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Holy Grail

Holy Grail

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Published by: geli_g on Nov 25, 2009
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Holy Grail
In Christian mythology, the
Holy Grail
was the dish, plate, cup or vessel used by Jesus at theLast Supper, said to possess miraculous powers. According to many versions of the story, Joseph of Arimathea used the Grail to catch Christ's blood while interring him and then tookthe object to Britain, where he founded a line of guardians to keep it safe. The quest for theHoly Grail makes up an important segment of the Arthurian cycle, appearing first in works byChrétien de Troyes (Loomis 1991). The legend may combine Christian lore with a Celtic mythof a cauldron endowed with special powers. The development of the Grail legend has been traced in detail by cultural historians: It is agothic legend, which first came together in the form of written romances, deriving perhapsfrom some pre-Christian folklore hints, in the later 12th and early 13th centuries. The earlyGrail romances centered on Percival and were woven into the more general Arthurianfabric. The Grail romances started in France and were translated into other European vernaculars;only a handful of non-French romances added any essential new elements.Some of the Grail legend is interwoven with legends of the Holy Chalice.
Holy Grail - Origins of the GrailHoly Grail - The Grail
 The Grail plays a different role everywhere it appears, but in most versions of the legend thehero must prove himself worthy to be in its presence. In the early tales, Percival's immaturityprevents him from fulfilling his destiny when he first encounters the Grail, and he must growspiritually and mentally before he can locate it again. In later tellings the Grail is a symbol of God's grace, available to all but only fully realized by those who prepare themselvesspiritually, like the saintly Galahad.
Holy Grail - Early forms of the Grail
 There are twoschoolsof thought concerning the Grail's origin. The first, championed by RogerSherman Loomis, Alfred Nutt, and Jessie Weston, holds that it derived from early Celtic mythand folklore. Loomis traced a number of parallels between Medieval Welsh literature and Irishmaterial and the Grail romances, including similarities between the
s Bran theBlessed and the Arthurian Fisher King, and between Bran's life-restoring cauldron and theGrail. Other legends featured magical platters or dishes that symbolize otherworldly power ortest the hero's worth. Sometimes the items generate a never-ending supply of food,sometimes they can raise the dead. Sometimes they decide who the next king should be, asonly the true sovereign could hold them.On the other hand, some scholars believe the Grail began as a purely Christian symbol. Forexample, Joseph Goering of the University of Toronto (Goering 2005) has identified sources forGrail imagery in 12th-century wall paintings from churches in the Catalan Pyrenees (nowmostly removed to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya,Barcelona), which present uniqueiconic images of the Virgin Mary holding a bowl that radiates tongues of fire, images thatpredate the first literary account by Chrétien de Troyes. Goering argues that they were theoriginal inspiration for the Grail legend.[1]Another recent theory holds that the earliest stories that cast the Grail in a Christian lightwere meant to promote the Roman Catholic sacrament of the Holy Communion. Although thepractice of Holy Communion was first alluded to in the Christian Bible and defined bytheologians in the first centuries A.D., around the time of the appearance of the firstChristianized Grail literature, the Roman church was beginning to add more ceremony andmysticism around this particular sacrament. Thus, the first Grail stories may have beencelebrations of a renewal in this traditional sacrament (Barber, 2004).[2] This theory hassome backing by the fact that Grail legends are almost entirely a phenomenon of the Westernchurch (see below).Most scholars today accept that both Christian and Celtic traditions contributed to thelegend's development, though many of the early Celtic-based arguments are largelydiscredited (Loomis himself came to reject much of Weston and Nutt's work). The generalview is that the central theme of the Grail is Christian, even when not explicitly religious, butthat much of the setting and imagery of the early romances is drawn from Celtic material.
Holy Grail - Etymology of 
 The word
, as it is earliest spelled, appears to be an Old French adaption of the Latin
, meaning a dish brought to the table in different stages of ameal. According to the
Catholic Encyclopedia
, after the cycle of Grail romances was well established, late medievalwriters came up with a false etymology for
an alternate name for "Holy Grail". In OldFrench,
san grial
means "Holy Grail" and
sang rial
means "royal blood"; later writers played onthis pun. Since then,
is sometimes employed to lend a medievalizing air in referringto the Holy Grail. This connection with royal blood borefruitin a modern best-seller linkingmany historical conspiracies (see below).List of ancient mysteries, Cornucopia and sampo are other mythical vessels with magicalpowers., Alleged relics of Jesus Christ,
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
for "somethingcompletely different"
Holy Grail - The beginnings of the Grail in literatureHoly Grail - Chrétien de Troyes
 The Grail is first featured in
Perceval, le Conte du Graal
(The Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes, who claims he was working from a source book given to him by his patron, CountPhilip of Flanders. In this incomplete poem, dated sometime between 1180 and 1191, theobject has not yet acquired the implications of holiness it would have in later works. Whilediningin the magical abode of the Fisher King, Perceval witnesses a wondrous procession inwhich youths carry magnificent objects from one chamber to another, passing before him ateach course of the meal. First comes a young man carrying a bleeding lance, then two boyscarrying candelabras. Finally, a beautiful young girl emerges bearing an elaborately decorated
, or "grail".Chrétien refers to his object not as "The Grail" but as
un graal
, showing the word was used, inits earliest literary context, as a common noun. For Chrétien the grail was a wide, somewhatdeep dish or bowl, interesting because it contained not a pike, salmon or lamprey, as theaudience may have expected for such acontainer, but a single Mass wafer which providedsustenance for the Fisher King’s crippled father.Perceval, who had been warned against talking too much, remains silent through all of this,and wakes up the next morning alone. He later learns that if he had asked the appropriatequestions about what he saw, he would have healed his maimed host, much to his honor.
Holy Grail - Robert de Boron
 Though Chrétien’saccountis the earliest and most influential of all Grail texts, it was in thework of Robert de Boron that the Grail truly became the “Holy Grail” and assumed the formmost familiar to modern readers. In his verse romance
 Joseph d’Arimathie
, composedbetween 1191 and 1202, Robert tells the story of Joseph of Arimathea acquiring the chalice of the Last Supper to collect Christ’s blood upon His removal from the cross. Joseph is thrown inprison where Christ visits him and explains the mysteries of the blessed cup. Upon his release Joseph gathers his in-laws and other followers and travels to the west, and founds a dynastyof Grail keepers that eventually includes Perceval.
Holy Grail - The Grail in other early literature
After this point, Grail literature divides into two classes. The first concerns King Arthur’sknightsvisiting the Grail castle or questing after the object; the second concerns the Grail’shistory in the time of Joseph of Arimathea. The nine most important works from the first group are:
of Chrétien de Troyes.
Four continuations of Chrétien’s poem, by authors of differing vision and talent,designed to bring the story to a close.
 The German
by Wolfram von Eschenbach, which adapted at least the holinessof Robert’s Grail into the framework of Chrétien’s story.
 The Didot
, named after the manuscript’s former owner, and purportedly aprosification of Robert de Boron’s sequel to
 Joseph d’Arimathie
 The Welsh romance
(generally included in the
), based onChrétien’s poem but including very striking differences from it.
, called the "least canonical" Grail romance because of its very differentcharacter.
 The German
Diu Crône
The Crown
), in which Gawain, rather than Perceval, achievesthe Grail.
section of the vast Vulgate Cycle, which introduces the new Grail hero,Galahad.
Queste del Saint Graal
, another part of the Vulgate Cycle, concerning theadventures of Galahad and his achievement of the Grail.Of the second class there are:
Robert de Boron’s
 Joseph d’Arimathie
Estoire del Saint Graal
, the first part of the Vulgate Cycle (but written after
and the
), based on Robert’s tale but expanding it greatly with manynew details. Though all these works have their roots in Chrétien, several contain pieces of tradition notfound in Chrétien which are possibly derived from earlier sources.
Holy Grail - Ideas of the Grail
As stated above, the Grail was considered a bowl or dish when first described by Chrétien de Troyes. Other authors had their own ideas; Robert de Boron portrayed it as the vessel of theLast Supper, and
had no Grail per se, presenting the hero instead with a plattercontaining his kinsman's bloody, severed head. In
, Wolfram von Eschenbach, citingthe authority of a certain (probably fictional) Kyot the Provençal, claimed the Grail was astone that fell from Heaven, and had been the sanctuary of the Neutral Angels who tookneither side during Lucifer's rebellion. The authors of the Vulgate Cycle used the Grail as asymbol of divine grace. Galahad, bastard son of the world's greatest knight, Lancelot, and theGrail Bearer Elaine, is destined to achieve the Grail, his spiritual purity making him a betterwarrior than even his illustrious father. Galahad and the interpretation of the Grail involvinghim were picked up in the 15th century by Sir Thomas Malory (
Le Morte d'Arthur 
), and remainpopular today.Various notions of the Holy Grail are currently very widespread in Western society (especiallyBritish, French and American), popularized through numerous medieval and modern works(see below) and linked with the predominantly Anglo-French (but also with some Germaninfluence) cycle of stories about King Arthur and his knights. Because of this wide distribution,Americans and West Europeans sometimes assume that the Grail idea is universally wellknown. The stories of the Grail, however, are totally absent from the folklore of those countries thatwere and are Eastern Orthodox (whether Arabs, Slavs, Romanians, or Greeks). This is true of all Arthurian myths, which were not well known east of Germany until thepresent-dayHollywood retellings. Nor has the Grail been as popular a subject in some predominantlyCatholic areas, such as Spain and Latin America, as it has been elsewhere. The notions of theGrail, its importance, and prominence, are a set of ideas that are essentially local andparticular, being linked with Catholic or formerly Catholic locales, Celtic mythology and Anglo-French medieval storytelling. The contemporary wide distribution of these ideas is due to thehuge influence of the popcultureof countries where the Grail Myth was prominent in theMiddle Ages.Some insist the Holy Grail, even if historical, should be considered separate from the HolyChalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper. However, confusion between the two has been thehistorical practice.
Holy Grail - The later legend
Belief in the Grail, and interest in its potential whereabouts, has never ceased. Ownership hasbeen attributed to various groups (including the Knights Templar). There are cups claimed tobe the Grail in several churches like the Valencia cathedral. The emerald chalice at Genoa,which was obtained during the crusades at Aleppo at great cost, has been less championed asthe Holy Grail since an accident on the road while it was being returned from Paris after thefall of Napoleon revealed that the emerald was green glass. In Wolfram von Eschenbach'stelling, the Grail was kept safe at the castle of Munsalvaesche (
mons salvationis
), entrusted to

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