Friday, July 18, 2014

Welsh Police Seek Stolen Holy Grail

It sounds like the next Dan Brown blockbuster. Police in Wales are on the trail of thieves who made off with the Holy Grail - well, one of them at least. The artifact in question is called the Nanteos Cup, the remains of a small wooden bowl that is rumored to have been used by Christ at the Last Supper and is thought to have magical healing powers. The cup was stolen from the home of a seriously ill woman to whom it had been loaned by its owners, the Steadman family.

The Nanteos Cup – an ancient wooden chalice, which is named after the mansion where it was once kept near Aberystwyth – was rumoured to have been carried over to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, years after the crucifixion of Christ. The revered Catholic figure later founded a religious settlement at Glastonbury and legend has it that the 'grail' then came into the safekeeping of monks.

The Cup came to Nanteos Mansion, near Aberystwyth, with seven monks from Strata Florida, Ceredigion, on the dissolution of the Abbey in the reign of Henry VIII. The Powell family was left in possession of the sacred vessel after the last of the seven monks died.

Over the centuries the mysterious wooden bowl was said to have magical healing powers and, in later years, it came into the ownership of the Steadman family, who kept it in a bank vault in Wales. But it is understood the cup has now been stolen by burglars after being temporarily loaned to a seriously ill woman connected to the Steadman family at a property in Ross-on-Wye.

If this were Dan Brown, he'd save the twist for the end. But here it is: the cup is almost certainly not the actual cup of Christ. Aside from the issue of the Gospels' historical accuracy, the cup was dated to the fourteenth century and matches the design of bowls used during that same period. There's also the point that the first mention of the Holy Grail is in the twelfth century, and while it is an important artifact in Arthurian literature there's no evidence that it has anything to do with early Christianity.

Still, it makes for a good story.

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