Disclaimer: This article is not about the validity of Christianity. This article is about the Holy Grail as an historical object and about a few of the many theories surrounding the Holy Grail.
The Holy Grail is different from the other lost treasures we have discussed in our series, in that there is no physical or circumstantial evidence to even support the existence of such an object. Even the Ark of the Covenant has a strong circumstantial case for its existence. But, let’s go back in time to the first recorded appearance of the Holy Grail, and the many theories of what the Holy Grail is.
If you believe the Holy Grail is the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper, and if you believe the record of Jesus and the Last Supper in the bible; then the Holy Grail is a cup with its first mention in writing going back to the late first or early second century. The bible’s only mention of the Holy Grail is that of a cup and no attention is paid to that cup. It is the act Jesus was involved in at the Last Supper which is afforded attention in the bible. No description is given of the cup, or any hint at the disposition of the cup after the Last Supper. It was merely a cup used for wine, and would have been the property of the inn where Jesus and the disciples were eating the Passover Feast. As such, after the dinner was over, the innkeeper would have washed it with the other tableware and reused it.
The first written record of the Holy Grail as a special object was in Perceval le Conte du Graal (Perceval, the Story of a Grail) by Chretien Troyes, a twelfth century French romance writer. In this, the first mention of the Holy Grail, Troyes refers to the Holy Grail as “du graal” or “a grail.” Yes that is correct; Troyes does not even describe it as “THE grail.” It is not Holy, or unique, and is also referred to as a golden serving dish by Troyes.
The Grail did not become Holy until sometime in the 15th century. Some four hundred years after Perceval, the Story of a Grail that the grail goes from “du grail” or “a grail” to “san graal” or “Holy Grail,” and it would be several hundred years further before “san graal” (Holy Grail) would become “sang raal” or “Royal blood.”
After Troyes there were others who took his story of the grail and expanded it, but their work was based on the romance of Troyes. There is no hint of a Holy Grail until more than eleven hundred years after the death of Jesus when Troyes first wrote about it.
Now we will examine the most controversial theory of the Holy Grail, the Royal Bloodline theory. This theory states that the Holy Grail is not a cup or dish, but the womb of Mary Magdalene which was carrying the child of Jesus when he died. There are also different goals and theories within this theory as well. Most (if not all) of these theories depend heavily on the pagan belief in the divine feminine. In this theory paganism is also treated as if it were one religion, which is not altogether correct. Pagan was a name coined by early Christians to denote non Judeo-Christian religions (the prophet Muhammad was not yet born, nor the Islamic religion founded by him). Pagan was a “catch-all” phrase. There was no one Pagan religion.
At that time (and before) it was not uncommon for each village to have its own gods and or goddesses that were unique to that location. As the villages formed alliances it was not uncommon for them to merge their religions together. The common practice of Rome was to add the gods and goddesses of conquered territories to their own long list of gods and goddesses. Another thing about these earlier religions, they were not trying to establish a balance between male and female gods. These people assigned male or female to a god based on the characteristics they attributed to a particular god. If those characteristics were believed by their culture to be largely female, then a god with those characteristics was female; and the same with male characteristics.
There are two major camps in royal bloodline theory. Both lines of thought believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child, but they differ slightly after that. The first believes that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene, and that because he was a father he was a man and not divine. This is amusing, because in paganism we have many stories of the gods having sex with human women who then gave birth to sons and daughters. Hercules is just one example of someone from mythology with a god for a father and a human for a mother.
The other major camp within the royal bloodline theory heavily incorporates the divine feminine within its beliefs, and places Mary Magdalene on an equal level with Jesus. These theorists contend that Jesus represents the divine masculine and Mary Magdalene the divine feminine and that this is a balance of the two as it was intended to be as evidenced by pagan beliefs. This is also odd for the following reasons. Those copies of Jewish text which have been discovered that predate Jesus (I am talking about archeological discoveries here) clearly show that the Jewish religion was a monotheistic religion. The Jews believed that there was only one God, and along these lines they were not even permitted to have idols of other gods (graven images). Jesus was a Jew, and as such would have held those same beliefs. Also, in those Christian documents which have been discovered and which have been dated to the late first century and early second century, Jesus states he was not sent to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. So, clearly a divine feminine aspect of the followers of Jesus clashes with the most basic and fundamental of beliefs held by Jesus and by those who were followers of Jesus.
A common statement of the royal bloodline followers is that the First Council of Nicaea was convened by Emperor Constantine to create the divinity of Jesus and that they banned all books that showed Jesus was a man and not divine. The only books that were banned at the First Council of Nicaea were the books of Bishop Arius. The reason the writings and teachings of Arius were banned was because he believed that Jesus was a lesser God, not equal to God the Father. He believed in the divinity of Jesus, but not the way other bishops believed. There were no writings banned by the First Council that denied the divinity of Jesus, only the degree of his divinity.
One last thing is the Priory of Sion, the organization which was supposedly founded to protect the descendents of Jesus. This organization has been debunked by journalists and scholars alike (non-Christian journalists and scholars included) as one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century.
One last point about holy relics (and the Holy Grail if it existed would surely be a holy relic), holy relics during medieval times were big business. If you had an object, any kind of object, which you claimed had a connection to a Saint, one of the disciples of Jesus, or Jesus himself, people would come from near and far to see those objects. Innkeepers and churches alike made a lot of money from pilgrims coming to see holy relics. This, of course led to a lucrative black market industry in the production and sale of fake relics.
The belief in a Creator is based in faith and cannot be proved or disproved. Objects such as the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Shroud of Turin are physical objects, objects which supposedly have a connection to the divine. Of these three objects the Ark of the Covenant is one object which has any circumstantial evidence for its existence, forget solid physical evidence – it does not exist. That is not to say those three objects are fakes. They very well could be what the faithful claim they are; there is just not enough substantial evidence to back up those claims. If you decide those objects are what others claim they are it is an act of faith. And – after all isn’t that what the belief in a Creator is supposed to be – an act of faith?
So, here we are, in many respects no closer to the Grail than we were five minutes ago. Of the theories we have discussed, the only one which appears to support the existence of the Grail as an actual object that existed is the biblical version. If you believe the biblical version, then the Grail was a cup with no importance placed on it at the time. It probably stayed with the inn and was used many times over after the death of Jesus; only to be discarded with the trash by the innkeeper when it was no longer useful.
There is much more to Holy Grail research. However, it is outside the scope of this article, which is the Holy Grail as a real physical object which did or does exist. As a physical object I think we have shown that if the Grail did exist, it was lost forever the night of the Last Supper when the innkeeper washed and returned the Grail to the cupboard along with the rest of the tableware. In the innkeepers cupboard the Grail would have been indistinguishable from other similar cups.
This article does not take a stance for or against the divinity of Jesus. This is not an article attempting to justify or debunk Christianity as a religion or spiritual belief. Those are decisions for each of you to make individually. I encourage your comments, however if your comments are disrespectful or are attempts to assert your opinion as to the validity of the Christian religion I warn you I will chastise you for diverging from the topic of this article. Here on our web site, we avoid topics concerning finance, partisan politics, and the validity of any religion. We would appreciate you respecting that with your comments.
There are many books worth reading on the subject of the Holy Grail. However, most of them do not deal with the Holy Grail as an actual object with a traceable history. The available books deal with the Holy Grail as a metaphor for something else, or attempt to make a case for an object (with no provenance) as the one true Grail. Many of the cups and dishes purported to be the one true Grail have interesting stories attached to them. Unfortunately none of those “one and true” grails has a history which is traceable beyond 1,000 years ago. For this reason, we are not giving our usual “recommended reading” list.
Next week, the Ark of the Covenant will be our last article in the Lost Treasures series.