Bartholomew, James Minor, Andrew, Judas Iscariot, Peter, John, Jesus, Thomas, James Mayor, Philip, Matthew, Judas Thaddaeus, Simon

The novel’s main characters are described below. Those whose names are followed by dates of birth and death are actual historical figures who also appear as characters in The Secret Supper.

Alexander VI, PopeAlexander VI, Pope (1431-1503).  Of Spanish origin, he was one of the most complex figures of his time.  He purchased his accession to the throne of Peter, and his corrupt and dissolute life earned him numerous enemies.  He had five sons.  And surprisingly, he believed himself a descendent of the Egyptian god Osiris.
Alberti, Father León BattistaAlberti, Father León Battista (1404-1472).  Besides being a priest, he was a painter, architect, poet, antiquarian, philosopher and inventor.  But he was also famous in the art of encrypting messages, designing the first cryptograph in history: a “coding disk” that facilitated the encrypting  and deciphering of secret messages.
N / AAmadeo de Portugal (1430-1482). This Franciscan, whose lay name was João Mendes de Silva, was born in Ceuta, Spain, the brother of Saint Beatriz de Silva; and died under suspicion of heresy.  He wrote Apocalipsis Nova, a treatise that inspired Leonardo for his “Virgin of the Rocks.”  Amadeo’s text also prophesied the coming of an angelic pope.
N / AAnnio de Viterbo, Giovanni (1432-1502).  A Dominican friar, professor of Theology and expert in Oriental languages.  Alexander VI named him Master of the Holy Palace and he died probably from poisoning.  Author of various books, he was the first “archeologist” of history, although he was also one of the great falsifiers of his time.  He fabricated Egyptian pieces to which he added spurious inscriptions to justify his theories.  Today he is practically forgotten.
N / AArno, Brother Guglielmo.  Responsible for the meals served at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie; “infected” with the Cathar heresy.
Bacon, Brother RogerBacon, Brother Roger (1214-1294).  A member of the Franciscan order, an inventor, theologian, and philosopher.  Author of the treatise De secretis artis et naturae operibus, which elaborates twelve distinct forms of hiding a message I a work of art.  In effect, this was the first European book that described the use of cryptography.  Many consider Bacon a kind of “Leonardo” of the 13th century.
Bandello, Matteo (1484-1561).  Matteo Bandello, the adolescent nephew of Prior Vicenzo in The Secret Supper, actually existed and was one of the most celebrated novelists of the Italian Renaissance. When he was twelve and a novice at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, he watched Leonardo paint “The Last Supper.”  In his writings he described the master Leonardo as an inconstant human being, who could equally work on his painting morning to night without stopping for even a bite of food, or spend days at a time just staring at his work to see if he could in any way improve his depiction of the apostles.
N / ABandello, Father Vicenzo (1435-1506).  Prior of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan between 1495 and 1501.  After his term in that office and the death of Father Gioacchino Torriani, he was named Master General of the Order of Saint Dominic.
Beatrice d’EsteBeatrice d’Este (1475-1497), daughter of Herculese I of Ferrara and wife of Ludovico il Moro from 1491. The Secret Supper opens with the death of this very young devotee of luxury and fashion, who made her Milanese court one of the most sophisticated of its epoch. She died while giving birth to Leon Maria Sforza, who died along with her.
N / ABenedetto, Brother.  A Dominican at Santa Maria delle Grazie, confessor and secretary to Prior Bandello.  He lost his left eye at thirteen years of age while trying to enlist in the guard of the house of Visconti.  After that accident, he abandoned his ephemeral military career and joined the Order of Saint Dominic.
Botticelli, SandroBotticelli, Sandro (1444-1510).  He was, like Leonardo, a disciple of Verocchio, although also of Fra Filippo Lippi.  He is considered one of the great geniuses of the Italian Renaissance.  Thanks to the Medici, he studied pagan themes and applied this knowledge to works like “Spring” and the “Birth of Venus.”  For a time, he used his painting as an instrument of magic on behalf of his protector.  Under the influence of the heretical monk Savonarola he abandoned painting.
Cosimo de MediciCosimo de Medici (1389-1464), also known as Cosimo the Elder.  Governor of Florence and famous merchant, he was the great patron of intellectuals and artists of his time.  After the Council of Florence, in 1431, that attempted to unite Eastern and Western Christianity, he founded the Platonic Academy, which he promptly entrusted to the then extremely young Marsilio Ficino.
Crivelli, LucreziaCrivelli, Lucrezia (1452-1519).  She was the model whom Leonardo used for the “Bella Ferronière” (today in the Louvre, in Paris).  As one of the mistresses of Ludovico Sforza, she bore him at least one daughter out of wedlock.

N / ACrivelli, Elena.  Daughter of Lucrezia and Carlo Crivelli, the celebrated Italian  painter of the 15th century.  In the novel she is presented as the descendent of a sect of women initiated in the secrets of Mary Magdalene.

Ficino, MarsilioFicino, Marsilio (1433-1499). Marsilio Ficino was a famous intellectual, doctor, musician and preacher of his time. His most important contribution to history was the translation into Latin of the complete works of Plato, as well as various Orphic hymns and the sayings of Zoroaster. Under the patronage of Cosimo de Medici he founded the Academy of Florence, from which the Renaissance was "born," and there he compiled the magic texts of Ancient Egypt known as the Corpus Hermeticum. In his 66 years of life he never left Florence, but directly inspired artists like Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and Durer. His biographer Giovanni Cosi describes him as having “a rough, ruddy complexion with curly hair,” just like the Matthew of Leonardo’s "The Last Supper."
N / AForzetta, Mario.  Painter’s apprentice, born (like Beatrice d’Este) in Ferrara.  At seventeen, he traveled to Milan to work in the bottega of Leonardo da Vinci.  However, he soon ended up trafficking in ancient manuscripts in the service of Oliverio Jacaranda.  It was in his native Ferrara that he entered into contact with the Cathar heresy.
N / AGiberto, Brother.  Sacristan at Santa Maria delle Grazie.  He was born on the frontier of the Germanic Empire.  His pumpkin-colored hair made him the butt of not a few jibes in his community.
N / AJacaranda, Oliverio.  Antiquarian, originally from Valencia, Spain, as was Pope Alexander VI.  He was one of the first antiquarians to furnish the pontifical palaces, as well as the Sforza family, with ancient works of art.
Leonardo da VinciLeonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).  Embodied the ideal of the Renaissance man.  Painter, sculptor, scientist, engineer, cook, and musician, he bequeathed to posterity more than 13,000 pages of notes, a few paintings and an enigmatic, finished mural known as The Last Supper.  His contemporaries considered him a bad Christian, and the Pope never called upon him to decorate any Vatican building.  Nevertheless, until the publication of this novel, no one seems to have understood very well what exactly Leonardo’s beliefs were.
N / ALorenzo de Medici (1449-1492), also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent.  Grandson of Cosimo the Elder, he was also an impassioned patron of the arts.  He maintained Marsilio Ficino as head of the Platonic Academy and was also Michelangelo’s benefactor.  He was particularly interested in ancient manuscripts, numismatics, and stone engravings.
N / ALeyre, Father Agostino.  Inquisitor from Rome and important member of the Secretariat of Keys of the Pontifical States.  Expert in cryptography and theology.  He narrates the story as an old man, from his retreat in Egypt, the place to which he fled following the discoveries he made in Milan during his mission to spy on Leonardo da Vinci in the winter of 1497.
Luini, BernardinoLuini, Bernardino (1470-1532).  Bernardo Luini was one of many disciples who learned from Leonardo da Vinci and who imitated his style and his compositions. All his work was done in the palaces and monasteries of rural Lombardy, which provides the context for his appearance in The Secret Supper. Although the dates of his birth and death remain uncertain, he is generally thought to have lived somewhere between 1470 and 1532. What is certain, however, is his fascination with his master’s unorthodox themes, which can be seen in Luini’s frescoes of The Metamorphoses by Ovid, in Milan, or in his paintings of the Virgin and Saint John, in the Prado Museum. Aside from his literary “affair” with Elena Crivelli in The Secret Supper, it is known that he was in love with Laura Pelucci, daughter of Guidotto.
Oggiono, Marco d’ Oggiono, Marco d’ (1470-1549).  He became one of Leonardo da Vinci’s favorite students, remarkable for his talent at painting frescoes.  After witnessing the completion of The Last Supper, at Santa Maria delle Grazie, he was one of the artists to copy it most.
Pico della Mirandola, GiovanniPico della Mirandola, Giovanni (1463-1494).  He was one of the most fervent disciples of Plato in the Renaissance.  His teacher was Marsilio Ficino, by whose hand he learned Hebrew and was introduced to the Cabala.  Although the Pope banned the reading of his books, he absolved him in 1493.
PinturicchioPinturicchio (1454-1513).  His real name was Bernardino di Betto. His intellectual formation took place at the Academy of Marsilio Ficino..  In 1493 he was called to Rome to decorate the Borgia apartments, by order of Pope Alexander VI.  Under instructions from Giovanni Annio de Viterbo, Pinturicchio recreated the myth of the Egyptian gods Osiris, Isis, and Apis, depicting for the first time sacred oxen, pyramids, and pagan divinities in the heart of the Papacy.
N / APlato (428-347 B.C.).  This father of Western philosophy, who lay forgotten until the 15th Century, when his works were translated by Marsilio Ficino, and printed for the first time in  Italy, in  1483.  To impart his knowledge,  Plato founded the Academy, an institution that Ficino would try to imitate nineteen centuries later with the assistance of the Medici family.

N / APonte, Fabio.  Personal secretary to Giovanni Annio de Viterbo and cousin of the Master General of the Dominicans, Gioacchino Torriani.

Savonarola, GirolamoSavonarola, Girolamo (1452-1498).  Girolamo Savonarola makes a fleeting appearance in The Secret Supper, but is also a key figure for the understanding of the hatred toward Rome born by certain sectors of the population. It was this Florentine preacher (1452-1498) who accused Alexander VI of being the standard bearer of a Church far removed from the spiritual message of Jesus. His fiery words led him to destroy pagan statues, paintings and books, and to prophesy the imminent end of the Church. He was excommunicated in 1497, shortly after the completion of "The Last Supper."
Ludovico Sforza, Il MoroLudovico Sforza, Il Moro (1451-1508), was duke of Milan, representing his nephew Gian Galeazzo Sforza, from whom he eventually usurped the Lombardy throne.“Il Moro” became his nickname because of his Moorish features, including jet-black hair and very dark skin. It was he who commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to create “The Last Supper” in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. In this way he hoped to embellish the final resting place of his line.
N / ASforza, Brother Mauro.  Cousin to the Duke of Milan, he entered the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie after the death of his other uncle Gian Galeazzo Sforza, in 1494.  He worked as a sexton.
Torriani, Master General GioacchinoTorriani, Master General Gioacchino (1417-1500).  Gioacchino Torriani appears in Chapter Four of the novel as "the thirty-fifth successor on Earth of Saint Dominic de Guzmán." Although of Milanese extraction, the general of the Dominicans in Leonardo’s time was considered Venetian. He died on August 1, 1500, in Rome, and it was in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva where I found his sepulchral stone and on it, his portrait. Torriani was very familiar with the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, since he had been the Provincial of Lombardy on two occasions. A man of great culture, he spoke five languages and had, despite the inquisitorial fame of his order, an "easygoing" reputation.
Toscanelli, PaoloToscanelli, Paolo (1398-1482).  Italian scientist, cartographer, and geographer who inspired the voyages of Columbus to America.   His studies contributed to the knowledge of astronomy in his time, and he constructed a sundial for the Cathedral of Florence, described in the novel.
N / ATrivulzio, Father Alessandro.  Native of Riccio, he was the librarian at Santa Maria delle Grazie.  Devoted to the study of ancient manuscripts, he assembled an important collection for the monastery.
Veronica da Binasco, Siste Veronica da Binasco, Sister  (1445-1497). Augustinian nun from the Milanese convent of Santa Marta; later beatified.  Her life was filled with visions and ecstasies, and her divinations caused a sensation during her epoch.  She actually admonished Pope Alexander for his profligate ways.  She correctly predicted she would die on Friday, January 13th, 1497.