Galleria Nazionale Delle Marche, Urbino, Italy/Alinari/Bridgeman Art Library

Like a priest offering the wafer of the Eucharist to his kneeling communicants, Jesus shares bread with his disciples in this 1474 painting of the Last Supper by the Flemish artist Juste de Gand. The bread and wine Jesus gave his followers, which he figuratively called his “body” and “blood” (Mark 14:22, 24 and parallels) are a symbolic token of the redemption he offers humankind from sin and death. The Last Supper was important to early Christians not because of any magical properties of either the serving dishes or the items served, but because it instituted the central Christian ritual of observing and commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf.