Maybe everyone already knows this story, but I just learned it.
In 1573, Italian painter Paolo Veronese was commissioned to paint a Last Supper for the convent of San Giovanni e Paolo to replace an earlier work by Titian destroyed in the fire of 1571.
Here is the painting he turned in, one of the largest canvases of the 16th century:
Notice that Christ and His Apostles seem to be dining in Venice, surrounded by marble columns and stone archways. Notice also that there are many more people in attendance than the one Redeemer and his dozen disciples: we have dogs, midgets, black African servants, and a score of drunken revelers. I don’t know the period well enough to spot the other offending presence in the painting: German soldiers.
On July 18, 1573, Veronese was called before the Holy Tribunal of the Inquisition. Asked if he guessed why he had been summoned, he replied that he believed it was because he ought to have painted the Magdalene instead of a dog. Indeed. Neither were the Inquisitors happy with the site of "buffoons, drunkards, Germans, dwarfs, and the like fooleries" at the Lord’s last meal.
They demanded that Veronese change the painting.
Instead he renamed it "Banquet in the House of Levi."
I wonder how much Monty Python had this story in mind when they wrote "The Penultimate Supper":