It may sound like an April Fools prank, but it’s not.
“This is a very important discovery,” Margarita Torres, co-author of a new book, tells The Irish Times, “because it helps solve a big puzzle.”
The discovery? The Holy Grail of holy grails — the cup revered by early Christians as the one used at the Last Supper. The Spanish historians traced the chalice to the Basilica of San Isidoro, a church in León, Spain.
Torres and José Ortega del Río say they were researching Islamic remains in the basilica when they came across two medieval parchments from Egypt that mentioned Christ’s cup.
Southern Spain, if you’ll recall, was invaded by Muslims in A.D. 711, and much of the Iberian peninsula remained under Islamic sway into the 1400s.
According to the documents, Muslims brought the chalice — a simple vessel made of onyx — from Jerusalem to Cairo. From there, it was presented to a Muslim ruler in Denia, on Spain’s southern coast. Finally, it was acquired by Ferdinand the Great, the Christian king of Castile and emperor of León who ruled in the 11th century. The onyx goblet would become encased in a jeweled chalice and named after Ferdinand’s daughter, Urraca.
It isn’t clear how scientific dating was carried out on the onyx cup, but it fell into the time of Christ, with an estimate that it was made between 200 BC to A.D. 100.
The historians don’t claim that it is the actual cup used by Jesus, only that it was so recognized as such by early church fathers.
“The only chalice that could be considered the chalice of Christ is that which made the journey to Cairo and then from Cairo to León – and that is this chalice,” Torres tells the Times.
I haven’t read their book, Los Reyes del Grial, which will be released next week, but could there not be numerous Arabic manuscripts during the later Middle Ages that claim to tell the tale of the true Grail?
After all, the quest for the Holy Grail began to ignite imaginations not long after Urraca’s death. For decades, the story was told in several languages, turned into prequels and sequels.
Why not a story about Urraca’s cup that would explain its origins?
Meanwhile, when the historians announced their news last week, crowds surged the small room in the basilica’s museum where the object had been on display as Urraca’s chalice since the 1950s. On Friday, the museum took it off display until a bigger venue can be found, AFP reports.