According to oral tradition, the most important historical relic of Christianity is in the Cathedral of Valencia. It is the Holy Chalice blessed at the Last Supper. The sacred vessel that, in the order of chivalry’s collective imaginationfrom medieval literature, would give origin to ‘The search of the Holy Grail’
There are numerous documents that have been giving clues that the Chalice of Benediction, which Jesus used at his Eastersupper, is guarded somewhere. Not only do we refer to the literature about the search for the Holy Grail, but to the thousands of artistic images that have represented it throughout all Christendom.
So why do we say that the sacred goblet that is in the city of Valencia, in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santa Maria, is the Holy Chalice?
Towards the 33rd year of the Christian era, one Easter night, Jesus celebrated an ancient rite in Jerusalem. The disciples who accompanied him claimed that something extraordinary had happened in that celebration.The cup of benediction contained more than wine.
The death of Jesus, a few days later, created a moment of confusion for all. However, the direct example of his words: “Do this in remembrance of me”, became the necessity to repeat the ritual of the Last Supper. It meant following his mandate.
According to oral tradition, this same cup remained in Jerusalem until Jesus’ Roman disciple, Simon Peter, took it to Rome; capital city of the Roman Empire in which he began to preach the teachings of his master and to celebrate the Easter rite in the houses of patricians and Romans. Later, the sacred vessel would pass from Pope to Pope, just as they also passed prayers and blessingsto each other.
The Roman emperors would soon look upon this new religion with suspicion. In AD 258, Valerian, an emperor declared bankrupt,ordered the persecution of Christians to death and tried to appropriate all their wealth.
Pope Sixtus II, before being arrested and martyred, asked his deacon San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence) to distribute all that he had in his possession to Rome’s poor. San Lorenzo, of Hispanic origin, did so. He divided everything, but took pains to guard the Holy Chalice.
The sacred vessel, together with a letter where he explained everything about it, was given to a small entourage that left for Huesca, its native city in Hispania. There it remained in custody until, in the year 712, the Saracen conquest led the bishop of Huesca to seek shelter in the Pyrenees.
After stayingsafeguarded in various places in the area, finally, between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, the Holy Chalice remained protected in the Benedictine monastery of San Juan de la Peña, located near the city of Jaca, in the Kingdom of Aragon. A neuralgic point on the Jacobean Route, where the most important European kings and nobles passed through on their way to Santiago de Compostela.
In that epoch, Christian kings fought for sacred relics in Jerusalem. And it was then, when the sacred vessel guarded in thePyrenees fortress monastery became the much sought after Holy Grail of theorder of chivalry’s collective imaginationfrom medieval literature.Beingthat there were countless noble and Christian monarchs who wanted to obtain this piece for their royal collections.
But the Holy Chalice would not pass into royal hands until 1399. After multiple requests to the prior of the monastery, the king of Aragon Martin the Human took over the sacred vessel through a swap, attesting to it a notarial document. He offered the monks a magnificent golden chalice and, in return, took the cup of benediction to Zaragoza, where it would remain, forming part of the Royal Treasury, until, in 1432, King Alfonso the Magnanimous moved his court to the city of Valencia and ended up requesting monetary aid to the council of canons from the Cathedral, to be able to cope with his contentions.
Before a notary, the monarch’s brother left in pledge all his Royal Treasury and, as the king never returned the loan, since then the Holy Chalice remains in the custody of the city of Valencia’s Cathedral.
At present, the Holy Chalice is displayed in the chapel that bears its name, on a shrine in the form of a heart, made of gold, which enhances its beauty even further.
It is a unique opportunity to see this treasure that, in medieval literature, the knights of King Arthur’s court sought with passion and heroism. A unique opportunity to contemplate the Holy Chalice of Jesus’ Last Supper in person, during the month of the year in which Valencia celebrates the Corpus Christi festivity.
Text by: Ana Mafé, Holy Grail Phd student.
Holy Chalice’s description
The Holy Grail Route in Castellón and Valencia