The quest for the Holy Grail

By | Category: Travel news
Nanteos Cup from the front © AL

Nanteos Cup from the front © AL

The knights of King Arthur and the film character, Indiana Jones, had one thing in common. They both sought the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper.

Over the centuries, the quest – it was never a just a search or a hunt but , much more romantically, it was called a quest –  became something that scribes, novelists, playwrights and film makers returned to time and time again. The public loved it and Arthurian legend always had the story of the grail as the ultimate chivalrous thing to attain.

But what if the grail has been in our midst all this time?

The Nanteos Cup, named after a mansion in mid Wales where it was housed for generations, is believed by some to be the very cup.  The story goes that the cup was brought to our shores by Joseph of Arimathea and somehow, monks from the monastery at Strata Florida took it to Nanteos mansion about five hundred years ago. There it rested until being sold to a marcher family who placed it in a bank vault for safety. The modern legend has grown on the mediaeval one for it is said that the cup has healing powers. Loaned to a lady, it was stolen but returned after an appeal on BBC’s Crimewatch two years ago.

It isn’t made of gold, silver or pewter nor is it encrusted with precious gems; it’s made of wood. And not much of that survives but what has now been loaned to the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and went on display as from last Saturday.

Nanteos Cup from side © AL

Nanteos Cup from side © AL

The romantic links of the cup only go back 140 years. The then owner of Nanteos was a fan of Wagner and reports even say Wagner stayed at Nanteos and composed Parsifal – his opera about the Holy Grail – as a result of talking to the owner.  Last year the writer, Jane Blank, used the story as background to her fictional novel, The Shadow of Nanteos.

When it was last on public display in 1977, the cup was examined and proclaimed to be late mediaeval suggesting that any Holy Grail links are untrue. But analysis techniques have altered as science has progressed. New studies may date it differently.

Whatever the truth, the Nanteos Cup should be a big tourist draw for the National Library. To be honest, the links with Joseph of Arimathea are unlikely but the links with Wagner, the late Victorian romantic movement  and the Arthurian legend will always be a magnet for visitors many of whom will wonder whether there isn’t some truth to the legend. That is why visitors will head to the National Library of Wales.

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