The Holy Grail in History and Legend

According to legend, the Holy Grail is the chalice that Christ and his disciplines drank from at the Last Supper. Joseph of Arimathea is said to have caught drops of the crucified Christ’s blood in the Grail before taking it to Glastonbury.

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In Arthurian lore, the cup is named Sangreal and was pursued by the Knights of the Round Table after it miraculously appeared at Pentecost, just above King Arthur’s Round Table.

Some scholars believe the archetypal “Holy Cup” may have appeared in pre-Christian Celtic myth but by the 12th century, the Grail was well established in medieval romantic literature. The most popular work is Chrétien de Troyes and Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie. But the idea first appeared in Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) by 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, Count Philip of Flanders. In this incomplete poem, dated sometime between 1180 and 1191, the object has not yet acquired the implications of holiness it would have in later works. While dining in the magical abode of the Fisher King, Perceval witnesses a wondrous procession in which youths carry magnificent objects from one chamber to another, passing before him at each course of the meal. First comes a young man carrying a bleeding lance, then two boys carrying candelabras. Finally, a beautiful young girl emerges bearing an elaborately decorated graal, or “grail.”¹

The depth psychiatrist Carl G. Jung saw the Grail as a symbol of the eternal self. And Jungian followers of Jung have gone into elaborate archetypal analyses of the Grail story, arguably biasing their accounts to fit with Jung’s theory.

Recently, some have treated the Holy Grail as historical fact instead of fiction or psychological theory, giving birth to new legends usually presented as “shocking new evidence.” But to most sensible people, Holy Grail stories, old and new, are at best legends intended to inspire. The more recent of these could also be calculated attempts to sell books to gullible consumers always on the lookout for some ephemeral fascination.

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This is where my old “Think Free” entry ends. I tend to focus on the psychological and religious aspects of legends, so this recently generated chat with an AI Chatbot helps to round out my former entry:

Tell me about the Holy Grail. I’d like to hear the history and legends.
The Holy Grail is a term that is used to refer to a number of different things, depending on the context. It is often depicted as a cup or chalice that has special powers or significance.

In Christian mythology, the Holy Grail is said to be the cup that Jesus and his disciples used at the Last Supper, and which was later used to catch his blood as he was dying on the cross. According to legend, the Holy Grail has the power to heal the sick and give eternal life to those who drink from it.

There are many legends and stories about the Holy Grail, and it has played a significant role in various works of literature, including the Arthurian legends. In these stories, the Holy Grail is often depicted as a quest object, and knights would undertake a journey to find it and bring it back to their kingdom.

In modern times, the Holy Grail has taken on a more symbolic meaning, and it is often used to represent an unattainable or elusive goal. Despite this, the fascination with the Holy Grail and its legends has persisted throughout the centuries, and it continues to capture the imaginations of people around the world.²

¹ – 2011 entrylegendchristlegendmedi

² OpenAI (2022). “Assistant.” [Online]. Available:

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