THE now-claimed Holy Grail in Leon’s San Isidoro Cathedral
VALENCIA Cathedral, supposed home of the Holy Grail. (Kent Martens)
IS this the “real” Holy Grail in Valencia Cathedral? (Valencia Tourism)
THE rugged Pyrenees Mountains in which the Holy Grail was supposedly hidden for safe-keeping over the centuries. (Wikimedia)
BIZARRE is possibly the kindest way of describing many of the claims to the resting place of the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus supposedly drank from at the Last Supper, and the hunt for which has confounded man virtually ever since.
For far more mind-occupying than all the imaginings of Hollywood, Monty Python and Indiana Jones, have been the diversity of locations of these claims.
Europe alone has some two hundred claimed “Holy Grails” in numerous shapes and sizes, and other claimants of its whereabouts will assure you that it’s displayed or hidden in places as far distant as Canada’s Nova Scotia, parts of England, the little town of Accokeek in Maryland USA, Scotland, and in the Middle East.
And for good measure, buried for safe keeping in the sewers of Jerusalem – even, according to one group, locked-up in Fort Knox.
But of all of these claims, long has a church in Valencia in Spain been the strongest tip for having the genuine thing, the Basilica of the Assumption of our Lady of Valencia (also known simply as Valencia Cathedral) drawing tens of thousands of the faithful, as well as simply-inquisitive tourists, each year to lay eyes on the sacred chalice in its Holy Grail Chapel.
And now two Spanish historians claim that while Spain is home to the 2000-year old cup, it is not in the Basilica in Valencia – but in a cathedral in the smaller city of Leon in the country’s north-west.
And they say scientific dating of Leon’s supposed Holy Grail puts it at having been made between 200BC and 100 AD, and that they have other “positive” evidence to its authenticity.
Valencians, however, won’t buy it, and say they have equally scientific proof that their Holy Grail dates from the 1st century, and point out that St Peter had taken the revered cup to Rome after the Last Supper, and that it had been kept there by successive Popes over several hundred years.
And then in 713AD it had been taken to the Pyrenees, and after that been given to the King of Aragon in Spain’s north-east in 1399.
Upon the king’s death in 1410, it was then given to the Royal Family in Barcelona, and fourteen years later, the Valencians say, to the Valencia Palace, which in turn had donated it to their Cathedral in 1437.
For the next several centuries it was kept and venerated at the Cathedral, but during Spain’s Independence War from 1809 to 1813 was regularly moved around the countryside to save it falling into the hands of Napoleonic invaders.
And finally in 1916 it was permanently displayed in Valencia Cathedral’s Chapter House that was re-named the Holy Chalice Chapel for the occasion.
In November 1982 Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist with the Holy Chalice in the Valencia Cathedral, and Pope Benedict XVI did likewise in July 2006.
And while many who see Valencia’s claimed Holy Grail for the first time are initially surprised at its bejewelled ornateness, Cathedral staff are quick to point out that “the relic” as they refer to it, is purely the upper part only – a simple bowl-shaped cup of finely polished, dark brown agate.
The exquisitely engraved golden handles and stem, and the jewel-encrusted alabaster base were added later, cathedral staff say, probably in the Medieval period.
And while all this is seen by many as reason enough to believe Valencia Cathedral truly is home to the Holy Grail, Spanish historians Margarita Torres and Jose Manuel Ortega del Rio have now published a book saying they’re convinced that the Holy Grail is in fact in Leon’s San Isidoro Basilica, where for centuries it’d been mistakenly thought to have been the christening goblet of the Infanta Dona Urraca – daughter of Fernando I who ruled from 1037 to 1065.
Made of agate, gold and onyx studded with precious stones, the researchers say they identified it from Egyptian parchments they found at a Cairo university during three years of investigations, and which described the cup Jesus had drunk from at the Last Supper as missing a specific small fragment – exactly as does the Leon Cathedral cup.
As the arguments begin, where are Monty Python and Indiana Jones when you need them most?
David Ellis, email@example.com