6 Stops on the Hunt for the Holy Grail

February 8, 2017

The first of many myths involving a divine grail was written more than eight centuries ago. People have been fascinated with the potential whereabouts of the holy treasure every since, making it one of history’s most enduring legends. As the stories evolved and fractured over time, the lure of the Holy Grail persisted and expanded, muddying historical events with religious beliefs, Arthurian literature, wild conspiracy theories, and pop culture epics.

While the Holy Grail is generally thought of as mythology, some believe the vessel is a real object that still exists today. The question is, where?

There’s no way to know the answer to that age-old curiosity, especially since there’s no consensus on what the Holy Grail even is. The sacred object has variously been described as a vessel, dish, chalice, golden bowl, platter, and silver basin, imbued in Celtic myths with miraculous powers. Some camps define it as the cup that was used to collect the blood and sweat of Christ during the Crucifixion. More often it’s conflated with the Holy Chalice used to serve the wine at the Last Supper.

Over the centuries there have been copious religious treasures claimed to be some form of the coveted grail, from the time of the Crusades, when such holy relics were a highly lucrative trade, up to present day, when even a rumored trace of the famous cup can attract grail-seeking tourists to a locale. One of the most popular stops on the grail hunt today is Spain’s Valencia Cathedral, which displays an ancient relic that historians and treasure hunters alike believe to be the most likely contender for the Holy Grail, if it does indeed exist.

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Holy Chalice of Valencia Chapel

Kept in the golden Chapel of the Holy Grail and guarded behind glass, the Valencia Chalice doesn’t look like something from the first century. The holy part is specifically the cup at the top, carved from a chocolatey-red agate. (The base, handles, and jewels were added centuries later to add a medieval flare).

In this theory, the holy cup used at Christ’s Last Supper was taken by Saint Peter to Rome, and some time later by a Vatican soldier to Spain, where it landed in Valencia’s Gothic cathedral. This possible history is based less on literary tales and more on archaeological authenticity: The chalice was carbon-dated to the period between the third century BC and second century AD, and manufactured in the Middle East, making it possible it could have been in the possession of Jesus and his disciples.

Before the cup made it to Valencia, however, it had a stop-off at the ancient monastery of San Juan de la Peña, “Saint John of the Cliff”.

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