Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Holy Grail of Holy Grails?

Monty Python's Holy Grail depiction
Dan Brown's theory of the
Holy Grail depicted
From the classic 1970s British comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail to Dan Brown's controversial thriller The Da Vinci Code, the subject of the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday has captured the imagination of Christians and non-Christians for 2000 years. Now a new take on the existence and location of this mysterious object has taken the Spanish city of Leon--and the world--by storm.

Basilica of San Isidro in Leon, Spain
The Basilica of San Isidro in Leon, Spain, has been overrun with tourists and faithful in recent weeks as they flood the church to get a glimpse of what is being touted as the Holy Grail -- the real Holy Grail. This means it is being held up as the actual chalice from which Jesus himself drank and which he shared with his Apostles on the night before he died.

The Urraca goblet
The drinking vessel that is being elevated to Holy Grail status is not a newly discovered holy object. Rather, its existence has been known for centuries, as far back as the 12th century even. Until now it has been known as the goblet of the Infanta Dona Urraca. Queen Urraca was Queen of Leon until she died in 1126 A.D.

Route of travel of the chalice
What changed with regard to the goblet's identity is that two writers--a medieval history lecturer and an art historian-- spent three years researching the history of the goblet. Their research led them to conclude that the vessel is indeed the Holy Grail, and that over the centuries it traveled from Jerusalem to Egypt to Spain, where it was given to the King and Queen as a token of appeasement by Muslims.

The authors document their own research journey in their new book, The Kings of the Grail. According to The Blaze:
Unveiling their findings last Wednesday, the two explained that they found documents referencing the chalice at Cairo’s University of al-Azhar while researching the history if Islamic remains at the Basilica of San Isidoro, the Irish Times reported.
The documents, written in Arabic, reportedly say that Muslims stole the chalice from Jerusalem and that it was given to Christians in Egypt. Then, they claim it was somehow sent to King Fernando I of Castile as a gift, disguised with jewels and other adornments.
The historians admit that they cannot prove the chalice touched Christ’s lips, nor can they pinpoint the first 400 years of its history. That said, they claim to have used a scientific dating method to determine that the chalice was likely made between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100.
Although I maintain healthy skepticism, this is a book that I am likely to read. If nothing else, it could make quick hay of Dan Brown's version of history. But then again, nothing will assuage those who want to tear down the holiness and influence of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

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