A Quest For The Origins Of The Holy Grail

By | March 23, 2019

test article image
Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Source: (freepublic.com)

In the 1989 movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the swashbuckling archaeologist embarks on a mission to acquire a cup with the power to grant immortality to anyone who drinks from it. The cup in question was the Holy Grail, an artifact that has existed in the legend for nearly a thousand years.

The exact nature of the Grail varies. The word “grail” itself is likely derived from the Latin word “gradale” which was a deep platter used to serve food during medieval banquets. However, it is also linked to the Old French word “graal,” the Old Provencal “grazal,” and the Old Catalan “gresel.” All of these words refer to a cup or bowl. The Grail has also been described as a chalice, a platter, or a goblet. As to the origin of this particular Grail, popular legend claims it was the cup used at the Last Supper as well as the one used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect Christ’s blood during the crucifixion. Other legends link it to Celtic mythology.

test article image
Holy Grail from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Source: (screenrant.com)

The first textual account of the quest for the Holy Grail appeared around 1180 in Chrétien de Troyes’s Conte del Graal (Story of the Grail). The story followed the Grail from the crucifixion to the death of King Arthur, establishing the basis for future adaptations of the Grail and securing its form like a cup. While later versions of the Grail possess mystical powers such as healing, eternal youth, wealth, and happiness, Troyes’s version had no powers. However, it was used to serve a Mass wafer which granted eternal life.