Holy Grail

How at the Castle of Corbin a Maiden Bare in the Sangreal and Foretold the Achievements of Galahad: illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1917

The Holy Grail is a vessel that serves as an important motif in Arthurian literature. Different traditions describe it as a cup, dish or stone with miraculous powers that provide happiness, eternal youth or sustenance in infinite abundance. The term "holy grail" is often used to denote an object or goal that is sought after for its great significance. [1]

A "grail", wondrous but not explicitly holy, first appears in Perceval, le Conte du Graal, an unfinished romance written by Chrétien de Troyes around 1190. [2] Here, it is a processional salver, a tray, used to serve at a feast. [3] Chrétien's story attracted many continuators, translators and interpreters in the later 12th and early 13th centuries, including Wolfram von Eschenbach, who perceived the grail as a Stone. [4] In the late 12th century, Robert de Boron wrote in Joseph d'Arimathie that the Grail was Jesus's vessel from the Last Supper, which Joseph of Arimathea used to catch Christ's blood at the Crucifixion. Thereafter, the Holy Grail became interwoven with the legend of the Holy Chalice, the Last Supper cup, a theme continued in works such as the Vulgate Cycle, the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. [5]

Scholars have long speculated on the origins of the Holy Grail before Chrétien, suggesting that it may contain elements of the trope of magical cauldrons from Celtic mythology combined with Christian legend surrounding the Eucharist, [6] the latter found in Eastern Christian sources, conceivably in that of the Byzantine Mass, or even Persian sources. [7]


The word graal, as it is earliest spelled, comes from Old French graal or greal, cognate with Old Provençal grazal and Old Catalan gresal, meaning "a cup or bowl of earth, wood, or metal" (or other various types of vessels in different Occitan dialects). [8] The most commonly accepted etymology derives it from Latin gradalis or gradale via an earlier form, cratalis, a derivative of crater or cratus, which was, in turn, borrowed from Greek krater (κρατήρ, a large wine-mixing vessel). [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] Alternative suggestions include a derivative of cratis, a name for a type of woven basket that came to refer to a dish, [13] or a derivative of Latin gradus meaning "'by degree', 'by stages', applied to a dish brought to the table in different stages or services during a meal". [14]

Late medieval writers such as Thomas Malory invented a fanciful new etymology for Old French san-graal (or san-gréal), meaning "Holy Grail", by parsing it as sang real, meaning "royal blood". [15] After the cycle of Grail romances was well established, later writers used this alternative etymology. Since then, "Sang real" is sometimes employed to lend a medievalising air in referring to the Holy Grail. This connection with royal blood bore fruit in a modern bestseller linking many historical conspiracy theories ( see below).

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Heilige Graal
aragonés: Santo Gredal
azərbaycanca: Müqəddəs Qədəh
беларуская: Святы Грааль
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Сьвяты Грааль
български: Свещен Граал
brezhoneg: Graal
català: Sant Greal
čeština: Svatý grál
Deutsch: Heiliger Gral
español: Grial
Esperanto: Sankta gralo
euskara: Graal
فارسی: جام مقدس
français: Graal
galego: Santo Graal
한국어: 거룩한 잔
Հայերեն: Սուրբ Գրաալ
hrvatski: Sveti gral
Bahasa Indonesia: Piala Suci
italiano: Graal
magyar: Szent Grál
македонски: Свет грал
മലയാളം: തിരുക്കാസ
Bahasa Melayu: Holy Grail
Nederlands: Heilige graal
日本語: 聖杯
occitan: Sant Grasal
polski: Graal
português: Santo Graal
română: Graal
Simple English: Holy Grail
slovenčina: Svätý grál
slovenščina: Sveti gral
српски / srpski: Свети грал
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Sveti gral
svenska: Graal
Türkçe: Kutsal Kâse
українська: Святий Грааль
Tiếng Việt: Chén Thánh
中文: 圣杯