Who wants to live forever? Raise your hand. What if there was an instrument that could grant this ability without the downside of say – vampirism? Would you be tempted? This is one modern interpretation of the Holy Grail as seen in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. And let’s face it, one of my personal favorites for the mere fact it has Harrison Ford in it (we’ll just pretend that fourth installment never happened). It’s the reason The Holy Grail won itself a spot here on Immortal Monday.
But as I bounce around the highways and byways of the information network on my Monty Python quest for the Grail, what I found was a whole lot of confusion put out there by multiple authors. It’s quite the muddy trap, like the swamps of Mississippi.
The first one to introduce this magical artifact into our history is the French poet, Chretien de Troyes. Unfortunately his work went unfinished due to his untimely death, but he wrote of a Grail that was a large shiny serving dish filled with a glowing power. I rather like this rendition – it glows, it’s shiny, what could be better than that on the magical scale? After all, Grail comes from the Latin word gradale, meaning dish. So therein lies our first clue of its origins. But no magical powers have yet been explained. The author died before he got the chance.
Others took up where he left off, changing the dish to the cup we envision today. At one point in the 1200’s the poet Wolfram von Eschenbach depicted the Grail as a stone that had fallen from the heavens. It’s a curious theory, but easily thrown out. Can someone say meteorite? How easy it would be for others to quickly place various falling stones into this category? We would have buckets of Holy Grails before you know it!
It would be authors such as Robert de Boron and Sir Thomas Malory that would tie the Holy Grail to the Cup of Christ, thus linking its magical abilities to the blood of Christ. Back in the days of old, it was often referred to as the Sangreal, san greal actually meaning “Holy Grail.” But with a simple slip of the “g”, sang real takes on a new meaning — True Blood. Curious, no?
Although the Bible makes no mention of the Cup of Christ past its usage at the Last Supper, Boron romanticizes it into a magical artifact that is destined to become famous throughout history. We have heard of the Templar Knights if nothing else in these tales. It is thought that Boron may have latched onto the idea that Jesus passed his blood onto his disciples through the Cup at that last meal. Later at the crucifixion we are lead to believe that Joseph of Arimathea pulls the same Cup from his robes to capture Jesus’ blood as it drips from his broken body. It will be this blood that will grant the Cup, the Holy Grail, its power.
Flash forward to modern day. The Grail has inspired many works in print and on the screen. I have already mentioned Indiana Jones… and, of course, who can forget Monty Python’s famous telling of the story? It was a favorite during my high school years.
Flash forward even further ahead to a story that made a huge splash on literary scene – Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. His book introduced some interesting theories on Christ and his lineage.
And, of course, it is impossible to forget a true cinematic classic and all-time favorite of mine – Excalibur, released in theatres in 1981. Each gives a different perspective of the Grail, primarily due to artist interpretation.
Circling back to my cinematic crush, in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Grail is said to have healing powers. We saw a Templar Knight who looked impossibly old, supposedly granted incredibly long life through the power of the Grail. This was not a true interpretation of the Grail, but rather Hollywood taking privileges . It is rumored that the Grail does indeed gift one with healing, and through its use one may obviate death for a week’s time. Hardly immortality. So, in this instance the Grail FAILS as an object of immortality. But it still continues to draw great interest from many.
Is there a Holy Grail? There was a cup used at the dinner, no doubt. That is, if you believe a dinner took place. But legend and lore has changed so much through the ages, who knows the truth? Some believe the original story may have stemmed from a Celtic belief and involved a Celtic object, only to be later adopted by Christianity. The Knights of the Templar possibly got involved because the timing was right. The stories were generated around the same time as the Knights were at their height. Food for thought.
Because I always like to give you something sparkly to gaze upon on Immortal Monday, in my search I found that Sweden put out a movie titled Arn: The Knight Templar, released in 2007. I may be stretching just a bit since this movie does not involve any search for the Grail per se, but there are Templar Knights. The leading star, Joakim Nätterqvist, was voted Sweden’s sexiest man of that same year. Let me introduce you…
Now, because I’m old school, I have to ask. Would you prefer to be trapped alone in a room with Joakim Nätterqvist or Harrison Ford?
And what do you think – are the stories of the Grail, as recorded by authors throughout history, colorful works of fiction or based in truth?
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