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B - 14 : Roman Drinking Habits and the Last Supper

Do you remember my previous blog about the Roman fondness for wine? The upper class loved it for entertaining and their lavish banquets

Typical Roman feast - not on chairs!

Of course, even a heavy drinker could not consume the wine directly from the amphora. It was poured first into a jar and then served in a goblet - both made from precious metals (gold or silver) to prevent any chemical interaction between the container and the wine. Silver or gold jars were beautiful but expensive though.

Roman silver drinking cup

Luckily, by 100 BC, Phoenicians and Syrians had mastered the art of glass blowing. As a material, glass and glass beads were already known for > 1’000 years. But by 100 BC, glass bottles, containers, jars and drinking glasses (interesting that the name for the material and the drinking container became identical!) could finally be made on an industrial scale. The Romans were big buyers, the Phoenicians big exporters. Long live trade!

Roman glass ware

Delicate Roman drinking glass

The old silver and gold goblets the Roman used before were less and less used - eventually mostly for big events like state dinners and religious ceremonies. Never shy of copying a previous culture, the christian community adopted the use of chalices for serving wine at the last supper or the holy communion, the most holy act during a christian service (Leonardo da Vinci ignored this fact and let the Apostles drink from glass cups!)

Chalice from Byzantine time

A Roman drinking habit thus gave us one of the most precious pieces of art which we use today during mass and for the Holy Communion

Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan, painted 1495 - 1498

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