The Grail Legend

Like most medieval Christian legends, the story of the Holy Grail is closely tied to several other tales, such as the Arthur legend, and several that centered around the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. When one begins to study these legends, an almost immediate sense most closely likened to drowning sets in. There is such a volume of Medieval legend, some based on previous legends, some slightly altering them, some completely separate, that it is difficult to make much sense of them, much less to see how they are related. Therefore, let us begin with a bit of history, and proceed to the legend.

Some time in the 1st century, (since it is impossible to pin down an exact date), a child was born in Bethlehem and given the name Jesus. Some 30+ years later, He died by crucifixion in Jerusalem. (At this point, I’m sure some will cry foul, as it is still not completely agreed upon by scholars that such a birth, life, or death ever took place. However, since the most reliable 1st c. historian, Josephus, as well as countless others, not to mention the Bible say so, let’s just agree for now that it did). After the crucifixion, the body of Jesus was taken from the cross, hastily prepared for entombment, (not burial, but entombment -- the difference between them to be discussed later), and the tomb sealed by a heavy round stone “door” that was rolled into place across the entry way. This door was sealed with wax, and watched over by Roman guards. According to the Bible, a group of people coming to the tomb saw that the door was open, and the body was missing. Jesus had resurrected, and a religion was born.

Now that this story has been told, we can delve into the associated stories that became the foundation of the Grail Legend. Actually, to call it “the” Grail Legend is a bit of a misconception. The legend of the Holy Grail is quite broad, and includes at least two other major legends that we’ll want to examine -- the Arthur legend, and the Joseph of Arimathea legend. To learn more about their roles in the development of the Grail story, see the three links above.