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Grail, Holy

Grail, Holy

A portion of the Arthurian cycle of romance, of late origin, embodying a number of tales dealing with the search for a certain vessel of great sanctity called the "Grail" or "Graal." Versions of the story are numerous, the most celebrated of them being the Conte del Graal, the Grand St. Graal, Sir Percyvalle, Quete del St. Graal, and Guyot, but there are also many others. These overlap in many respects, but the standard form of the story may perhaps be found in the Grand St. Graal, one of the latest versions, which dates from the thirteenth century.

It tells how Joseph of Arimathea employed a dish used at the Last Supper to catch the blood of the Redeemer, which flowed from his body before his burial. The wanderings of Joseph are then described. He leads a band to Britain, where he is cast into prison, but is delivered by Evelach or Mordrains, who is instructed by Christ to assist him. Mordrains builds a monastery where the Grail is housed. Brons, Joseph's brother-in-law, has a son Alain, who is appointed guardian of the Grail. Alain, having caught a great fish with which he feeds the entire household, is called "the Rich Fisher," which becomes the perpetual title of the Grail keepers. Alain places the Grail in the castle of Corbenic and in time, various knights of King Arthur's court come in quest of the holy vessel. Only the purest of the pure could approach it, and in due time the knight Percival manages to see the marvel.

It is probable that the idea of the Grail originated with early medieval legends of the quest for talismans that conferred great boons upon the finder, for example, the shoes of swiftness, the cloak of invisibility, and the ring of Gyges, and that these stories were interpreted in the light and spirit of medieval Christianity and mysticism.

The legends may be divided into two classes: those that are connected with the quest for certain talismans, of which the Grail is only one, and that deal with the personality of the hero who achieves the quest; and second, those that deal with the nature and history of the talismans.

A great deal of controversy has raged around the possible Eastern origin of the Grail legend. Much erudition has been employed to show that Guyot, a Provençal poet who flourished in the middle of the twelfth century, found at Toledo, Spain, an Arabian book by an astrologer, Flegitanis, which contained the Grail story. But the name "Flegitanis" can by no means be an Arabian proper name. It could be the Persian felekedânêh, a combined word which signifies "astrology," and in that case it would be the title of an astrological work. Some believed the legend originated in the mind of Guyot himself, but this conclusion was strongly opposed by the folklorist Alfred Nutt. There is, however, some reason to believe that the story might have been brought from the East by the Knights Templar.

The Grail legend has often been held by various ecclesiastical apologists to support theories that either the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church has existed since the foundation of the world. From early Christian times the genealogy of these churches has been traced back through the patriarchs to numerous apocryphal persons, although it is not stated whether the religions possessed hierophants in neolithic and paleolithic times, or just how they originated. Such theories, which would logically identify Christianity with the grossest forms of paganism, are confined only to a small group.

The Grail legend was readily embraced by those who saw in it a link between Palestine and England and an argument for the special separate foundation of the Anglican Church by direct emissaries from the Holy Land. Glastonbury was fixed as the headquarters of the Grail immigrants, and the finding of a glass dish in the vicinity of the cathedral there some years ago was held to be confirmation of the story by many of the faithful. The exact date of this vessel was not definitely estimated, but there seemed little reason to suppose that it was more than a few hundred years old.

A new conspiratorial interpretation of the Grail legend is offered in the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982), by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. Their speculation involves suggestions that Jesus did not die on the Cross, but married and had children. His wife, they postulate, fled to the south of France with her family, taking with her the "Royal and Real Blood," the "Sang-real" or Grail of medieval romance. This line will supposedly culminate in a second Messiah, all this being the secret of an order named the Prieure de Sion. Apparently the investigation of this amazing story began with the mystery of Berenger Sauniere, a parish priest at Rennes-le-Château in the Pyrenees, who seemed to have discovered a secret that gave him access to a vast sum of money before his death, under mysterious circumstances, in 1917. That secret involved the history of Rennes-le-Château and its association with the Templars, the Cathars, and the royal bloodline of the Merovingian dynasty. The story has too many jumps in history and logic to ever be researched, and only time will show whether its major claims can be independently substantiated.

Patricia and Lionel Fanthorpe refute the theory of Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln in their 1982 book The Holy Grail Revealed: The Real Secret of Rennes-le-Château.

Sources:

Bruce, James Douglas. The Evolution of Arthurian Romance, From the Beginnings Down to the Year 1300. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1923.

Cooper-Oakley, Isabel. Traces of a Hidden Tradition in Masonry and Medieval Mysticism. London, 1900.

Fanthorpe, Patricia, and Lionel Fanthorpe. The Holy Grail Revealed: The Real Secret of Rennes-le-Château. North Hollywood, Calif.: Newcastle Pub. Co., 1982.

Lacy, Norris J., ed. The Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, 1986.

Loomis, Roger Sherman. The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1963.

Nutt, Alfred. Studies on the Legend of the Holy Grail. London: Folklore Society, 1888. Reprint, New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1965.

Rhys, Sir John. Studies in the Arthurian Legend. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1891.

Waite, Arthur Edward. The Holy Grail: The Galahad Quest in the Arthurian Literature. London, 1933. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1961.

Weston, Jessie L. From Ritual to Romance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1920. Reprint, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1957.

. The Quest of the Holy Grail. London: G. Bell & Sons, 1913; London: Frank Cass, London, 1964.

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"Grail, Holy." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Grail, Holy." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/grail-holy

Grail, Holy

Holy Grail, a feature of medieval legend and literature. It appears variously as a chalice, a cup, or a dish and sometimes as a stone or a caldron into which a bleeding lance drips. It was identified by Christians as the chalice of the Last Supper brought to England by St. Joseph of Arimathea. Miraculous in its powers, it could provide food and healing. However, it would be revealed only to a pure knight, and the Grail Quest appears in different stories. In Arthurian legend the purest knight is variously Parsifal or Galahad. The Grail is one of the most difficult problems of Arthurian legend, introducing as it does features of Christian story, Celtic myth, and ancient fertility cults.

See R. S. Loomis, The Grail (1963); E. Jung and M.-L. von Franz, The Grail Legend (tr. 1971).

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"Grail, Holy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Grail, Holy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/grail-holy

Holy Grail

Holy Grail

According to medieval legend, the Holy Grail was the vessel from which Jesus Christ drank at the Last Supper, his final meal with his followers. Many works of literature describe the search for the Grail, which was believed to have sacred and mysterious powers. However, this quest, or search, did not always involve a physical object. For some, the Holy Grail represented a religious state of grace or union with God. In some accounts, the Grail held blood from Christ's wounds and was known as the Sangreal, meaning "royal blood."

medieval relating to the Middle Ages in Europe, a period from about a.d. 500 to 1500


The Legend of the Grail. Although many versions of the Grail legend exist, certain elements appear over and over again. Some stories of the Grail begin with Lucifer, originally an angel in heaven who wore a crown adorned with a magnificent emerald. Lucifer rebelled against God and was thrown out of heaven. His emerald fell to earth, where someone made it into a chalice. In other stories, images of the Grail have ranged from a humble clay or wooden bowl to a golden goblet studded with gems or an object bathed in a blinding light.

After the Last Supper, the Grail came into the possession of Joseph of Arimathea, who caught Christ's blood in it at the crucifixion. Joseph went to prison, but the Grail kept him alive by supplying daily nourishment. Released from prison, Joseph traveled to France and then to Glastonbury, England, carrying the Holy Grail. Soon, however, the Grail disappeared from the world because people were sinful. Hidden away in a mysterious castle, it was guarded by the descendants of Joseph's sister.

One of the best-known versions of the Grail's later history is connected with Arthur, the legendary king of Britain. This account says that the Grail lay somewhere in a wild and desolate part of Britain in the castle of the Fisher King, a wounded monarch who lay between life and death. Only if the purest of knights found his way to the castle and caught a glimpse of the Grail would the Fisher King's torment end and life be restored to his wasteland.

To the knights who sat around King Arthur's Round Table, seeing the Holy Grail was the highest and most noble goal. They roamed the nation in search of it. Lancelot nearly achieved the quest, but the sin of his love for Guinevere, Arthur's queen, kept him from seeing the Grail. A knight named Perceval (or Parsifal) saw the Grail but did not understand what it was. Only Galahad, Lancelot's son, was pure enough to see it with full understanding of its meaning. He had to travel to a distant land called Sarras to do so, for the Grail had left Britain at some point. The vision of the Grail brought such profound ecstasy that Galahad died moments later.

chalice drinking vessel or goblet

cauldron large kettle

Development of the Legend. The Holy Grail legend fuses Christian elements with much older Celtic* mythology and appears to be the product of storytelling over hundreds of years. The Grail itself is related to various vessels in Celtic lore, such as the drinking horn of the god Bran, which produced any food or drink the user desired. It was also associated with a magic cauldron that could restore life to any dead body placed in it.


* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

The earliest known work to give a Christian significance to the magical vessel was Perceval, a romance of the late 1100s by the French poet Chrétien de Troyes. A few decades later, Robert de Borron wrote Joseph of Arimathea, which established the connection between the Grail of Perceval and the cup used by Christ and later owned by Joseph. Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach, expanded on the mystical story of the innocent knight and the Fisher King and also introduced an order of knights charged with guarding the Grail. This version of the story became the basis for the opera Parsifal by the modern German composer Richard Wagner.

romance in medieval literature, a tale based on legend, love, and adventure, often set in a distant place or time

Over time, versions of the Grail story began to link the Holy Grail with the popular legend of King Arthur. One account made Sir Galahad the virtuous hero and the Grail a symbol of a rare and mystical union with the divine. Late in the l400s, Sir Thomas Malory wrote Morte D'Arthur (The Death of Arthur), the version of the Arthurian legend that was to become the best known. With it he established the story of the Grail quest by the knights of Arthur's Round Table and of Galahad's ultimate success.

See also Arthur, King; Arthurian Legends; Galahad; Lancelot.

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Grail, The Holy

Grail, The Holy, or Sangreale (perhaps Old Fr., from Lat., gradale, ‘dish’). The legendary subject of several romances in the late Middle Ages. In some versions, (principally the Estoire dou Graal or Joseph of Robert de Boron, c.1200) the sacred object is the chalice or dish used at the Last Supper which passed into the possession of Joseph of Arimathea. The origin of the whole cycle of legends is obscure; it is not even clear whether the Christian elements are primary. In the 13th cent. it reinforced the ecclesiastical propaganda of Glastonbury Abbey and later on was coupled with the legend of Prester John.

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"Grail, The Holy." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Grail, Holy

Grail, Holy in medieval legend, the cup or platter (also called simply the Grail) used by Christ at the Last Supper, and in which Joseph of Arimathea received Christ's blood at the Cross. Quests for it undertaken by medieval knights are described in versions of the Arthurian legends written from the early 13th century onward; it is the immaculately pure Galahad, accompanied by Bors and Perceval, who is destined to find the Holy Grail. In figurative usage, the term is used for a thing which is being earnestly pursued or sought after.

The word comes via Old French graal, from medieval Latin gradalis ‘dish’.

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Grail

Grail / grāl/ (also Holy Grail) • n. (in medieval legend) the cup or platter used by Jesus at the Last Supper, and in which Joseph of Arimathea received Christ's blood at the Cross. Quests for it undertaken by medieval knights are described in versions of the Arthurian legends written from the early 13th century onward. ∎ fig. (also grail) a thing that is being earnestly pursued or sought after: profit has become the holy grail.

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Holy Grail

Holy Grail In medieval legend, the cup supposedly used by Jesus at the Last Supper and by Joseph of Arimathea at the crucifixion to catch the blood from Jesus' wounds. The quest for the Grail, especially by the knights of Arthurian legend, became a search for mystical union with God.

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grail

grail2 cup used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, in which Joseph of Arimathea is said to have received his blood at the Crucifixion. XIV. ME. greal, graal — OF. graal, grael, greel, greil :- medL. gradālis dish, of unkn. orig.

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grail

grail1 (eccl.) gradual. XIV. ME. grael — OF. :- ecclL. gradāle, for graduāle GRADUAL.

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Grail

Grail

small particles of any kindJohnson, 1755.

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Holy Grail

Ho·ly Grail • n. see Grail.

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Holy Grail

Holy Grail: see Grail, Holy.

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Grail

Grailail, ale, assail, avail, bail, bale, bewail, brail, Braille, chain mail, countervail, curtail, dale, downscale, drail, dwale, entail, exhale, fail, faille, flail, frail, Gael, Gail, gale, Grail, grisaille, hail, hale, impale, jail, kale, mail, male, nail, nonpareil, outsail, pail, pale, quail, rail, sail, sale, sangrail, scale, shale, snail, stale, swale, tail, tale, they'll, trail, upscale, vail, vale, veil, wail, wale, whale, Yale •Passchendaele • Airedale •Wensleydale • Clydesdale •Chippendale • Coverdale • Abigail •galingale • martingale • nightingale •farthingale • Windscale • timescale •blackmail • airmail •email, female •Ishmael • voicemail • vermeil

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