The Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank during the Last Supper and which caught at least some of his blood during the Crucifixion, is (no pun intended) the Holy Grail of religious artifacts. This vessel, if it could be found and verified, would undoubtedly be the greatest treasure of the Christian faith. Its existence and location have been the subject of countless books, theories and even treasure hunts. A few places claim to be home to the Grail, but none of these are taken seriously by either academic or theologian. Still, for those who insist on checking things out for themselves, here are some popular possible locations of the Holy Grail:
Let’s start with the obvious. Whatever cup was used by Jesus at the Last Supper was probably taken away to be cleaned afterwards, and that was that. Unless he personally owned the cup, and it was carried around by him or his followers, it was almost certainly left behind at the Seder table. If it was taken by his followers, there’s little reason to believe that it ever left the group in Jerusalem.
If that is the case, then it was at best lost in some location yet to be uncovered by archaeologists, or most likely destroyed. One place it almost certainly did not wind up was buried under the Temple Mount, as some claim (the Dome of the Rock is sometimes cited as a possible hiding place). More likely it might have been hidden in the sewers or someplace like Hezekiah’s Tunnel, as others claim.
Cathedral of St. Lawrence
If the Holy Grail did survive, it might have been smuggled out of Judea in the 1st or 2nd century, or found and claimed by the Catholic Church in the 4th or 5th century. It might have even been pilfered by agents of the Roman Empire. If any of these is the case, than the Grail most likely would have been taken to Italy. Most of the Church’s earliest relics, whether real or fake, wound up in Rome by the time the empire collapsed in the West.
However, in the case of the Grail, local legend has it that it wound up in Genoa. The details are a bit hazy, but a green bowl from the Middle East was brought to Genoa at some point during the Crusades. This green bowl, which has yet to be accurately dated, has been kept at the cathedral ever since. It is currently on display, with supporters claiming it is in fact the Cub of Christ.
Cathedral of St. Mary
In later years, many Christian artifacts made their way from or through Italy to other points in Europe. One of the most popular destinations was Spain, both due to its accessibility to Italy by sea and, in later years, its importance as one of the bastions of the Roman Catholic as a bulwark against the Protestant Reformation. Some of the strongest traditions of the Holy Grail are tied to Spain.
There are at least three major claimants to the Holy Grail in the Iberian Peninsula. The lesser two are St. Mary de Montserrat in Catalonia; and the Basilica of St. Isadore in Leon. However, the top contender is that kept at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Valencia. A cup kept there has been traced back to the Middle East and dated to the Roman era. Although there is no way to know for sure, it is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as its official Chalice.
When it comes to locations for the Holy Grail, at least in popular tradition, no place beats Southwestern England. According to legend, the Grail was taken by Joseph of Aramathea after the Crucifixion. Afterwards, he fled Judea to save his life, winding up in England, where he supposedly had connections with the tin miners there. The Grail went with him, and subsequently became caught up in the Arthur legend.
Centuries later, in the chaos of the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, a man named Arthur rallied the Britons and established, at least for a short while, a new kingdom in Britannia. As part of this task, his knights sought and found the Holy Grail. It ultimately wound up buried at the foot of the odd looking Salisbury Tor, where it remains to this day. A spring at the base of the hill is said to flow from, or at least past, the buried Grail.
I don’t think there is any way to get through this topic without at least one mention of the elephant in the room: Dan Brown’s famous novel (and subsequent film), The DaVinci Code. According to this story, which is in fact based on an earlier legend, the Holy Grail was brought from Judea to Italy by Templar Knights, and thence to an undisclosed location. Speculation on where this undisclosed location is has been rampant over the centuries, ranging as far away as Oak Island in Nova Scotia, Canada.
According to Brown’s version of the story, the Grail ultimately wound up in Scotland, hidden beneath Rosslyn Chapel. Rosslyn Chapel seems an interesting candidate as it was both 1) among the last surviving Templar churches, and 2) is really weird and creepy. Supporters claim the Grail is hidden either in a column known as the Apprentice Pillar or in the family crypt.
Canyon of the Crescent Moon – Honorable Mention
Sorry Indiana Jones fans. This place doesn’t exist.