Thursday 27 July 2017

The Quest For The Holy Grail ~ #FolkloreThursday #Myths #Legends

The Quest For The Holy Grail

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:17-30 New International Version (NIV)

The Last Supper, ca. 1520, Andrea Solari, after Leonardo da Vinci ~ Wikipedia

This was to be the last supper before Jesus' arrest and horrific crucifixion. It is said that the cup that Jesus used on that fateful night was also used to catch his blood as he hung on the cross.

  Joseph of Arimathea and The Holy Grail.

When Joseph of Arimathea found his way to Albion, he brought the sacred Chalice with him. Joseph settled in The Island of Glass (Glastonbury) and here he hid the Holy Grail down a sacred well. The water of the well instantly turned red and tasted of blood.

The Chalice Well Gardens ~ Glastonbury

The Grail's hiding place remained a secret for many years, and over time it became the stuff of legends. The stuff of folklore.

The Chalice Well

 Chrétien de Troyes and Arthurian Legend

At the end of the 12th Century, Chrétien de Troyes, a French poet, took up the story of the Grail. He wove the story of the Grail into the story of King Arthur and his Knights.

Chrétien de Troyes ~ Wikipedia
The importance of de Troyes influence on Arthurian legend cannot be overlooked. It is de Troyes that introduced us to Lancelot and the love triangle. It is de Troyes that first introduced the idea of the Knights Quest for the Holy Grail. He also introduced us to the knight that would discover the Grail's hiding place — Sir Percival.

Perceval, the Story of the Grail.

If nothing else, de Troyes certainly sparked the imagination of the populace, for what could be more romantic than these chivalrous, heroic knights, searching for the sacred cup of their religion?

Robert de Boron (late 12th Century French Poet) went into even more detail when he took up the story.

The Holy Grail of Valencia, with the cup made from a piece of agate carved during the time of Christ ~ Wikipedia

But it was Vulgate Cycle (Lancelot-Grail), which was written in the 13th Century by an unknown author that really cemented the Grail Quest with Arthur and his Knights.

The central character of the story is Lancelot. However, instead of Percival being the ultimate Grail hunting knight, it is Lancelot's son, Galahad.

George Frederick Watts (1817 - 1904) ~ Wikipedia

The Holy Grail and Arthurian Legend
(An abridged version!) 

Whitsunday (the eve of Pentecost), Camelot.

One day a woman of great beauty came to Arthur's court. She was immediately taken with Lancelot — who wasn't? She asked Lancelot if he would consent to a walk in the woods. Lancelot agreed, and the two set off for what Lancelot assumed would be a romantic stroll. Was he in for a surprise!

The lady led Lancelot to a convent, and there waiting for him were his cousins — Sir Bors and Sir Lionel.

The Abbess introduced Lancelot to a handsome young man. She asked if Lancelot would be so kind as to knight him. There was a moment of shared bemusement between the cousin, but Lancelot agreed to the nun’s request.

Sir Bors could not help but notice that there was something strangely familiar about the young man. He was the image of Lancelot. Lancelot took a closer look at the young man and conceded that this was his child. Who knew...?

Not long after, the Knights were summoned back to Camelot for a meeting at the Round Table.

There was an empty chair pulled up to the Round Table. This chair was known as the Siege Perilous, and it was waiting for that one special knight who would find the Holy Grail. It just so happens that this special knight was Lancelot son, Galahad. Galahad took his place with the chosen few.

Sir Galahad sits at the Siege Perilous, 15th-century French manuscript ~ Wikipedia

When Galahad sat down an image of the Grail floated above the table. There could be no mistake. God wanted Arthur and his Knights to find the Grail. 

The Holy Grail, by Évrard d'Espinques c. 1475 ~ Wikipedia

This was by far the greatest quest the knights have ever been on. While they set off in groups, Galahad decided to go it alone, but alas, he was not successful. The Grail continued to be elusive. Eventually, Galahad was reunited with Bors and Percival.

Percival's sister showed them where the Grail ship was, but unfortunately, she died, and Bors offered to take her body back home.

How Sir Galahad, Sir Bors and Sir Percival were Fed with the Sanc Grael; But Sir Percival's Sister Died by the Way, an 1864 watercolour by Dante Gabriel Rossetti ~ Wikipedia

Galahad had a vision, and he saw things that no mere mortal man could ever imagine. He now knew where the Grail was hidden. He explained to his fellow knights that the Grail was in Briton, but despite the code of chivalry, Camelot was unworthy to be its keeper. The Grail had to be taken to Sarras (a mystical land) — this was a command from God and must be obeyed.

The Grail was on the ship, waiting for them, and they took it to Sarras. They watched in amazement as the cup was lifted to the heavens and disappeared.

Galahad, after seeing the Grail, made a rather odd request. He asked that he may be allowed to die at a time of his choosing. After a visit with Joseph of Arimathea, which was truly glorious, he made his request to die. He said goodbye to Percival and Bors, and the angels came down and took him to heaven.

Image of Galahad from a tapestry by Edward Burne-Jones, c. 1894 ~ Wikipedia

The Grail has never been seen on earth, from this day on, for it has gone home. 

 What did the Church think of this story?

The idea of a magic cup - cauldron - was a very common theme in Celtic myths, not so much the Bible. It was, in short, a pagan tale that was rewritten by a French poet with a socially acceptable Christian theme. But it captured the imagination of the country and has been associated with Arthur and his Knights ever since.

Unless otherwise stated all images can be found on Pixabay.

 The Du Lac Chronicles

If you fancy finding out what happened after the death of King Arthur then why not check out my award-winning historical fantasy series — The Du Lac Chronicles.


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  1. Another fabulous post for Folklore Thursday. I love these!

    1. Thank you so much! I am glad you enjoy them!


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Mary Anne xxx