Legends of the Grail

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (1495-1498)

By Jo Mooy

It’s a sacred object described as a cup, a bowl, and even a dish or platter. Traditionally it’s thought to be the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper. After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea is alleged to have brought the cup to Britain and hidden it somewhere. Another legend says Mary Magdalene, the wife of Jesus, took the cup to France. Still another says after the disciples scattered, James took it to Campostela in Spain.

In medieval times, the legends started again and the cup was given the name the Holy Grail. It became one of the most long-lasting tales in European literature and art. It was King Arthur’s greatest quest to find the Grail, though he never did. It was a quest that sparked the Knights of the Round Table to find it. Sir Galahad, whose shield was a red cross on a white background, was said to be the only one to have seen the Grail, giving rise to the later legends that the Knights Templars, who also carried the same shield as Galahad, had taken the Grail to Scotland.

There are more than 200 locations vying for the title “Home of the Holy Grail.” Can each one be the Grail? I think so! Each one has its own history of how the cup or chalice displayed came to be in that specific location. That history is treasured by each location, and it attracts millions of pilgrims to the church or cathedral to see it. It has produced miracles, healings, lands purged of pestilence, and special indulgences granted to those visitors. In this regard, their strong belief systems brought the desired result and enhance the myth that the Holy Grail in each specific church is magical and therefore the “real” one.

For centuries the search for the Grail was a physical one. Today, the idea of the Grail has mystic symbolism. The search for it is a personal initiation. It’s a quest of the soul. It’s pursuing the spiritual meaning in life. It’s reverence for the sanctity of each person. It’s an alchemical transformation that occurs when the divinity within each individual is realized. And if in the process you stumble upon one of the physical locations and feel a magical spark, all the better.

In 2018, BBC published a story that the Cathedral of Valencia in Spain tops the list as the home of The Holy Grail. In a small side chapel sits a dark agate stone cup. The cup is perched on top of a medieval golden base with massive handles. The golden base is covered with pearls, emeralds, and rubies. But that’s just the outer covering. The “real cup” is the simple stone one, typical of what would have been used by a Jewish carpenter. So how did it get from an upper room outside of Jerusalem to Valencia?

The church history says Peter took the cup to Rome, where it remained in use for 250 years by subsequent Popes—until the Emperor Valerian began the persecution of Christians. Knowing it was not safe, the cup was taken to Huesca Spain, where it remained for hundreds of years. When invaders came to Spain in the 8th century, it was moved for safety to a monastery in northern Spain. Actual documentation of this cup begins in 1399, when it became part of King Martin’s royal reliquary. Martin’s successor King Alfonso moved the cup to Valencia in 1416.

What sets this cup apart from all others was its simplicity and archaeological dating between the second century BC and 1 AD.

A second city in Leon, Spain also claims to have the real Holy Grail. Suspiciously, it looks strikingly similar to the one in Valencia. It too is made of stone agate and there’s a stone “dish” in the bottom of the Golden Chalice that surrounds the stone. Might it not be possible that it was a custom of the time for people to carry their own eating and drinking vessels in their baggage while traveling? Maybe each disciple carried his own eating and drinking vessels with him when he left the Last Supper? That would explain how so many of the “stone vessels” ended up in different parts of Europe. And also why there’s a mystique about each one being the Holy Grail.

Is the real Holy Grail in Valencia? Does it matter? For one thing, the real Holy Grail is not a big medieval golden chalice. The eating vessels used by the simple people at the time of Jesus the carpenter, were rough-hewn wooden bowls, hammered bronze cups, or carved polished stone. Nonetheless, this cup in Valencia has a remarkable history and is revered by many. I plan to see it myself this year, and I fully expect to get a strong feeling about it. The cup will speak for itself.

Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to www.starsoundings.com or email jomooy@gmail.com.

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