The Legend of the Holy Grail had its start in literature. Although it can be rightly claimed that the Grail is first seen in the best seller of all time, The Bible, the Grail as legend truly entered Western culture by way of the medieval romance and bardic poems that circulated through the high courts of the middle ages. With each telling, the story grew, and became more elaborate, more fanciful. In the end, it became nearly impossible to separate myth from any tiny seed of history there may have been.
The story of the Grail grew in popularity until it was the most recognized theme in medieval literature. During the time of the Renaissance such legendary tales diminished, only to find renewed notoriety in the Victorian era. The legend’s survival into modern times is thanks largely to these Victorian writers who took the medieval texts and used their romantic sensibilities to revive the spark in the western mind.
With each new generation of Grail romancers, more was added to the legend. Added to these were a new breed of individuals who sought history in between the lines of myth. Eventually, the Grail Legend became something like a literary version of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle -- the more it was “touched”, the more difficult it was to study. Today, anyone wishing to learn more about the legend must wade through a sea of printed material to gain any knowledge about the subject. Along with the classical stories of the Grail, one must read about church history, histories of invasion, accounts of the Knights Templar and the Cathars of southern France, and all of the modern treatments and theories. Indeed some fiction of our time has been based on the Grail Legend, or more correctly, associated theories pertaining to it and related apocryphal material.
The purpose of this section is to outline and separate some of the more noteworthy among these texts, and discern how they have related to the overall formation and investigation of the Legend of the Holy Grail. These can be largely separated into four categories: