Derived, probably, from the old French, sang real, the true blood; although other etymologies have been proposed. The San Graal is represented, in legendary history, as being an emerald dish in which our Lord had partaken of the last supper. Joseph of Arimathea, having further sanctified it by receiving into it the blood issuing from the five wounds, afterward carried it to England. Subsequently it disappeared in consequence of the sins of the land, and was long lost sight of. When Merlin established the Knights of the Round Table, he told them that the San Graal should be discovered by one of them, but that he only could see it who was without sin. one day, when Arthur was holding a high feast with his Knights of the Round Table, the San Graal suddenly appeared to him and to all his chivalry, and then as suddenly disappeared.
The consequence was that all the knights took upon them a solemn vow to seek the Holy Dish. The Quest of the San Graal became one of the most prominent myths of what has been called the Arthuric Cycle. The old French romance of the forte d'Arthur, or Death of Arthur, which was published by Caxton in 1485, contains the adventures of Sir Galahad in search of the San Graal.
There are several other romances of which this wonderful vessel, invested with the most marvelous properties is the subject. The Quest of the San Graal very foreibly reminds us of the Search for the Lost Word. Thc symbolism is precisely the same--the loss and the recovery being but the lesson of death and eternal life--so that the San Graal in the Arthurian Myth, and the Lost Word in the Masonic Legend, seem to be identical in object and design. Hence it is not surprising that a French writer, De Caumont, should have said (Bulletin Monument, page 129) that "the poets of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, who composed the romances of the Round Table made Joseph of Arimathea the chief of a military and religious Freemasonry."
There is a considerable literature attached to the history of this romance written about the famous talisman. Even the name has been subjected frequently, as Doctor Mackey points out, to various interpretations. Probably the most of these commcntators today accept the first word as a mutiliated form from the Latin meaning holy. The text compiled and translated by Sir Thomas Malory, and the one best known to English students, is now usually mentioned as the Quest of the Holy Grail, from the French Qute du Saint Grail. Malory himself, by the way, being also much of a puzzle, Sir Sidney Lee (Dictionary of National Biography) admits he could find no one of that name to meet the conditions.
But Professor S. L. Kittredge in his inquiry, Who was Sir Thomas Malory? Harvard Studies and Notes (1896, volume v), identifies him with a Warwickshire, England, gentleman who died on March 14, 1470. Professor W. W. Skeat in the preface to Joseph of Arimathie, published by the Early English Text Society, traces the word grail through the older French to graal and great, thence to a Low Latin original gradale, gradalis or grasale, a flat dish, but on the surface this derivation appears to us more hopeful than scientifically convincing. The legend has been exquisitely told in choice prose and verse since at least the Middle Ages gave it prominence.
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