Spain’s third-largest city is one of the most famous destinations along Spain’s east coast. It’s famous for its beaches, history, architecture, and for being home to the famous Valencia Cathedral that claims to be home to the original Holy Grail. However, this cathedral is only one of many contenders that claim to be home to the original Holy Grail. And although we can’t know for certain whether the Holy Grail is even real, in this post we’ll try our best to briefly summarize the story of the Valencia Cathedral, and asses (based on all available evidence) whether the Valencia Holy Grail (also known as the Holy Chalice of Valencia) is the one or not.
But first, let’s start from the beginning…
What is the Holy Chalice?
In case you’re not familiar with the term, the Holy Chalice or the Holy Grail is the vessel that Jesus used at the Last Supper to serve wine. Some people believe this is one of the holiest artifacts on Earth, others associate the Holy Grail with magic and many think that the Holy Grail is nothing more than a myth. From King Arthur’s knights to Hitler’s troops, many people throughout history tried to find the Holy Grail but at least according to history books, no one was fortunate enough to find it.
In different tales in different parts of the world, the grail was considered to be a bowl, a dish, a platter, or even a regular stone with mystical powers of spiritual abundance. According to numerous historical sources, the Valencia Holy Grail is an artifact that was discovered in the late 12th century and with plenty of evidence pointing to the fact that this is the original grail used at the last supper. But before we give you more details about this, let’s cover some history…
According to numerous historic sources, the Holy Chalice of Valencia dates back to Greco-Roman times but this isn’t officially confirmed. It’s likely that St. Peter (the first pope) took the cup to Rome after the death of Christ where it stayed until the 250s when Emperor Valerian started persecuting Christians. Historians have indications that the relic was moved to Huesca because it was no longer safe in Rome. The relic stayed in Huesca until the 8th century when it was moved and hidden in a cliff-side monastery (probably the Monastery of San Juan de la Peña) in Northern Spain because of the Umayyad conquests.
However, most of the grail’s journeys between the 1st and 14th century are not confirmed and rely on theories, not historical facts. However, in the period that follows the 14th century, there are a lot more reliable records. Near the end of the 14th century, the relic became a part of the royal reliquary of King Martin of Aragon, who likely retrieved it from the Monastery of San Juan de la Peña.
One of his successors, Alfonso the Magnanimous moved the relic to Valencia and later to the Cathedral where it stays for most of the next few centuries. The chalice was moved and brought back to the Valencia Cathedral a few more times during wars and uncertain times and from 1939, it has been left in the cathedral for good.
Inside the cathedral
Even though many visitors come to the cathedral for the supposed Holy Grail, the Valencia Cathedral is one of the most impressive cathedrals in Spain. The cathedral was built in 1238 on top of the remains of an old Visigoth cathedral that was turned into a Mosque during the Moorish era and was dedicated to St. Mary. The dominant architectural style is Valencian Gothic but elements of Romanesque, Baroque, Renaissance and Neoclassical elements can be noticed as well.
But the interior is even more impressive. It’s difficult entering the cathedral without a sense of awe. The acoustic of the cathedral is so powerful that the Gregorian chants that reverberate across the ceiling will give you goose-bumps. The altar is connected to the main area via a small set of stairs and is decorated with beautiful sculptures and paintings that depict scenes of angels and the apostles.
If you look above the altar, you’ll find a small and humble (almost unnoticeable) chapel encased in glass that holds a single cup upon a reflecting golden pedestal. This is the Valencia Chalice, the relic for which many claim that it’s the original Holy Grail.
About the Valencia Holy Grail
The Valencia Holy Grail differentiates from other Holy Grail competitors with its style and craft. According to Spanish archaeologist Antonio Beltran, these characteristics indicate that the chalice originates from somewhere between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD. Even though this is far from definitive proof, this finding helps the claim that the Valencia chalice is indeed the Holy Grail.
As for its appearance, the chalice is completely covered in gold, it has two golden handles, and a base decorated with precious jewels (mainly pearls and rubies); something that we can all agree sounds a bit too elaborate for something used more than 2,000 years ago. However, this does not discard the theory that this is the Holy Grail because the actual grail is only the cup at the top, while the base, handles, and precious stones were added hundreds of years later.
The relic has a diameter of roughly 9 cm with a total height of around 17 cm. The lower portion of the relic has Arabic inscriptions likely inscribed in Palestine or Egypt between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century AD.
A recent study published by Spanish art historian Ana Mafe Garcia attempts to prove that there’s a 99.9% chance that the Valencia Holy Grail is the real Holy Grail. According to the study, the relic is of ancient Jewish heritage and dates back to the time of King Herod the Great, father of Herod who is a prominent figure in Christ’s Passion. In addition to this, the stone out of which the relic has been made can only be found near the territory of today’s Israel and is closely related to the tribe of Judah which Jesus of Nazareth was also a part of.
Moreover, the relic was supposedly brought to Spain with a letter that was later moved to another location (and possibly lost) because of the detailed Roman persecution of Christians and religious relics. The letter that describes the relic as the vessel in which “Christ Our Lord consecrated his blood” was discovered a few centuries later in the monastery of San Juan de la Peña which is the same monastery the relic was in for a certain period of time before being retrieved by King Martin of Aragon in the late 14th century.
But perhaps the biggest proof for the Valencia chalice is the fact that the relic is (unofficially) recognized by the Vatican. I say unofficially because two popes (Benedict XVI, July 2006, and John Paul II, November 1982) have held mass with the chalice in the Valencia Cathedral. Pope Benedict XVI even referred to the relic as the “most famous chalice (hunc praeclarum Calicem)” in his speech.
Other important artifacts in the cathedral
In addition to the Valencia Chalice and the impressive architecture (and interior), there are a couple of other good reasons to visit the Valencia Cathedral. The cathedral is home to another important religious relic; the mummified arm of St. Vincent the Martyr. Moreover, behind the neoclassical lintel, there are three closets that are loaded with relics from different eras. But unfortunately, these are not accessible for most visitors, unless you go with…
When visiting the Valencia Cathedral, you can explore independently, take an audio tour or go for a guided tour. If you’re a fan of our blog, you know that we don’t usually recommend taking tours but when exploring a cathedral with such a rich history, having a knowledgeable guide that can make the most out of your experience might not be a bad idea.
Know Before You Go
The admission to the Valencia Cathedral costs 6 EUR. If you want to see the Valencia Holy Grail, note that the relic is on display only during working hours. Working hours are between 10 AM and 6:30 PM (Monday-Saturday) and 2 PM- 6:30 PM (Sundays and Holidays). Outside of the working hours, the entrance is free of charge to everyone and no admission is required. Last but not least, if you’re planning to visit on Sunday, make sure you’re not walking around during Mass times.
Is this the one?
We have made a strong case for the Valencia relic being the original Holy Grail but the truth is there are a few other relics that also make a compelling case. The most notable examples are the Genoa Chalice, the Chalice of Dona Urraca (Leon, Spain), the Antioch Chalice (displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of New York), and the Nanteos Cup (Nanteos, Whales).
All of these relics have evidence on their side in their claim to being the original Holy Grail. And having visited some of them, the thought of which one could be the original one continued to occupy my mind. After all, this cup has been sought after by many heroes throughout history.
Most of them failed in their quests and we have been living in this thought that the Holy Grail can only be attained by those of purest heart. That’s why seeing a relic that claims to be the Holy Grail displayed in a tidy glass box surrounded by thousands of people every day awakens skepticism in most people.
After all, the Valencia Holy Grail is not even the only “Holy Grail” in Spain, not yet the world. As we briefly mentioned above, there’s another relic in Leon (Northern Spain) that has a detailed history behind it, and that can’t be a coincidence. That is why, for now, I choose to believe that the Holy Grail is not and never was about the materialistic finding. Therefore, the treasure lies not in the relic itself but in the quest and stories humanity has crafted around it throughout our history…
Helpful resources for visiting Valencia (and Spain)
If you’re looking for some unique things to do in Spain, check out this post.
Looking for interesting destinations in Spain off the beaten path? Check out our favorite hidden gems.
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Did you like our post about the Valencia Holy Grail? Do you think this is the real one? Do you even believe in the story of the Holy Grail? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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