The Search For the Real Holy Grail

I’m never going to find buried treasure—that would take a lot of work, and I can’t even find my car keys—but perhaps you are a more meticulous, industrious type. If so, there is nothing stopping you from locating one of history’s most important lost artifacts (except that you don’t know where any lost artifacts actually are, of course.) What I’m saying is, it can’t hurt to look. Someone has to be the person who finds the thing, right?

While I don’t have hard evidence of the whereabouts of the Holy Grail, I do have best estimates and half-baked theories that you can use as entry points for your own quest—one that will definitely end in the glory, cash, and celebrity, not in everyone thinking you’re a crank because you won’t stop talking about the Scepter of Dagobert.

The Holy Grail is the holy grail of lost treasures. The vessel from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper has been an obsession of fortune seekers and religious zealots since at least the 12th Century. Drinking from the grail is said to grant healing, eternal youth, or maybe eternal happiness.

King Arthur and Perceval quested for it. The Nazis searched for it. So did Indiana Jones, Monty Python, and Nicolas Cage. The Nazis thought it was in Catalonia. Others say it’s in Scotland. Or England. Or maybe Minnesota.

In 2014, archaeologists Margarita Torres and José Ortega claimed to have found the grail in a basement museum at the Basilica of San Isidoro in León, Spain.

Although carbon dating indicates that Torres and Ortega’s grail indeed is a very old goblet, whether it’s the one true grail can’t be determined. Therein lies one of the main problems with grail-location: There are 200 purported grails in Europe alone. Who could say whether any of them is the real one?

The Bible offers no clue what the grail looked like. Matthew 26:27-28, the only mention of it, reads “Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them [the disciples], saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure the point of the Biblical story of the transubstantiation isn’t “Jesus had a magic cup.” It also seems unlikely that Jesus drank from a bejeweled goblet—that’s a little flashy for a renegade preacher—so I think the most plausible theory (if we assume that the Last Supper even happened to begin with) is that the “grail” was an ordinary clay cup or bowl.

There’s no evidence that Jesus or his apostles saved the cup or thought it was something special—the grail as holy artifact or treasure seems to be more of a Medieval thing— so the famous Grail could have been washed up after supper and put away with the rest of the dishes. Later, maybe someone dropped it, and the shards were thrown away and ground to dust in a Jerusalem garbage mound.

Chances you could actually find the Holy Grail: Very low. If the grail still exists (or ever existed), you’d probably have no way of knowing it was the right old cup—unless it actually has magical powers, and all magic is fake (except the magic of Doug Henning).

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