I have done a lot of research into the meaning of the Holy Grail. The only conclusion I could make was that the Holy Grail was a medieval object from a book, which appealed so much to the imagination that the church has adopted it as a relic. Of course, there is the cup Jesus drank from at the last supper, but nowhere in the bible, this cup is called the Holy Grail.
The true meaning of the Holy Grail can not be determined. If you dismiss it as a non-existent object, then it represents nothing, but if you consider it as a symbol that stands for something much greater, then the meaning of the Holy Grail is still as relevant as in the Middle Ages or before.
Where is the Holy Grail? There are roughly 200 alleged Holy Grails in various locations around the world. But if you will ever find the
Etymological Meaning of Grail
The word Grail originates from the Old French Graal or Greal, which means cup.
Greal is derived from the Medieval Latin gradalis, also known as gradale or grasale. This is a shallow or flat dish.”
The origin of the word is unknown; it could be derived from Latin crater “bowl,” which is borrowed from the Greek krater “bowl, especially for mixing wine with water.”
Historical meaning of the Holy Grail
The Holy Grail is first mentioned in a novel by Chrétien de Troyes (1160-1191). In 1181 he wrote the Arthurian novel Perceval ou le Conte du Graal (Perceval, the story of the Grail), but he died before he had finished it. The story of Chrétien de Troyes was completed (and adapted) by Wolfram von Eschenbach (1160-1220) (source).
But actually, the Grail or Cauldron is a symbol that occurs throughout Celtic Mythology, according to Sherman Loomis in his book “The Grail From Celtic Myth To Christian Symbol”.
Sometimes it is a cauldron of knowledge, and in the Celtic Legend of Bran the Blessed it is a vessel of wisdom and rebirth. The cauldron of the Dagda was a bottomless pit, stuffed with food and drinks.
The cauldron of Dyrnwch the Giant is said to discriminate between cowards and brave men: whereas it would not boil meat for a coward, it would boil quickly if that meat belonged to a brave man.
All this ‘boils up’ to the story of the Holy Grail as we know it from Perceval, where the Grail possesses magical powers, such as immortality, medicinal action, and the ability to communicate with God.
Pseudohistorians and the meaning of the Holy Grail.
Since the 19th century, several conspiracy theories have been associated with the Holy Grail. Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall, an Austrian pseudohistorian, linked the Grail to contemporaneous Knights Templar stories that portrayed the order as a hidden society devoted to esoteric knowledge and artifacts in 1818. In Hammer-narrative, Purgstall’s the Grail is a symbol of the secret knowledge that the Templars sought, rather than a real relic. There is no historical evidence connecting the Templars to the search for the Holy Grail, but later authors have expounded on Templar ideas.
Beginning in the early 20th century, writers, especially in France, began to link the Templars and the Holy Grail to the Cathars. In 1906, the French esotericist Joséphin Péladan connected the Cathar castle of Montségur with Wolfram’s Parzival’s Grail stronghold, Munsalvasche or Montsalvat. This identification has spawned the belief that the Cathars were in possession of the Holy Grail.
Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln created one of the most well-known Holy Grail conspiracy theories in the late 20th century. According to them, the true meaning was not San Greal, but Sang Real (Royal Blood). This concept was used in the Da Vinci Code and is now widely accepted as the true grail.
Religious meaning of the Holy Grail
The image of the Grail that most of us know comes from Robert de Boron’s book. In his Estoire dou Gral, the Grail is described as a cup. It is the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper and which was later used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect the blood of Christ at the crucifixion.
The cup Jesus drank from at the last supper has always been a holy object, as it was used in the Last Supper.
Jesus announces at the Last Supper that one of his disciples would betray him. It is the origin of the Eucharist service, in which bread and wine are consumed in remembrance of Jesus’ body and blood. The Last Supper is a significant event in Christian history since it directly precedes Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. Furthermore, it is significant since Jesus identified the bread and wine as symbols of his body and blood.
In the year 500, a pilgrim (Antoninus of Piacenza) mentioned seeing a cup in Jerusalem. According to him, it was the cup of onyx that our Lord blessed at the last supper.
However, it will be difficult to identify the true cup Jesus drank from. There are more than 100 locations to choose from. I have described nine of them and have read about many more locations.
The cultural meaning of the Holy Grail
The Holy grail is depicted in many paintings. A beautiful painting was made by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1874. I used part of this painting here.
The quest for the Holy Grail is also the subject of an opera by Wagner.
Famous movies about the grail are:
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975),
- Excalibur (1981),
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989),
- The Fisher King are among these films (1991).
There are so many books written about the grail, I can only mention a few of my favorites:
- Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Myst of Avylon (1963)
- Umberto Eco, Baudoline (2000)
- Dan Brown, Da Vinci Code (2003)
- Raider M. Schröder, Die Bruderschaft vom Heiligen Gral (The Brotherhood of the Holy Grail – 2006)
The Spiritual meaning of the Holy Grail
The search for the Holy Grail became a quest, and it still is today. The Holy Grail is something that a person or a particular group of people want very much to have or achieve. In fact, it is an unachievable goal, but very realistic for those attempting to reach it.
The Holy Grail as a spiritual goal is achieving wholeness, and unification with the divine. To Christians, the Grail symbolizes the forgiveness of sins, Jesus’ resurrection, and his sacrifices for humanity.