The Holy Grail

Our understanding of the Holy Grail is derived from romantic Arthurian tales of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries


ALMOST ALL OF our understanding of the Holy Grail is derived from romantic Arthurian tales of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. However, there are some generally accepted details. The Grail is believed to be the chalice of the Eucharist or dish of the Pascal lamb used by Christ at the Last Supper. This vessel was taken by Joseph of Arimathea, who used it to collect blood from the crucified body of Christ. An alternative theory is that it was a chalice given to Joseph by Christ in a vision This vessel’s holy powers sustained Joseph for 42 years during his incarceration by the Jews. In either case, Joseph brought the holy chalice to Britain, thus beginning the true legend.

Some people believe the Holy Grail was secretly passed down through generations of Joseph’s descendants. Others believe it is buried in the Chalice Well at Britain’s oldest holy city, Glastonbury, which indicates a connection to Arthurian legend. Romantic tales say that Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table set off on a holy quest to find the Grail. More reliable legend says the Cathars had possession of the Grail and hid it in the Pyrenees before they were over-run. It has been suggested that they may have kept it at their stronghold of Montségur, which was actually searched by Nazi forces looking for the Grail during the Second World War. Others believe the Cathars hid it at Rennes-le-Château, or gave the chalice to the Knights Templar for safe-keeping. Some researchers believe a field in Shropshire hides the Grail under its surface, and another tradition states that a wooden cup in a Welsh country house is the true artefact. The organised church does not credit any legend of its existence, although that should not be seen as any indication that it is purely a myth. Whether any evidence of the fabled chalice’s existence is ever found or not, the story of the Holy Grail will continue to puzzle Man for many years to come.

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