A UK cathedral is installing a 'Last Supper' painting portraying Jesus as black - here's why

Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 1:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 1:23 pm
Wadsworth's apinting depicts Jesus as a black man (Lorna May Wadsworth)

The historic St Albans Cathedral has installed a reimagined version of The Last Supper featuring a black Jesus.

Erected in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, the painting “A Last Supper” was created by Lorna May Wadsworth who modelled Jesus on Jamaican model Tafari Hinds.

Dr. Jeffrey John, dean of St. Albans, explained the decision, admitting that the church was not in a good position “to preach about justice, racial or otherwise”.

He said: “But our faith teaches that we are all made equally in the image of God, and that God is a God of justice.

“Black Lives Matter, so this is why we have turned our Altar of the Persecuted into a space for reflection and prayer with Lorna’s altarpiece at the heart.”

Why was Jesus painted as white in the last supper? 

Painted by Leonardo Da Vinci in the later 15th century, The Last Supper is one of the most recognisable paintings in the world.

The drawing features a fair coloured Jesus surrounded by his 12 apostles.

The world view of Europeans in the middle ages was that God had designated Europe as Christendom, hence the European features of Da Vinci’s Christ. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in northern Italy where he spent much of his life, approximately 2,000 miles away from Nazareth where Jesus lived.

Da Vinci isn’t alone in his depiction of Jesus as light-skinned. The likes of Caravaggio, El Greco and Rembrandt all imagined Christ as a white man, unaffected by the searing heat of the Middle East.

Many scholars are in agreement that Jesus would likely have been olive skinned, with dark hair and brown eyes according to research on the ancient skeletons of Judeans.

Black Jesus

In the 20th century some argued that Jesus was black and of African origin, with Martin Luther King among the proponents of the theory.

Champions of the theory argued that the Ancient Israelites from whom Jesus was descended form were black. Others claimed that Jesus’ blackness was due to his identification with black people.

Speaking following the release of A Last Supper, Sheffield artist Wadsworth said she wanted people to think about how they were “accustomed to seeing Jesus portrayed”.

She said: “experts agree he would most likely have had Middle Eastern features, yet for centuries European artists have traditionally painted Christ in their own image.

"I cast Jamaican-born model Tafari Hinds as my Jesus to make people question the Western myth that he had fair hair and blue eyes. My portrayal of him is just as ‘accurate’ as the received idea that he looked like a Florentine."

In 2019 it was discovered that Wadsworth’s Christ had been shot with an air rifle.