 (May 1958) 3–5.