Grail

Grail

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Grail, Holy, a feature of medieval legend and literature. It appears variously as a chalice, a cup, or a dish and sometimes as a stone or a caldron into which a bleeding lance drips. It was identified by Christians as the chalice of the Last Supper brought to England by St. Joseph of Arimathea. Miraculous in its powers, it could provide food and healing. However, it would be revealed only to a pure knight, and the Grail Quest appears in different stories. In Arthurian legend the purest knight is variously Parsifal or Galahad. The Grail is one of the most difficult problems of Arthurian legend, introducing as it does features of Christian story, Celtic myth, and ancient fertility cults.

See R. S. Loomis, The Grail (1963); E. Jung and M.-L. von Franz, The Grail Legend (tr. 1971).

or Holy Grail

In Arthurian legend, a sacred cup that was the object of a mystical quest by knights of the Round Table. The grail legend may have been inspired by classical and Celtic stories of magic cauldrons and horns of plenty. It was first given Christian significance as a mysterious, holy object by Chrétien de Troyes in the 12th-century romance Perceval, or the Count of the Holy Grail. The grail was sometimes said to be the same cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and later by Joseph of Arimathea to catch the blood flowing from the wounds of Jesus on the cross. The most notable figure connected with the grail was Sir Galahad, who, according to Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur, found the grail and achieved mystical union with God.

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The Lancelot-Grail, also known as the Prose Lancelot, the Vulgate Cycle, or the Pseudo-Map Cycle, is a major source of Arthurian legend written in French. It is a series of five prose volumes that tell the story of the quest for the Holy Grail and the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere. The major parts are early 13th century, but scholarship has few definitive answers as to the authorship. An attribution to Walter Map is discounted, since he died too early to be the author. This cycle of works was one of the most important sources of Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.

The Vulgate Cycle adds an intriguing dimension to the King Arthur tradition, perpetuating Christian themes by expanding on tales of the Holy Grail and recounting the quests of the Grail knights. During this period, material takes on even more historical and religious overtones with tales that include and deal both in the death of Arthur and Merlin (drawing all the way back to NenniusHistoria Brittonum).

The Vulgate cycle combines elements of Old Testament with the birth of Merlin, whose magical origins are consistent with those told by Robert de Boron, as the son of a devil and a human mother who repents her sins and is baptized. Merlin is transformed into a prophet and given the ability of seeing future events by God.

Sections

The work is divided into five sections. The last three were actually the first to be written, starting in the 1210s. The first two came later, around the 1230s.

  • The Estoire del Saint Grail (The History of the Holy Grail), about Joseph of Arimathea and his son Josephus bringing the Grail to Britain.
  • The Estoire de Merlin (also called the Vulgate or Prose Merlin), about Merlin and the early history of Arthur.
    • To this section is added the Vulgate Suite du Merlin (Vulgate Merlin Continuation), adding more of Arthur's early adventures.
  • The Lancelot propre (Lancelot Proper), the longest section, making up half of the entire cycle. It concerns the adventures of Lancelot and the other Knights of the Round Table, and the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere.
  • The Queste del Saint Graal (Quest for the Holy Grail), about the Grail Quest and its completion by Galahad.
  • The Mort Artu (Death of Arthur), about the king's death at the hands of Mordred and the collapse of the kingdom.

The work was soon followed by the Post-Vulgate Cycle, a work based on the Vulgate but differing from it in many respects.

References

Editions

Norris J. Lacy

The first full English translations of the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate Cycles were overseen by Norris J. Lacy. Volumes 1–4 contain the Vulgate Cycle proper.

  • Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (December 1, 1992). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 1 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-7733-4.
  • Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (August 1, 1993). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 2 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-0746-2.
  • Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (March 1, 1995). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 3 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-0747-0.
  • Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (April 1, 1995). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 4 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-0748-9.
  • Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (May 1, 1996). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 5 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-0757-8.

Other references

  • Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (2000). The Lancelot-Grail Reader. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-3419-2
  • Kennedy, Elspeth (1986). Lancelot and the Grail: A Study of the Prose Lancelot. Clarendon Press.
  • Kennedy, Elspeth (1980). Lancelot Do Lac, the Non-Cyclic Old French Prose Romance, Two Volumes. Oxford.
  • Corrie, Marilyn. “Self-determination in the post-vulgate suite du Merlin and Malory’s le Morte d’Arthur.” Medium Aevum. 73.2 (2004): 273-89
  • Goodman, Jennifer R. The Legend of Arthur in British and American Literature. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.

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