The Holy Grail in Valencia

No, I don’t mean it figuratively. I mean it literally: THE HOLY GRAIL is in Valencia!!

My inner Indiana Jones is wide awake with the mentions of this fabled relic. I imagine myself walking through rat-infested sewers and solve puzzles, the Knights of Templar thought up hundreds of years ago. But someone’s beaten me to it, and now, The Sacred Chalice can be admired by everyone in the Cathedral of Valencia.

Sometimes, great treasures are kept in modest and unassuming places: La Capilla del Santo Cáliz in the Cathedral of Valencia is one such place. Since 1916, this small Chapel has safeguarded one of the most revered and prized relics within the Catholic Church: the Holy Grail, used by Jesus in the Last Supper.

“Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me”

Jesus

Before being taken to Valencia in 1424 by Alfonso the Magnanimous, this adored artefact had journeyed a long route, over the course of several centuries, marking out what has become a pilgrimage route. The gothic yet unpretentious Chapel of the Santo Cáliz offers a serene silence and medieval ambiance to adore the artefact. Embedded behind the altar, the historical object can be viewed through the glass case in which it’s protected.

The relic itself is the upper part of the chalice: a cup of dark brown agate finely polished. It is a so-called “Alexandrian vessel”, which archaeologists believe to have an oriental origin from around 100 – 50 BC. The handles as well as the chalice’s stem made of exquisitely engraved gold, came later. Its alabaster base of Islamic art is different from the vessel. All of it, including the jewels decorating the stem, belong to the medieval period and it measures 17 cm. in height and 9 cm. in width.

The Legends of the Grail

The thought of the Grail as having mystical powers originated in the German-French literature of the Middle Ages, and its origin is mainly described in the works of Chretien de Troyes, the most important being Perceval, The Story of the Grail from approximately 1190 but left unfinished. However, the origin of the jewel is not described here. Wolfram von Eschenbach was the poet who gave it the shape of a chalice in his poem Perceval the Welsh. It is assumed, that he began his “Parsifal” in the beginning of the 13th century, at Wartburg, a mythical castle, birthplace of poets and troubadours, and finished it in 1215.

In the 19th century, the legends of the Holy Grail was the source of inspiration for the great poetical and musical works of Richard Wagner, like Tannhäuser, Parsifal and Lohengrin.

In modern times, movies like Indiana Jones and books like The Da Vinci Code has kept the legend alive and added to its mystery.

The History of the Holy Chalice in Spain

The tradition tells us, that the chalice was taken to Rome by Saint Peter where it stayed until the 3rd century, when Saint Sixtus II was sent to Huesca in Spain and brought the Holy Grail with him.

From 713 AD, during the Muslim invasion, the chalice was hidden in the North of Spain, after having been in Yebra, Siresa, Santa María de Sasabe (today San Adrián), Bailio and finally in the monastery of San Juan de la Peña in Huesca, where a document from 1071 refers to a precious chalice made of stone.

The relic was handed over to the King of Aragon in 1399, who kept it in the Aljaferia Royal Palace of Saragossa and later in the Royal Palace of Barcelona. In 1424, King Alfonso the Magnanimous handed over the royal reliquary to the Valencia Palace. The chalice ended its long journey in 1437, when it was given to the Cathedral of Valencia.

Not only the historical records relating to the relic’s past but the archaeological data as well, suggest that this was indeed the chalice used by Jesus during the Last Supper. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have both verified its authenticity and made use of it in two masses. Valencia will hold a jubilee every five years to commemorate the chalice, the next one scheduled in 2020.

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If you want to discover  the surprising amount of Art Nouveau architecture in Valencia, you might like this article, or if you’re looking to drink or dine with a view, we’ve found the 5 best spots for you. If you want to know more About Spain or learn some Useful Information, check out those pieces.

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