February 25, 2006
Grails Throughout History
Since the advent of Christianity two millenia ago, believers have searched for what is perceived by many to be the single most valuable religious artifact in the history of the world: The Grail of Jesus Christ. The Grail was believed to be a cup, bowl, or other vessel used by Christ at the Last Supper, and was said to possess supernatural powers. According to the legend, it was used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch the blood of Christ during the crucifixion, and was then spirited away to a fate unknown. A number of grails have surfaced throughout history since that time. Among them:
305: A self-proclaimed Turkish prophet named Cemaletin lead a revolt of roughly 8000 against the Byzantine occupation of what is now Antolia. He rallied his supporters through the promise of immortality and worldly knowledge, which he claimed he gained from a mysterious goblet he carried on his person at all times. The revolt was swiftly crushed after only three days of open conflict, and Cemaletin was run through with a cavalry lance. The cup believed to be hanging from a band around his neck was never found.
563: Visigothic prince Zabithelguld lead a successful twilight attack against Byzantine garrisons at Ravenna, Italy, with less than 70 soldiers. A scribe to the Viceroy of Ravenna wrote in his journal "[the Goths] fight as if an unseen hand defends them. Arrows turn aside at their approach, swords blunt, and spears are as if made of straw. [Other people] say they have the blood of the Christ on their side, and I fear we cannot prevail against Barbarians of the cup of God." The Gothic force barricaded themselves inside the garrison, and remained inside for thirteen days without food or water. On the thirteenth day, the invaders emerged under a flag of truce to negotiate safe passage out of the province, they were captured and hanged. Neither the body of Zabithelguld nor his mythic cup were ever recovered.
1215: A sect of Cornish monks in exile in Normandy locked themselves in their monastery and set it ablaze shortly after receiving what monastic journals recovered from the fire described as a "goblet of great value". A letter written by the abbot to the Count of Normandy shortly before the fire stated that "[we] have drunk from the cup of righteousness with the name of the Lord upon our lips, and so should our wounds be cleansed and shall we live eternally." No one in the Count's court spoke Cornish, and the letter remained untranslated until 1633.
1364: Thirteen members of the family of Serbian Tsar Stefan Uroš V were killed in a squabble when the Grand Duke (the Tsar's nephew) was suspected of possessing the Grail. Serbian historians believe the thirteen murders were carried out by Uroš' cousin Tvrtko of Bosnia to clear his way to the throne once he obtained the grail.
1771: An armed historian named Joseph Pippleshire attempted to rob the Royal Treasury of British monarch George III, believing the Grail to be inside. He managed to reach the treasure chamber, but his daring heist ended abruptly when he recognized the chalice he sought as the goblet of King Ethelred the Unready (968-1016), and threw himself on his sword.
1945: On April 20th, mere days before the capture of Berlin by the Soviet army in the second world war, Adolf Hitler issued a personal communique to Josef Stalin, the Soviet premier, informing him that his government possessed the Grail and warning his army not to challenge the "invincible armies of Germany, [such as] have not been seen since the days of Barbarossa." Stalin found this letter so amusing that he had his personal secretary distribute copies of it to senior party officials. Three resigned over Stalin's "obvious and unprofessional prank", and were summarily executed.