The Holy Grail is the drinking vessel that was quested
by The Knights
The Round Table.
The word is
derived from the Old French word
grael, which means a dish.
The Holy Grail of
Christian legend is the vessel given
by Christ to his disciples to sup from at the Last Supper.
it is said to have been given to his grand-uncle,
St. Joseph of Arimathea,
who used to collect Christ's blood and sweat whilst he hung upon the Cross.
Sometime after the Resurrection, Joseph was
imprisoned in a rock tomb similar to the one he had given for
the body of his Jesus. Left to starve, he was sustained by the power of the Grail which provided him
all he sustenance for living.
Many years later, in around 63AD, St. Joseph
journeyed to Britain
with his family and several followers.
He settled at Ynys Witrin
or Glastonbury, and there the Grail stayed. Later the Grail was taken to
Corbenic where it was
in a castle, to be guarded always by the Grail Kings, who were
themselves the descendants
of Joseph's daughter, Anna (Enygeus) and her husband, Brons.
Centuries later, by the time of King
Arthur, the location of the great castle of
But at his court, it was prophesied that
the Grail would one day be rediscovered by a descendant of St. Joseph.
This knight who would discover it would needs be
the best knight in the land. What is more, he would be the only man capable of sitting in the
mysterious Siege Perilous seat at the
Round Table. Such a man arrived in
the form of
Galahad, the son of Lancelot.
As reward for his purity of
heart, he was granted a miraculous, though brief, vision of the Grail
itself. Once he relayed his story, the quest to find this holiest of
relics began. Through many adventures and many years,
the Knights of the
Round Table crossed Britain from one end to another in their search.
There are many other stories of their travels.
Perceval or Peredyr discovered the castle in a land that was sickly like its
spear-wounded King. When entertained by this Fisher King or Grail King,
however, the knights failed to ask of the Grail and left without it.
Lancelot reached Corbenic, but was prevented from entering because of he was
Galahad arrived. He and he alone was thus permitted
to enter into the
Grail Chapel. There he gazed upon the wondrous sight. His life became
complete and together Grail and knight ascended in to heaven. And there
are earlier traditions of a grail that link healing with holiness, and
Celtic and ancient British notions of fertility and kingliness.
earliest legends of the grail is seen as being something which can be
brought to heal the land, when the Maimed King has become wounded in the
thigh. The emphasis upon a wounding to the king's thigh appears to have
been originally a fertility story. Once his powers are restored, the
king gives life to the land. While the king is well, the
land is well.
The thigh is a symbol for fertility; In ancient society, the wounded
fertility of the king leads to a wounded land. The waste land is still a
metaphor for us today.
Stories of a sacred vessel or cauldron were dear to the
Celts. Such legends
seem to have became entwined with the story of the
Christian Holy Grail.
The search for the Grail has inspired countless
Quests and crusades across England and Europe to find it. The film
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a fairly recent re-telling of
this popular quest.
The first stories similar to our popular ideas about the
Arthurian quest for the Holy Grail, come from
Chrétien de Troyes.
He was aware of a Celtic oral traditions of the Grail, which he probably
received from the Bretons of Brittany, who knew well about old legends from Britain,
but he also incorporated a Christian mission to the story.
From the 14th Century it was said that the Grail was the cup of the Last
Supper, and had had been brought to
Joseph of Arimathea.
King Arthur, the Christian
king, inspires his knights to seek
this wondrous vessel through aspiring to
complete holiness and spiritual bravery.
In finding the Cup which contained the
Blood of Christ, the knights would yet again bring healing and life to the
world. Different stories, say different
knights found or saw the Grail.
According to the Queste, it was
Sir Galahad who found the
Holy Grail. After
Sir Galahad's death, a hand carried the Grail to Heaven.
The Holy Grail first appears as simply 'a grail' in the works
of Chrétien de Troyes. The word is probably derived from the Old French
word graal meaning a "broad and capacious dish or salver". Though
usually thought of as being a cup or chalice, the Grail has indeed been
variously described as a platter, dish, a cornucopia, and a horn of
The name of the Castle of Corbenic
has several possible explanations. It could come from the Old Welsh
cors, meaning 'horn' as in The Horn of Plenty.
Grail is sometimes confused with the Old French corps or 'body'.
More likely, however, is the suggestion that Corbenic stems from the
Latin Corbin-Vicus. The ending is almost certainly derived from the
Latin for 'settlement' or 'town' while Corben is a French
translation of the word 'crow' or 'raven' which is Bran
This was also a man's name and, as Brons, he may be or be
descended from St. Joseph's son-in-law, who was one of the first Grail
Kings. Hence Corbenic might be Bran's Settlement. Finally, it may be
linked to the home of Lancelot's father, Caer-Benwick. To this day the
meaning is still by no means certain.
Quest has taken a new and interesting lease of life through the
enormous success of the novel and film The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown.
The characters in the story investigate the 'sang real' or royal
bloodline from Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and their supposed son. This
royal bloodline is revealed to all who watch the film or read the book
to be Jesus and Mary's living descendents. The true meaning of the grail
is thus shown to be not a chalice, but a bloodline - which the Roman
Catholic Church has spent two thousand years covering up.
Even though our name of the
to be quite late in origin, the quest for a divine vessel was a popular
and re-occurring theme in Arthurian legend long before medieval writers
to British mythology. The quest for the sacred
cup appears in the Mabinogion tale of Culhwch and
Olwen. More well-known is the story of the Preiddeu Annwfn
or Spoils of the Otherworld as recounted by Taliesin. In
this legend, King Arthur and his knights sail to the
Celtic Otherworld to
capture the pearl-rimmed Cauldron of Annwfn.
Like the Grail it was a
source of sustenance and a giver of plenty, and also of the gift of
prophecy. It was finally discovered at Caer-Siddi (or Wydyr), an island
bound castle of glass, where it was guarded by nine holy maidens. But
the ensuing perils to gain the grail were too much for even King Arthur's
men. The mission was abandoned and only seven of their number returned
Cauldrons were used in ceremonial feasting
as early as the Late Bronze Age. Ritual deposits in Llyn Fawr
(Glamorgan, Wales) included such vessels, though the best known example is the
Gundestrup Cauldron found in the peat bogs of Jutland, in Denmark.
Highly decorated with portraits of many deities, this vessel would once
have held up to twenty-eight and a half gallons of liquid. These finds
clearly point to the religious importance of cauldrons, as found in the
Arthurian stories and even older Celtic mythological parallels.
The magic Otherworld or
Underworld vessel was the
Cauldron of Ceridwen, the Celtic Goddess of Inspiration. She is possibly
the source for our own idea today of the cauldron-stirring witch.
According to legend, she once set about brewing a drink of knowledge and
wisdom for her hideous son to make him all-knowing. But, without her
knowledge, the kitchen-boy, Gwion, accidentally tasted the concoction,
which drew out all of the magic from the brew, and thus prevented anyone
else from benefiting from its affects, her own son included.
now turns upon the great battle of wills which ensued between Goddess
and kitchen-boy, for Gwion now held the knowledge he needed to escape
even from a Goddess' wrath. In a struggle to outwit one another, the two
changed themselves into various animals and things. But Gwion's luck ran
out when he became a grain of wheat only to be swallowed whole by
Ceridwen. Centuries later, the poor kitchen-boy was eventually reborn as
the great bard, Taliesin.
The cauldron then reappears in the story
of Bran Fendigaid or Bran the Blessed, as a vessel of knowledge and
plenty, and also of rebirth. The great Celtic warrior God, Bran,
obtained his life-giving vessel from a giantess, possibly Ceridwen, who
had been expelled from a lake in Ireland. The Emerald Isle is a
personification, in this legendry tale, of the Celtic
magic vessel could restore to life the body of any dead warrior placed
within it: a similar scene is possibly depicted on the Gundestrup
The story continues with Bran's sister marrying the King of
Ireland, and they are given the cauldron as a wedding gift by Bran.
However, when hostilities break out between the two kingdoms, Bran
travels across the sea to regain this wonderful, yet dangerous gift. He
is eventually successful, but is wounded by a poisoned spear and, like
King Arthur, only seven of his men return home. So even this story may link
back to St Joseph of Arimathea. For Bran is possibly Brons, the Grail
King, and son-in-law of
St Joseph of Arimathea.