Commenter Crow asked me for my view on the subject of The Holy Grail - and his question was interesting to me, because I found it hard to give a brief answer.
In one sense I am not very interested by the HG, because I have very seldom thought about it spontaneously. In another sense, I have read quite a few books which feature the topic, and it is bound-up with something which does interest me intensely, a secret mania - perhaps, which is the idea of Jesus visiting Britain during his life and before his ministry, and the linked idea that Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain not long after the crucifixion, and founded The Church (probably in Glastonbury).
So - the actual object of The Grail is not a thing I think much about, but the circumstances by which it arrived in Britain is. If pressed, I would say that I sort-of, mildly believe that the object was real and came to Britain; that it was precious and formed the centre of perhaps the founding church in England; but not that it had any magical powers - especially not of a kind which could be used for evil purposes.
There's not much mystery about the holy grail. It was in the care of St. Lawrence, the Archdeacon of Rome, who had charge of the holy vessels during the time of the Valerian persecutions. His family had a villa in Spain, and he sent it there when the persecutors began demanding the treasures of the Roman Church. It was treasured in the Spanish Church for a while, but after the Moslem invasions it was hidden away for safe-keeping. For a while, most folk did not know where it was.
It became noted again after the Reconquista, and through the centuries was kept at various monasteries or Churches, most famously the monastery of San Juan de la Pena. Today it is kept in the Cathedral of Valencia. There are no other serious claimants to be the holy grail, save for one chalice in Antioch. The one in Antioch, however, is very large and, if it was used at the last supper at all, was used as the larger bowl of wine, not the drinking vessel consecrated by Christ Himself. Researchers indicate that both cups are of the popular style and material of holy land drinking vessels in that era, and conform to the Jewish requirements for Passover cups (i.e., non-porous, not wooden, etc.). The holy chalice in Valencia has far better historical documentation as well; unlike other claimants to the title, the holy chalice in Valencia has the historical pedigree to be taken very, very seriously.
The Grail does not exist. It is a literary invention of late origin. It began as an obscure symbol in a French Arthurian poem and only gained its grand history and importance in later fictions. It only captured so much interest because it served as an emblem of Britain's unique status in Christendom; the tales are quite divorced from the earliest stratum of Arthurian lore and never appear in actual history.
The Holy Chalice is a completely different object with no connection to the Grail legend. The Grail is a vessel said to have gathered Christ's blood at the crucifixion, it is not the cup of the last supper, neither in life nor in myth.
- Carter Craft
Interesting. Humans are prone to such definitive views of things, from the vitally important, right though to the wholly fictitious. Which seems to suggest the fallibility of humans, more than anything else.
The Holy Grail, as I see it, is a metaphor - you know: something unknown to the insane - for the quest for spiritual purity, clarity, and communion with God.
The real power of the metaphor lies in The Quest, itself, for this object that may, or may not exist, and either way is of little importance, beyond the instigation of The Quest to discover it.
It is not the destination, but the journey - itself - towards it, that is most important.
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