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The musician behind the theory says the music sounds like a requiem.
Published Nov. 10, 2007

An Italian musician and computer technician says he has uncovered musical notes encoded in Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, raising the possibility that the Renaissance genius might have left behind a somber composition to accompany the scene depicted in the 15th-century wall painting.

"It sounds like a requiem," Giovanni Maria Pala said.

Painted from 1494 to 1498 in Milan's Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Last Supperdepicts Jesus' last meal with the 12 apostles before his arrest and Crucifixion.

Pala, a musician who lives near the Italian city of Lecce, began studying the painting in 2003.

In a book released Friday, Pala explains how he took elements of the painting that have symbolic value in Christian theology and interpreted them as musical clues. Pala, 45, first saw that by drawing the five lines of a musical staff across the painting, the loaves of bread on the table as well as the hands of Jesus and the apostles could represent musical notes.

But the notes made no sense musically until Pala realized that the score had to be read from right to left, following Leonardo's particular writing style.

The result is a 40-second "hymn to God" that Pala said sounds best on a pipe organ.

Alessandro Vezzosi, a Leonardo expert and the director of a museum dedicated to the artist in his hometown of Vinci, said that he had not seen Pala's research but that the musician's hypothesis "is plausible."

Judge for yourself

Visit the official site for the Last Supper at

Listen to the piece at


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