Monty Python on a quest for the Holy grail

The Holy Grail

Rumour has it that the Holy Grail has been found in Léon, a sleepy small town in the North of Spain

A few days ago the curators in the small museum attached to the Cathedral of san Isodoro in the city of Leon in Northern Spain had to remove one of their treasures from sight. Rumour had been posted in both local, national and international media that the so-called “Cáliz de doña Urraca” – the “Chalice of Doña Urraca” – was in fact the Holy Grail aka the cup Jesus drank from at the last supper. Apparently throngs of people overwhelmed the site to such an extent that the curators decided to remove the treasure from the exhibition in order to find a larger and more secure location where the chalice can be displayed. What is more, the rumour has its foundation in a scientific publication written by a professor in Medieval History, Margarita Torres and an art historian José Miguel Ortega del Río

Chalice of Dona Urraca from leon
Chalice of Dona Urraca from Real Colegiata San Isidoro in leon.
Source Wikipedia

Apparently an impeccable source! As always, however, the media has run with a totally corrupted story. For instance it was reported that the cup had been 14C dated; obviously wrong since the cup consists of two cups made of sardonyx joined by a gold knop and bands of sheet gold. (Link to article about chalice). On the other hand a detailed study of the two joined stone cups has revealed that it is indeed composed of two Roman cups dating from the 1st century. Also the provenience of the cup has been documented through the discovery of some texts in the National Library in Cairo. Apparently the cup or cups were given to Ferdinand I (1015 – 1065) – “Frdland, the Emir of Liyun” as a diplomatic gift in the middle of his reign. Later his daughter Urraca had the cup or cups mounted after which it was presented it to the palace church in leon, which later became the Cathedral of San Isodoro. A short while later – in the 12th century – the church was rebuilt and turned into a prominent pilgrimage site located on the Camino. Curiously enough, though, the administrators of the church did not market the existence of the “true” Holy Grail and through this, the prestige of the Kingdom of Leon. Why, ask the authors? Especially since the royal family around the same time was active in promoting Orviedo in Asturia through their gift of the so-called “Arca Santa” with its “priceless relics”, e.g. the Sudarium, which was said to have covered the head of Jesus, while he was lying in his grave. Unfortunately the authors do not present us with a really good explanation for this reticence, except that they claim a rereading of the pictorial cycle of paintings in the Pantheon of San Isidoro reveals tantalising signs pointing to the Grail and the mysteries surrounding it; mysteries, which later fuelled the medieval legends of the grail composed by Chretien de Troyes (1190) and Wolfram von Eschenbach (ca 1215) plus grail-questing in general. According to these, the grail is supposed to have been guarded by unmarried princesses, which is exactly was, what Doña Urraca and her sister Elvira were. Apart from this the scholars have also taken the time to discuss a number of other “grails”, for instance the cup from Valencia , which has also been made from an ancient agate cup as well as the other contenders, numbering more than 200. None of these, though, seem to have been made from humble clay! The book is not long: 253 pages with 352 footnotes and 16 pages of bibliography. As of now it is only available in Spanish.


cover los reyes del grialLos Reyes del Grial By Margarita Torres Sevilla y José Miguel Ortega del Río Reino de Cordelia 2014 ISBN-10: 8415973292 ISBN-13: 978-8415973294 Real Colegiata San Isidoro