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The Enduring Mystery And Controversy Of The Holy Grail

March 5, 2020 18.3k views10 items

The line between religious fact and myth propels humans forward as they seek to better understand Scripture and faith. Persistent fascination with the Bible, biblical figures, and the foundations of Christian belief and thought drives historical research, archaeological investigation, and popular inquiry alike. Evidence related to the crucifixion of Christ and Noah's Ark makes the intangible tangible, bringing comfort and satisfying curiosity while perpetuating the desire to know more. One of the most enduring quests among the Christian faithful involves an elusive artifact, the Holy Grail.

The Holy Grail - purported to be the cup or dish Jesus used at the Last Supper, or the cup used to collect Jesus's blood as he perished on the cross, depending on one's interpretation of legend - has been featured in literary works, movies, and television shows. The Holy Grail has taken numerous forms, only prompting further speculation as to what the Holy Grail actually is, and more importantly, where it is now.

The mystery and controversy surrounding the Holy Grail are alive and well. As Holy Grail history continues to evolve, scholars and non-scholars alike have posited as to its migration through time and space, even asserting that it's been found and can be seen today. 

Photo:
  • Photo: William Edward Frank Britten / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    A Pair Of Historians Claim The Holy Grail Was Hidden In Plain Sight In Spain

    In their 2014 book, Kings of the Grail: Tracing the History of the Holy Grail, historians Margarita Torres and Jose Miguel Ortega del Rio claimed they'd found the Holy Grail - and that it had been right there in front of observers all along. According to Torres and del Rio, the chalice of the Infanta Doña Urraca, located at the Basilica of San Isidoro in León and on display for decades, was the coveted artifact.

    Torres and del Rio based their assertions on an Egyptian manuscript that described how the Holy Grail had been transported from Jerusalem to Cairo, only to then find its way to Islamic Spain as a payment to a local emir. From there, the chalice was given as a gift to King Ferdinand I of León (b. c. 1015), later making its way to the same basilica where the king was buried in 1065.

    The chalice bears the name of Ferdinand's daughter, Urraca of Zamora, and was made out of two goblets crafted into one. In support of Torres and de Rio's claim, scientists determined the chalice - made from agate, gold, and onyx and decorated with precious gems - dates to sometime between the third century BCE and the fist century CE. 

    In the words of del Rio, "the only chalice that could be considered the chalice of Christ is that which made the journey to Cairo and then from Cairo to León - and that is this chalice."

  • The 2014 Discovery Isn’t The Only Time Someone Claimed They Found The Holy Grail

    Torres and del Rio weren't the first historians to insist they'd solved the mystery of the Holy Grail. As early as 12th century, poets and writers have described, mentioned, and even claimed to know the whereabouts of the Grail. The locations of hundreds of Holy Grails span the globe, with references to grails in Canada and Scotland, taken there by members of the Knights Templar.

    In Wales, the Nanteos Cup was believed to have been the Holy Grail, while numerous sites in Spain, France, and England hold on to some sort of connection with the chalice. During the 20th century, the Antioch Chalice, made of silver with elaborate decoration, was identified as the Holy Grail, only to be debunked later as sixth-century artifact.

  • Researchers Proved The Chalice Of Mary Magdalene Was 2,000 Years Old

    The chalice of Mary Magdalene is believed to have been used by Jesus's devotee to collect his blood while he perished on the cross. The Marian Chalice, made of green alabaster, dates to the first century CE. 

    Author Graham Phillips rejects the idea that the Marian Chalice, a vessel resembles a small jar that would have been used to hold perfume or ointment, was used by Jesus. Rather, it's been conflated or mixed up with the Holy Grail. In Phillip's opinion, the Holy Grail is the Gospel of Thomas, secret Christian scripture discovered in 1945.

    In Phillip's theory, the chalice of Mary Magdalene was taken to Britain during the fifth century CE and later came into the possession of Fulk Fitz Warine. In other versions, the Holy Grail is actually the Hawkstone Grail, a cup later found in Hawkstone Park by the Fitz Warine family and hidden at their Whittington Castle. This is, perhaps, how the Marian Chalice and the Hawkstone Grail were linked in Holy Grail tradition.

    It's also entirely possible they are one and the same, since Fitz Warine family descendent Thomas Write claimed to have the Grail during the 1800s. What he described, however, was more akin to Mary's scent jar. Factor in analogous language referring to wine as blood and the connections unclear. 

  • Some Believe The Holy Chalice Of Valencia Is The Mythical Holy Grail

    The Santo Cáliz, or Holy Chalice, of Valencia in Spain, perhaps the best recognized possible Holy Grail, traces its origins to the first century BCE. Made out of gold and agate, the Holy Chalice of Valencia, believed to have been used at the Last Supper by Jesus, was taken to Rome by Saint Peter during the first century CE. 

    With the papacy under threat, the chalice was transferred to Huesca, Spain, during the third century CE, hidden in the Pyrenees during the Islamic invasions of the Middle Ages, and, according to records, made its way to the monastery at San Juan de la Peña by 1071 CE.

    Documented among King Martin of Aragon's royal possessions in 1399, the chalice was moved to Valencia in 1416. During subsequent centuries, the Holy Chalice went in and out of hiding in Spain until finally arriving back at the Valencia Cathedral in 1939.

    Currently, the Christian faithful can see the Holy Chalice of Valencia twice a year when it's brought out for public viewing. 

    Scholars continue to advocate for the Valencia chalice as the real Holy Grail. In 2019, art historian Ana Mafé García stated its composition, "represents the tribe of Judah, of which Jesus of Nazareth was also a member."