Pastor Nicholas Dupree had heard these stories before.
DuPré, a pastor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and St. Louis Missionary Church in Parkes Village, St. Martin’s Parish since 2018, said parishioners and others occasionally refer to a religious medallion painting in reference to the “Last Supper” The modification, some argue to say, includes a picture of a small Tabasco bottle near the sleeve of one of the apostles.
He never thought about it. The painting hangs high behind the church on the rearmost arch near the weeping chamber, too far away for easy inspection. In addition, he said, he has other important things to do.
But when Shane Bernard, historian and curator of the 154-year-old McIlhenny Co., a maker of Tabasco products in Avery Island, wrote a letter to the priest asking what might be “an urban myth”— — “A mischievous painter, while working on a fresco of the Last Supper in a church, put a bottle of our Tabasco sauce on the table in the picture… who knows.”
Dupree said he let the letter collect dust on his desk for months because, frankly, checking the image meant climbing a 12-foot ladder from his shed and Take a closer look at the heights. This seems cumbersome.
But, he says, “Shane wrote me a nice letter on Tabasco’s letterhead,” so he recently dug up the ladder and climbed a long way to the sky to double-check, ready to use “Pictures and truth” to respond.
“It’s not in a prominent place. It’s not like a shape in a cloud,” Dupre said. But in these parts and beyond, the shape of the bottle, the green label and the red shading of the contents are unmistakable.
The priest said the bottle may have been the artist’s “own creative license”. Or, he said, the then-Priest Joseph Bryce Sibley “could have had a good time.”
Painter Christie Herbert Houllier says she can barely remember specific artworks. She closed her studio about four or five years ago and rarely paints these days.
She used to do original artwork, but also repainted old artwork. She said she did a lot of work at the church around 2005-2006, and she remembers being about eight months pregnant when she was climbing the ladder to do some work at the back of the church.
“Who is the pastor?” she asked. Telling her it was Sibley, she smiled and said, “Oh. Sounds good.”
Sibley, who teaches seminary students at Notre Dame in New Orleans, confirmed the story Saturday. Before being assigned to the seminary, Sibley served for 11 years as our Wisdom Pastor at the University of Louisiana Lafayette campus.
He said he was appointed in 2000 after a long study in Rome, where he was inspired by magnificent churches and religious art. He was assigned to St. Joseph’s in Parkes from 2003 to 2008, and said he believed the church needed to be renovated from the inside out. Houllier and her then-husband were a contractor who lived near the church and did well.
He said he raised funds from church members to commission Houllier to create a number of paintings, including some that would be paired to show how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. “The Last Supper” is one of them.
The artist painted according to his instructions, including details such as the round table from The Last Supper, which he believes may historically be more accurate than the straight tables depicted in other works, such as those of Leonardo da Vinci’s final years . 15th century. Sibley said he added a Tabasco bottle at a whimsical moment because Avery Island was “just on the way” and people appreciated it. He said he may have spoken to someone in Tabasco.
“I was the one who wanted it. There were probably some other details that were interesting in other paintings I did. Avery Island. Why not? I thought everyone knew it was there,” he said.
other details? other paintings?
Now, where did Father Dupree put the ladder?