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feast upon

Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is a fictional weapon from the comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It bears a striking resemblance to the Sovereign's Orb of the United Kingdom, and seems to draw some inspiration from the Holy Spear of Antioch. Although a minor gag in the film, the Holy Hand Grenade (as it is more popularly known) has gone on to be a frequently referred-to element of Monty Python humour, notably in computer and role-playing games, and also in TV and other movie references. The scene from the film which features the hand grenade is included in slightly modified form in the Monty Python musical Spamalot.

Description

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is a visual satire of a type of royal regalia known as a globus cruciger, specifically the Sovereign's Orb of the United Kingdom. The Sovereign's Orb similarly has a band of jewels running along the center, and a half-band on the top hemisphere, with a cruciform at the crest.

The fictional Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is a reference to the mythical Holy Spear of Antioch. The supposed Holy Spear was unearthed from the floor of a Church during the Siege of Antioch (1098) by crusaders on the First Crusade, found by a poor and otherwise unknown monk named Peter Bartholomew. Its "discovery" during the darkest hours of the siege when all hope seemed lost quickly became a source of contention between the pious crusaders who believed Bartholomew, and the more pragmatic who did not; yet in the end its "discovery" was credited by the crusaders in inspiring them to overcome seemingly impossible odds in breaking through the siege to continue on their quest to Jerusalem.

Toy

The official Monty Python site, PythOnline, sells a toy replica of the Holy Hand Grenade. It is a golden plush ball with a cross on top and a label reading "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch," with a tiny hole on the bottom. Inside the toy is a whoopee cushion, which makes a flatulent sound when squeezed (the mouth of the cushion has to be pulled through the hole to re-inflate it). The instructions on the package read "To use, squeeze the hand grenade". On the side of the package is an excerpt from the Book of Armaments, as read in the movie.

Usage instructions

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch was a "sacred relic" carried by Cistercian monk Brother Maynard and is used near the film's conclusion to destroy a killer rabbit that blocks the path of King Arthur and his hapless Knights Errant. Although unusually ornate in design, the Holy Hand Grenade functions like any other hand grenade.

The chant on bringing the grenade in was "Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem" which means "Holy Jesus, Lord, grant them rest" and is a liturgical chant used in a Requiem Mass.

Particularly important is the counting to three after the pulling of the triggering pin (the surmounted cross), complicated by King Arthur's mental block on counting. The instructions for its use are in the fictitious Book of Armaments (Chapter 2, verses 9-21), parodying the King James Bible and the Athanasian Creed. .

...And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy." And the Lord did grin and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu... [At this point, the friar is urged by Brother Maynard to "skip a bit, brother"]... And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it." Amen.
Arthur then holds up the Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch and cries out "ONE! TWO! FIVE!" Sir Galahad corrects him, shouting "Three, Sir!" Arthur then yells "THREE!" and hurls the grenade at the killer rabbit. The Grenade soars through the air, accompanied by a short bit of choral music, then bounces once and explodes. The killer rabbit presumably dies in the explosion, for the Knights subsequently enter the cave which it has been guarding.

Cultural references

The very name "holy hand grenade" has become a part of popular culture.

  • Galahad and the Holy Grail (1982) was the first computer game to include a holy hand grenade.
  • The Worms series of computer games features a weapon called the holy hand grenade, which looks rather like the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and is distinguished by the fact that unlike the other types of grenade in the game, which have variable-length fuses that can be controlled by the player, it is equipped only with a three-second time fuse (can be modified in Worms 2), in reference to the film original, and only explodes when it has stopped bouncing. It's notable that when the timer reaches zero, a choir sings Hallelujah in the style of Handel's Messiah, after which the grenade erupts in a massive explosion that few other weapons in the series can match.
  • In the old game Quenzar's Caverns, the Holy Hand Grenade is a considerably powerful weapon. There are many that the player can find in each game.
  • In the computer game Fallout 2, the player may, when traveling through the wasteland, discover a "random encounter" consisting of a large number of knights in Power Armor representing King Arthur's court (yet their swords are replaced with Gatling Lasers), one of which asks the player whether he has seen the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. If the player says yes, and points in a random direction, he/she can then ask Arthur about the whereabouts of object of the player's own quest, to which Arthur responds in the same manner. The actual grenade itself, along with the same knights, was included in another subsequent random encounter. However, a scripting error made that encounter impossible to reach in a normal game. It can be found if a player-made patch is applied. It is basically a "vorpal cave" with a giant rat against the knights and a locker with the grenade. When used, the grenade does 500 points of damage, more than eight times as much as any other weapon. It can kill anyone in the game, except the final boss, the massive cyborg Frank Horrigan (who has 999 health). Fallout 2 is famous for having quite a few Monty Python references (such as the grenade or the Bridge of Death).
  • The Intellivision game Tower of Doom featured a Holy Hand Grenade as a weapon.
  • Computer RPG Moraff's World has a holy hand grenade as an instant-kill weapon.
  • In the Bard's Tale series of games.
  • In the game Alternate Reality: The Dungeon.
  • In Codex: Black Templars (an army rules supplement for the tabletop miniature wargame game of Warhammer 40,000) a 'Holy Orb of Antioch' appears as a special type of grenade.
  • Also in the Warhammer 40,000 universe is the long prayer known as the "The Blessing of the Bomb." It is no-less than seven lines of praise to the machine-spirit of a hand-grenade that the superstitious Imperial Guardsman must recite after he/she pulls the pin BUT before casting it at an enemy to ensure its accuracy. This more often than not ironically kills the thrower. It is detailed in "The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer", published by The Black Library Press.
  • The PlayStation game Duke Nukem: Time to Kill has a grenade that bounces and follows the opponent, giving substantial damage when exploding. It has the same design as the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
  • In the Buffy-themed trading card game, the Holy Hand Grenade is card number 14 in the 1999 series. In the final Episode of the TV Series, Spike says "Holy Hand Grenade" when referring to the Slayer scythe.
  • In the role playing game Shadowrun's third edition, the generic grenade launcher from the previous two editions was renamed the Ares Antioch Grenade Launcher.
  • The GURPS worldbook GURPS Camelot not only gives full statistics for the Holy Hand Grenade in GURPS terms but also notes its peculiar absence from any Arthurian source other than Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • In the fantasy novel Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth, (2006) by Simon Green, the detective hero John Taylor refers to not wanting to fight a particular situation with "the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch in one hand and a tactical nuke in the other."
  • Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna features the Holy Hand Grenade of Aunty Ock. This key item is essential to escaping the dungeons and returning to the town to exact Werdna's revenge.
  • In the MMORPG video game Asheron's Call, there is an egg-shaped object affixed to a wall in the basement of the cottage owned by Ulgrim the Unpleasant. Identifying this object reveals it to be a "Holy Grenade" imbued with special "Rabbit slaying" properties; however it is not attainable and therefore presumably unusable against the Rabbit of Caerbannog (a white rabbit in the game).
  • In the Full Metal Panic! series of light novels, a Holy Hand Grenade is brandished by Sagara Sousuke (along with a magic shotgun, pre-loaded with one rubber slug) during his role as the good witch in a high school Cinderella play. The author Shouji Gatou is a self-proclaimed Monty Python fan.
  • The webcomic VG Cats has an episode entitle "Long Live PKs", in which a "holy hand grenade" appears as bait for PK-ing unwary players, luring them into a sense of elation and accomplishment, then blowing them all up into tiny bits (Leo says they're all like "lambs to the slaughter", while Aeris mentioned that she "lost count around 200", clearly displaying how easily fooled the PK-ed players were).
  • In the David Weber sci-fi novel Heirs of Empire (1996), the main characters, while stranded on Israel, a space battleship, watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail and later mention the Holy Hand Grenade.
  • In the MMORPG Tibia, The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is mentioned in a passage in a book on how to defeat the demon-bunnyrabbit Hugo.
  • In a syndicated foreign affairs column on terrorism, London-based military historian Gwynne Dyer suggested that Nelson Mandela's handgun, if found, would be treated with reverence, like the "holy hand grenade of Antioch".
  • In the MMORPG Legend of the Green Dragon, in a module called "The Lost Ruins" by DaveS, the "Holy hand grenade" can be obtained and used as a buff for one turn.
  • It is mentioned in the end sketch of a 1987 episode (Smells) of the Canadian children's show You Can't Do That on Television.
  • It is available for use in the controversial computer game Postal².
  • In the role playing game Ironhedge, both the Holy Hand Grenade and the Book of Armaments are attainable magic items.
  • On the cover of MC Frontalot's first album, Nerdcore Rising
  • In the Church of the SubGenius, October 9th is the "Feast of Saint Attila"
  • Holy Hand Grenade is the name of an alternative rock group
  • In one of the Saturday guest strips in the webcomic Sluggy Freelance, the demons of the Dimension of Pain have an "Unholy Hand Grenade", and repeat some of the dialogue from the movie while using it.
  • In the MMORPG Runescape, there is a clan named the Order of the Holy Hand Grenade.

References

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