Description of the Holy Grail by Helinandus

From his Chronicle, completed in 1204. This passage is believed to have been written ca. 1202, long after Chrétien de Troyes coined the word "graal'. However, according to modern philologists like du Cange, Coromines et al. the word "gradale" is not from France but from Urgell (Catalonia) in Spain. 

                       

                        1. Version of Mary Jones

Hoc tempore (717-719) in Britannia cuidam heremitae demonstrata fuit mirabilis quaedam visio per angelum de Ioseph decurione nobili, qui corpus domini deposuit de cruce et de catino illo vel paropside, in quo domius caenavit cum discipulis suis, de quo ab eodem heremita descripta est historia quae dicitur gradale. Gradalis autem vel gradale gallice dicitur scutella lata et aliquantulum profunda, in qua preciosae dapes divitibus solent apponi gradatim, unus morsellus post alium in diversis ordinibus. Dicitur et vulgari nomine greal, quia grata et acceptabilis est in ea comedenti, tum propter continens, quia forte argentea est vel de alia precioso materia, tum propter contentum .i. ordinem multiplicem dapium preciosarum. Hanc historiam latine scriptam invenire non potui sed tantum gallice scripta habetur a quibusdem proceribus, nec facil, ut aiunt, tota inveniri potest.

2. Version of Emma Jung (1) with changes underlined.

Hoc tempore (717-719) in Britannia cuidam heremitae demonstrata est mirabilis quaedam visio per angelum de sancto Ioseph decurione, qui corpus domini deposuit de cruce et de catino illo vel paropside, in quo domius caenavit cum discipulis suis, de quo ab eodem heremita descripta est historia quae dicitur de gradali. Gradalis autem sive Gradale gallice dicitur scutella lata et aliquantulum profunda, in qua preciosae dapes cum suo divitibus solent apponi gradatim, unus morsellus post alium in diversis ordinibus. Dicitur et vulgare nomine graalz, quia grata et acceptabilis est in ea comedenti, tum propter continens, quia forte argentea est vel de alia precioso materia, tum propter contentum i.e. ordinem multiplicem preciosarum dapum. Hanc historiam latine scriptam invenire non potui sed tantum gallice scripta habetur a quibusdem proceribus, nec facile ut aiunt, tota inveniri potest.

Rough translation:

At this time (717-719) in Britain, a hermit was shown a wonderful vision by an angel, a vision of St Joseph the decurion (2) who took the Lord's body from the cross, and of the bowl the Lord had used at the Last Supper with his disciples. The hermit wrote a description of these visions, which was an account of the gradale.  Gradalis or gradale is the French word for a wide and somewhat hollow vessel in which delicious food is served to the rich (3), with the single pieces arranged in various rows. In the common language it is also called a greal because it gratifies and is welcomed at such a meal, as it is made of silver or of some other precious metal, and also because of its contents, an overwhelming succession of delicious foods. I could not find this story written in Latin, only in French and in the possession of a few nobles, and not even then in complete form (4). 


1. Emma Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz, The Grail Legend, tr. Andrea Dykes, (Boston, 1986), p. 28.

2.  Joseph of Arimathea is meant, a wealthy Sanhedrin and secret follower of Christ. The reference "decurion" should not be confused with a Roman cavalry officer. Consistent with the many ambiguities in the prologue in Chrétien's Conte du Graal, a decurion designated also member of a city senate in the Roman Empire. They were drawn from the curiales class, which was made up of the wealthy middle class citizens of a town.

3. The Last Supper is said to have been celebrated at the house of the above Joseph, a rich man, which would explain the overwhelming succession of delicious foods that were served in precious vessels.  

4. This is a clear reference to Chrétien's Conte du Graal, a celebrated work since circa 1180 CE and incomplete, probably because of the poet's death.


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