Artist’s interpretation of the holy grail.

The Truth About the Holy Grail: Magical Chalices Around the World

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Most people identify one special chalice as the only Holy Grail. Others point out that the Holy Grail legends composed in Europe during the 12 th to 15 th centuries enumerate more than ten different Holy Grails. A third group contends that Holy Grails have existed around the globe for thousands of years. In truth, Holy Grails have been everywhere in every age. They have taken the form of chalices, spears, skulls, platters, stones, swords, cauldrons and even books. What makes an object a Holy Grail is its possession of a special power that has been called the Holy Spirit by Christians, the Alchemical Force by Alchemists, and Kundalini by Hindu Yogis. Legend has it that if you drink or eat from a Holy Grail, or even just touch it, its power will enter you and initiate a process of alchemical transformation that will subsequently heal you, enlighten you, and possibly even make you immortal.  

The most famous historical Holy Grail is the Cup of Christ or Joseph of Arimathea’s Cup. This is the vessel that Joseph of Arimathea caught the blood and sweat of the Messiah in after he was taken down from the Cross, and it is also the chalice that Jesus passed among his disciples during the Last Supper. According to one legend, the Archangel Gabriel instructed Joseph and eleven other missionaries to travel with the cup and two flasks, or “cruets,” containing Jesus’s blood and sweat to Glastonbury. Once settled in their new homeland, Joseph and his companions constructed St. Mary’s Chapel, which became the chalice’s reliquary and the first Christian Church in Europe. The chapel was eventually torn down and replaced with a larger chapel that was subsequently incorporated into the structure of Glastonbury Abbey. Before Joseph died, it is said that he buried the Cup of Christ in a large mound of Glastonbury now known as Chalice Hill. Or, states another myth, Joseph secreted his Holy Grail in the Chalice Well, where today blood-colored water, symbolizing the blood of the Messiah, continually flows out to nourish and heal all bathe in it or drink it. 

The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England.

The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England. ( CC BY 2.0 )

According to an alternate legend regarding the Cup of Christ, after the Ascension Joseph’s chalice was taken by St. Peter to Rome, where it became the principal cup used by the early popes during the Holy Communion. Then, in approximately 258 CE, when the Roman Emperor Valerianus was regularly persecuting bishops and other high-ranking Catholic Church officials, a Vatican soldier took the chalice to Spain. It eventually made its way to the Cathedral of Valencia where it became famous as the Santo Caliz of Valencia. According to the Vatican, this is the true Cup of Christ. The Santo Caliz, meaning “Holy Chalice,” is a stone chalice made out of a type of red agate that sits upon an ornate base studded with 27 pearls, 2 rubies, and 2 emeralds. While the agate cup dates from the time of Christ, its decorative base was added much later.

The “Chalice of Valencia”.

The “Chalice of Valencia”. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Although the Cup of Christ is indeed special, it is just one of many Holy Grails dating from the time of the Passion. Known collectively as the Arma Christi, these are the Articles of the Passion that became saturated with the spiritual power of Jesus while touching his body and/or holding his fluids. The Holy Grails of the Arma Christi include the True Cross that Jesus was nailed upon during the Crucifixion, the Crown of Thorns, the Veil of Veronica (the cloth that briefly covered his head), the Shroud of Turin (the cloth that covered Jesus’s corpse), and the Spear of Longinus. These Holy Grails have since been dispersed around the globe. The Spear of Longinus eventually found a home inside a Vatican pillar. The True Cross was divided up and its shards later interred within many cathedrals and churches in Europe and the US. The nails of the True Cross were removed and used to create both the Iron Crown of Lombardy that Napoleon crowned himself with, as well as the Spear of St. Maurice, aka the “Spear of Destiny.” This was the prized Holy Grail Spear of the Holy Roman Emperors, and later of Adolph Hitler.


the search for the Holy Grail is for each of us essentially the quest of our own self and the largest of all goods, the truth that the ancient Greek sense of the word!

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