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Communion of the Apostles

liturgical church bread art

Similar to the *Last Supper, the image of the Communion of the *Apostles illustrates the institution of the Eucharist but also reflects liturgical practices developed in the early church. Rather than following the Gospel narratives of the last meal which Jesus shared with his disciples, the Communion of the Apostles is illustrated as a church ceremony; Jesus is shown distributing bread to the apostles who approach him in a procession, or he is depicted (sometimes twice) standing behind an altar (which is often topped with a canopy or ciborium) giving bread and wine to two groups of apostles approaching the altar from either side. The image appears in eastern art of the sixth century (in manuscripts and on liturgical patens) and is found in Byzantine examples through the medieval period. The format is rarely found in western art until the fourteenth century, when it developed especially in Italian panel painting, but still maintains the interior setting and representation of the apostles seated at a table more typical of western images of the Last Supper.
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