Upper Room or Coenaculum Last Supper Site)
Outside the old city walls near the Zion Gate
Type of Prayer Place
Tradition says that this is the site of the upper room where Christ celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples before his death on the cross. Here he instituted the sacrament of communion or the Eucharist. (See Matthew 26:17-30) It is also believed to be the site of the “upper room” where the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples following the ascension of Jesus. (See Acts 2:1-4)
The site itself is a second floor rectangular room that was built around 1335 by the Franciscans. It has a stone arched ceiling supported by carved stone columns. To be honest, I saw very little of the room itself because it was very crowded with tour groups and impromptu praise meetings. The only feature I remember our guide pointing out was a column with a pelican carved on it. She said that pelicans are the only animals who will feed their young with their own flesh and that this symbolized Christ who gave us his body to eat in the form of the Eucharist.
Our guide (who was Jewish) commented on a group that was occupying a section of the floor with one member singing a loud unrehearsed praise song. She said that people often act very exuberantly here and “fall down.” She was most likely referring to what is known as being “slain in the Spirit” when one is so overcome with God’s Spirit that they can no longer stand. They slip peacefully to the floor and rest there for several moments in a state of total envelopment by God’s presence.
How I used this place of prayer
Because of the crowds, the small room and the dim light, it was hard to find a quiet spot for contemplation. So I moved over toward the group that was occupying the floor at one end and listened to the woman “singing in the spirit.” She was singing in English and had a very strong and melodious voice that could be heard well over the noise of tour guides and crowds. Here are some of the things she was singing, “My spirit inside me, you set me apart. May your spirit pour to the highest heights. I do trust in you, heal, for I know you are faithful.” I used my time listening to the words of her song as a time of prayer to God. I hope to go back in the future when I can arrive early before the crowds and enjoy time of prayer, reflection and praise.
This structure is located on the top of Mt. Zion. In order to visit the room you must be able to climb up to the second story on a stone staircase. If you can’t walk uphill through the Old City, park at the Zion Gate parking area and you walk through an alleyway toward the upper room. There are public restrooms near this area should you need them.
On my second trip to Jerusalem I was able to spend more time in the Upper Room and observe the different ways that visitors used this holy place. Many came in and listened to tour guides tell about the historical happenings of the Last Supper. Some came in and held their own worship type services. I observed one group bring in a large box and unwrap ceramic chalices which they placed on a small ledge area for a blessing. Another group donned white robes and held a short devotional time. (They seemed to be speaking Italian, so I don’t know what they were saying.)
We sat for quite a long time waiting for a moment when the room wasn’t filled with people milling around and taking photos. We finally found such a moment late one afternoon and we quietly sang a few songs welcoming the Holy Spirit.
As we reflected on our time in the Upper Room we discovered that you need to create your own faith experience when there as the room itself does not even have a placard on the wall with any explanation of the room, of any Bible verses from the Last Supper or any mosaics, pictures or paintings of any kind, much less a place to kneel. There are a few benches in the back of the room but otherwise, no place to sit and meditate.
We visited again during our trip and this time prayed that those visiting this place would sense it as a holy place of great significance in history that could be a place of great significance in their own personal faith if they got in touch with the Christ’s amazing teachings and acts here as he poured out his life for us.
I gave this a 4 rating instead of a 5 because of the problem of so many tourists coming through failing to take the time to treat the place with awe and reverence and allowing themselves to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Added by Karen Barber on July 24, 2012