An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.





"Golden Dish"
By Sigitas Mickevicius (1962 - )
(120x160, oil on canvas, 1995)
[Courtesy of Kukas Gallery,Vilnius, Lithuania.
[Note: link is broken as of 4/1/00; link restored 9/16/00; broken again as of 11 June 2006.] [link updated 11 June 2006]

This is an excellent early 20th century overview on the Grail by Arthur F. J. Remy for the Catholic Encyclopedia.  He looks at the etymology of grail/graal as well as the twin threads of its literary tradition: the Quest tradition (focusing on knights seeking the cup) and the Early History (focusing on Joseph of Arimathea).  Despite the spiritual depths of the Early History strand, Remy comments that the medieval Church never embraced it because the Joseph/Glastonbury connections threatened to undercut the primacy of the Church in Rome.  In Remy's words:
...the legend claimed for the Church in Britain an origin well nigh as illustrious as that of the Church of Rome, and independent of Rome.  It was thus calculated to encourage and to foster any separatist tendencies that might exist in Britain.
[Added 12 June 2006]:  Again from the Catholic Encyclopedia is a history of "Chalice" written in 1908 (which explains some of the dated expressions) by Herbert Thurston:
The chalice occupies the first place among sacred vessels, and by a figure of speech the material cup is often used as if it were synonymous with the Precious Blood itself....
The page looks at history, medieval chalices, chalices in art, priestly customs, and much more. There are several photos on the page and hypertext will take you to several more -- I found the two Irish ones (Chalices of Ardagh and Tassilo) especially intriguing. I also enjoyed several passages on what materials were used in crafting early liturgical chalices:
...So far as it is possible to collect any scraps of information regarding the chalices in use among early Christians, the evidence seems to favour the prevalence of glass, though cups of the precious and of baser metals, of ivory, wood, and even clay were also in use. (See Hefele, Beiträge, II, 323-5.) A passage of St. Irenæus (Hær., I, c. xiii) describing a pretended miracle wrought by Mark the Gnostic who poured white wine into his chalice and then after prayer showed the contents to be red, almost necessarily supposes a vessel of glass.... But the tendency to use by preference the precious metals developed early. St. Augustine speaks of two golden and six silver chalices dug up at Cirta in Africa, (Contra Crescon., III, c. xxix), and St. Chrysostom of a golden chalice set with gems (Hom. 1 in Matt.)....
In later medieval periods, clear regulations were drawn up regarding permissible materials.  In England, for example:
...the so-called canons of Ælfric repeated the injunction that chalices of molten material, gold, silver, glass (glaesen) or tin should be used, not horn, and especially not wood. Horn was rejected because blood had entered into its composition. Probably, however, the most famous decree was that included in the "Corpus Juris" (cap. xlv, dist. i, de consecratione) "that the chalice of the Lord, together with the paten, if not gold, must be entirely made of silver. If, however, anyone is so poor, let him at least have a chalice of pewter. The chalice must not be made of brass or copper, because it generates rust (i. e. verdigris) which causes nausea. And let no one presume to say Mass with a chalice of wood or glass....

...Such monuments as the Ardagh chalice and the Tassilo chalice, both of Irish origin, stand almost alone in the information they afford of an otherwise unsuspected mechanical skill and richness of ornament, particularly in the matter of enamels, ina remote and barbarous age. The earliest, documents connected with the life of St. Patrick reveal the fact that the artificers of chalices and bells had a certain status which in that rude age won respect for the arts of peace....

About the cup used at the Last Supper (i.e., the Christian Grail), the author has this to say:
...No reliable tradition has been preserved to us regarding the vessel used by Christ at the Last Supper. In the sixth and seventh centuries pilgrims to Jerusalem were led to believe that the actual chalice was still venerated in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, having within it the sponge which was presented to Our Saviour on Calvary. Curiously enough, while Antoninus of Piacenza refers to it as made of onyx, Adamnan, less than a century later, describes it as a "silver cup holding the measure of a Gallic sextarius and with two opposite handles" (see Geyer, Itinera, Hierosolimitana, pp. 154, 173, 234, 305).

At a much later period two other vessels have been venerated as the chalice of the Last Supper. One, the sacro catino of Genoa, is rather a dish than a cup and is made of green glass, though long supposed to be an emerald, fourteen and a half inches in diameter and of priceless value. The other, at Valencia in Spain, is a cup of agate. The fact is that the whole tradition is untrustworthy and of late date. It will be referred to further under the article GRAIL [see above link]....
[Added 11 June 2006]:  Wolfram von Eschenbach and the Grail [annotation pending] [link updated 11 June 2006]
This extraordinary project from King's College London is currently under construction [1/20/99].  Eventually, it'll be an online line-by-line bibliographic database for Wolfram's Grail masterpiece, Parzival.  This page explains the project and offers a sample of what the site will eventually offer (much is in German).  The first installment is promised between 1998-1999.  I plan to keep checking on its progress and will update this entry once it's online.  (If anyone gets there before me, please let me know!)
[Note: as of 4/1/00, this project is still pending //  Ditto: 9/16/00 //  Ditto 4/25/01 ::sigh::
Update: 11 June 2006: finally! -- the first CD-ROM has now been released.]
Moving to a much more complex site, this is "Monsalvat: The Parsifal Homepage," created by Derrick Everett.  If you're not a lover of Wagnerian opera (and I'm not), don't be deceived (as I nearly was) by what initially looks like a site dedicated only to Wagner's Parsifal (with music; theme analysis; a prose draft; the German libretto; abundant production notes, illustrations, & photos; excerpts from Wagner's letters on various characters [e.g., his on Kundry is wonderful]; and biographical data  -- especially fascinating is the anti-semitic Wagner's relationship with Hermann Levi, the Jewish conductor of many of Wagner's Parsifal productions: look under "The Sacrament of Baptism" as well as in the biographies for data on Levi).

What makes this sprawling site so exceptional are its enormously rich connections to earlier Grail materials.  There are selected translations of medieval texts; biographies (Chretien, Wolfram); characters (e.g., a history of my long-time favorite, Kundry, the Loathsome Damsel, as she appears in many earlier texts -- [Note: to find this, you'll need to click on any relevant hypertext you see under her initial entry]); Celtic mythology; the role of the Cathars; and much, much more.  You can read Levi Strauss' (especially good), Thomas Mann's, Nietzsche's, and a carping G. B. Shaw's reactions to performances of Wagner's Parsifal.  There's a haunting page on Hitler and his connections to Parsifal.  Finally, there are extensive bibliographies.  This site's topics aren't arranged as orderly as they might be, so just keep scrolling through the entire menu -- there's something there for everyone.

Note: at Derrick Everett's suggestion, I'm including a URL for an alternately arranged page that some might find easier to navigate (try it at least once for its lovely, dark-sepia opening illustration!).  On my small-ish 13" monitor, the page requires constant horizontal scrolling, which becomes annoying; if you have a larger monitor, however, or don't mind the scrolling, you might prefer this one:) [link updated 11 June 2006 -- the sepia illustration is no longer shown but there are interesting replacements -- constant scrolling is also a thing of the past].
[Added 11 June 2006]:  University of Rochester's Camelot Project on the Grail -- excellent! [annotation pending]

Grail Maidens
("Trilogy" by the late Linda DeLaine)
"Joseph of Arimathea, The Holy Grail, and the Shroud of Turin" is a 1996 abstract for a longer journal article by Professor Daniel C. Scavone of the University of Southern Indiana.  Scavone, a noted expert on the Turin Shroud, argues that it was the secret existence of this blood-stained shroud (miraculously marked with Christ's image) that was somehow garbled into the story of a secret cup that held the blood of Christ.  The common denominator is Joseph of Arimathea, who provided Christ's followers with both tomb and shroud, and who is also said to have rescued the Grail and taken it to England. Scavone argues that not only did Joseph never go to Britain (he went to the palace complex, Britio Edessenorum, of Edessa in Turkey -- the similarity between Britain and Britio accounts for the confusion), the cup itself never existed, only the shroud, lying at the center of a web of confused legends.  The argument is complex and I remain unconvinced, yet Scavone is always interesting and his argument deserves space here.
[Note: if you join Arthuriana's discussion list, Arthurnet, you'll find that Scavone is a regular.]
Updated 9 June 2006: since writing the above some years ago, I have had the opportunity to read the entire article by Professor Scavone. For his pdf file of the complete paper, see:

In this paper he clarifies much that his brief abstract necessarily had to omit and I can now happily reverse my initial reaction. He makes a brilliant and convincing case for how the Edessa shroud (which disappeared from Turkey only to re-surface as the famous Turin Shroud) could have been garbled into the Christian grail, especially since there was no Christian grail lore prior to the controlled exhibitions of the Edessa shroud.

Contrary to what I originally thought, Scavone is in no way disputing earlier pre-Christian grail motifs, nor does he have any problem with Jungian or depth psychological interpretations of the grail. Scavone's focus is on how the mysterious Edessa shroud, rarely seen and thus steeped in speculation and wild fantasy by those who had heard of it but never seen it, could have been transformed from a blood-stained shroud into a cup filled with the dying Savior's blood. Scavone carefully details how both shroud and cup were associated with Christ's death, visions of Christ-child and Christ's corpse, and Joseph of Arimathea.

It remains a complex argument, but I am now convinced that Scavone is correct, at least about medieval French grail lore -- Wolfram's German version lacks the crucial Christ-child/corpse vision, as well as Joseph's role, and so cannot adequately be explained by the Edessa shroud: thus, it is likely that there were alternate traditions in play at the same time. Wolfram's version aside, however, Scavone's is an engrossing argument, meticulously laid out like a fine detective story. I found it immensely stimulating on many levels.

[11 June 2006: still pending is an excerpt from what he exposes on Glastonbury. See below for traditional Glastonbury lore.]

Arthur Rackham
[Added 11 June 2006]:  Glastonbury Abbey [annotation pending]
[Added 28 September 2004]:  This is a touching account of an experience with the grail-waters of Glastonbury from "Zyalia the Crone." [annotation pending]

A Grail Maiden
Detail of  Sophia as a "Life Giving Spring"
by Robert Lentz
(Courtesy of  Natural Bridges.) [link updated 11 June 2006]

"The Quest for the Holy Grail" is one in a series of "Mystical Quests" presented by London's British Library.  This site gives a brief, but useful literary overview of the Grail story; it includes an early 14th century French illustration (clickable) of Josephe (Bishop of Sarras), son of Joseph of Arimathea, who, according to legend, brought the Grail to England. [dead link as of 11 June 2006, but I'm keeping the annotation in case this website turns up elsewhere]
This Spanish-language site (an excerpt from a larger site, below) is an illustrated essay on a candidate for the "real" Grail found in Aragon; it includes a photo of Pope John Paul II kissing the cup during a Mass in which he used it.   Please note that the actual "Grail" is the lovely translucent cup held within the much later, more ornate, jeweled matrix.

I am indebted to Alejandro Rivero, who has given me permission to quote from a message he sent the Arthurnet List on December 26, 1998 about this Grail (as well as about the mysterious area in which it was found):

"...A Catalan author calls the "country of the troubadours" the network of French/Spanish alliances across the Pyrenees during the Middle Ages.  This "country" included the Mediterranean Coast from Valencia to Marseilles, and entered deeply into France following the expansion of the house of Foix....
Apart from this, it is interesting to remark that one of the versions of the Grail was supposedly kept in this country. It is reported to have been hidden in San Pedro de Siresa, a Carolingian foundation in Spanish central Pyrenees, and moved to San Juan de la Pena at some time after, but the oldest document kept about the vase is dated 1399. This is a document of King Martin El Humano asking for the vase to be brought to his chapel.
The archeologist Antonio Beltran made a very detailed report about the cup, reference is: BELTRAN, ANTONIO, "Estudio sobre el Santo Caliz de la Catedral de Valencia", 4th ed., Zaragoza, Octavio y Felez, 1984....

It seems to be a paleochristian vase, 9.5 cm of diameter, 7cm tall, 5cm diam. bottom, mounted in a double handled basis, then making a cup about 17 cm tall. There is an arabic inscription in the basis, perhaps a clue of the Cordobese origin of this addition.

Hans Wilhelm Shaefer ("Kelch und Stein", Frankfurt and Bern 1983), transcribes the inscription as ALBST SLJS and then reads "Al-labsit As-Silis", linking this with the name of the graal as it appears in Eschenbach's Parzival (1210).
Today the piece is kept in Valencia....

Valencian reports date the relic references as far back as 14 December 1134, but the quoted documents have not been found. Some work of the order [see below for the website of the Brotherhood's Order in Valencia] studies the different versions of the Saint Grail around the world, but no effort is done to link them to Arthurian literature.

Spanish novels have recently begun again to refer to this relic, the most patent example could be Pedro Jesus Fernandez "Peon de Rey", where Alfonso I "el batallador" is identified with the Fisherking.  The Valencian link is also very good for plots, as Valencia was conquered by Jaime I, who grew (of course :-) inside the Temple order.
As for the "troubadours" kingdom, well, it become a failed project when Castilla and Aragon joined three centuries later.... "
In a later e-mail, Alejandro Rivero clarifies that it isn't claimed that this cup is the "original" Grail, merely that this numinous cup somehow became the focal point for the many of the Grail legends that sprang up in the Pyrenees mountains region. [dead link as of 11 June 2006, but I'm keeping the annotation in case this website turns up elsewhere]
This is another illustrated, Spanish-only site on the Grail of Aragon -- this site belongs to the Brotherhood in Valencia who protects this cup.
(Note: the Spanish site listed above comes from the "Historia" section of this larger site).
In English, this new site from late February 1999 is on the Spanish Grail (see the above sites).  Juan C. Gorostizaga, a member of the Brotherhood of the Holy Grail, contacted me 2/23/99 to tell me he had just built this site.  I immediately took a look and then returned for a fuller exploration 2/24/99.  The site tells a fascinating story.......

It turns out that the tradition behind this Grail of the Last Supper dates back to St. Peter (instead of Joseph of Arimathea).  St. Peter is said to have sent it from Jerusalem to Rome, where it was the papal cup until the middle of the 3rd century.  Then it was sent into Spain for safe-keeping, where it has remained ever since.  According to this website, the actual cup was carved of agate in Egypt sometime between the 4th - 1st centuries B.C.  The mysterious Arabic inscription (mentioned in the e-mail excerpt above) does suggest Wolfram's description, although its dating is unclear.  Whether you believe the claims or not, the rich history and lore connected with this cup are definitely intriguing.

By Sigitas Mickevicius (1962 - )
(108x150, oil on canvas, 1996)
[Courtesy of Kukas Gallery,Vilnius, Lithuania.
[Note: link is broken as of 4/1/00; link restored 9/16/00; broken again as of 11 June 2006.]
From UC Berkeley's Online Medieval and Classical Library comes a complete English translation of the Old French, "The High History of the Holy Graal," a continuation by an unknown author of Chretien de Troyes's unfinished Grail romance, "Perceval, or the Knight of the Grail."  The continuation dates from sometime in the early half of the 13th Century.  This translation is by Sebastian Evans, 1898.   The website includes the translator's detailed Introduction followed by the 35 Branches (chapters) of the text.
[Added 11 June 2006]:  Brief intro plus many links [annotation pending] [Link updated 4/1/00 & again 4/25/01]
Hints in some of the Grail legends have led many to believe that the Order of the Templars was the mysterious guardian of this vessel.  I have discarded many other Templar sites because they tend to show little evidence of solid scholarship.  But this one, with its haunting musical theme ("Lament for the Death of Owen Roe Neill" - Irish Traditional), disarms me.  While not "academic," it has a quiet, balanced quality that I like.  Its designer, Barbara Harrison Beegle, doesn't push an agenda.   She simply offers a series of well-chosen links, many of them excellent (with translations of texts from the period).  Among them, you'll be able to discover much useful, even fascinating information.  There are also good links to the Cathars (another group long associated with the Grail) and the Inquisition (initiated to root out such "heretics" as the Cathars).
This site by Peter Corless looks at Grail material for an unusual audience: gamemasters creating computer games.  I nearly passed it by, but Corless' explanatory essay isn't a bad overview (he even has a nice little section near the end on some of Wolfram's characters). [dead link as of 11 June 2006, but I'm keeping the annotation in case this website turns up elsewhere]
This engaging, entry-level site from Mariano Tomatis in Italy has both excellence and nonsense, so keep your grain of salt within reach, but also be prepared to enjoy this young man's obvious love for his subject.  Among his many categories are a nice collection of Grail images (including one from his hometown of Turin of a serpent rising up out of the cup); photos of candidates for the "real" Grail (one from Spielberg's "Indy" film is included in this section) -- unfortunately, little data is given on any of these; articles on the Grail (uneven quality, but some good insights); sites ranging from Nova Scotia to Europe as hiding places for Grail treasure; theories about the Grail's nature; video games based on the Grail; and movies and cartoons based on the Grail.  My favorite page is Tomatis' retelling of a Fisherking legend (no source is given, but it doesn't matter -- it's short, sweet, and profound).  Here's a direct link: [broken link as of 11 June 2006, but I'm keeping the annotation]

A few pages are in Italian only but most are in English (you can also select a French version).

NOTE: please don't get nervous by the ads on this Geocities site (you'll find another Geocities site below, to which my same caution applies).  Geocities gives free websites in exchange for advertising, which pops up as a "banner" on your screen and is quite intrusive.  Look for a small "X" in the upper right hand corner of such ads, click on it, and the ad should disappear.  Sometimes just scrolling down the page also makes it disappear. [dead link, 6/11/06, but I'm keeping the annotation in case the site is revived]
This site by Ran Raider gives a listing of the major Grail texts plus brief, but well done biographies of several authors and texts (Chretien, Wolfram, Robert de Boron, and the Vulgate Cycle).  At the end is a good list of "Graal Resources," including a large collection of links to the Kabbalah.  [See my above caution on Mariano Tomatis' site about ads on Geocities sites like this.]
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Copyright 1998-2006 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Latest updates:
18-20 January 1999; 24 February, 1999; 17 April 1999 (updated 2 URL's);
1 April 2000; 16 September 2000 [updates + checked all links];
25 April 2001 (updated 1 URL).
28 September 2004: re-formatted top of  page & added ungrokked Glastonbury link.
9-10 June 2006: updated Dan Scavone annotation.
11 June 2006: updating dead links -- also added 6 new ones, annotations still pending.