Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Templars and the Holy Grail



The “Holy Grail” makes its first appearance in literature in the 12th century in a work by Chrétien de Troyes, Perceval. Here, Perceval was a knight of the legendary King Arthur’s Round Table on a quest to find the "Holy Grail." The story was subsequently told and re-told, embellished and altered by various writers, including both Wolfram von Eschenbach and Sir Thomas Malory. In later versions of the Grail quest, Sir Galahad replaced Sir Perceval as the principal hero, but the theme remained popular and was increasingly depicted in works of art as well literature.


People in the Middle Ages understood that, like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table themselves, the Holy Grail was a symbol, a spiritual gift. It was not until the 19th century that people -- increasingly lacking spirituality and thinking of themselves as more “rational” and “scientific” -- crudely turned the Holy Grail into a mere thing. Just people in the 19th and 20th centuries insisted on trying to identify the “real King Arthur,” modern scholars and enthusiasts have tied themselves in knots trying to explain just what the Holy Grail was ― even inventing the idea that it was the blood of Christ in the form of genetic descendants of Christ and Mary Magdalen. 


Another 20th/21st Century invention is that the Templars were in search of the Holy Grail when they excavated under the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Indeed, it has even been argued that the Templars went all the way to Ethiopia in the 12th century in search of the Holy Grail (now transformed into the Ark of the Covenant). Most recently, the History Chanel’s “Knightfall” builds on the notion that there was a connection between the Templars and the Holy Grail. 

This connection is as spurious and ridiculous as the idea that there was a Holy Grail in the first place. There can be no evidence of a connection between the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail, because people in the Middle Ages, least of all the practical and hard-headed Knights Templar, weren’t gullible enough to actually think that the Holy Grail was a thing. Since the Templars (at least in theory) disdained secular literature and courtly love, the venue in which the legends and tales of the Holy Grail played out, would have been particularly disdained by the Templars. They probably would not have deigned to admit they knew of the tales at all.  

Copyright Fireforge Games
Literature, whether disguised as pseudo scholarship or, more honestly, fiction, that depicts a relationship between the Knights Templar and an object called the “Holy Grail” belong in the realm of fantasy and should be recognized and treated as such. 

For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight to historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves. Her Jerusalem Trilogy has won 15 literary accolades including Best Biography 2017 (Book Excellence Awards) and Best Christian Historical Fiction 2017 (Readers' Favorites).



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A Templar disaster set the stage for:
 

 

2 comments:

  1. I'm not entirely sure I can agree with your judgment that mediæval people didn't think of the Grail as a thing. Part of the problem is, of course, that "mediæval" covers far too long a period to generalize, so the way people thought of the Grail (if they thought of it at all) in the 12th century would certainly have been very different from the way they thought of it in the 15th.

    Wolfram certainly seems to think of it as a sort of shape-shifting vision representing "sælde" and some hint of that lasts down possibly even to Wagner; even considered as an object, the Grail is associated with an aura of heavenly bliss.

    On the other hand, the tremendous popularity of allegory in the middle ages, certainly in the 14th and 15th centuries, did tend toward a sort of reification of concepts, of the sort that turned a "bead" from a prayer into a small rounded globule. By Malory's time, I THINK most people did think of the Grail as a definite object, though exactly WHAT that object was was still not entirely fixed. I'm fairly sure more thought of it as a dish rather than as a cup, and that it held the Paschal lamb rather than the wine, though there still also lurks the older conception that it was a vessel used to catch Christ's blood as it was shed from the Cross.

    Of course, one must completely repudiate the grotesque, ham-fisted distortions of both history and legend made by modern purveyors of "historical" sensation fiction. They fail as history, as legend, and even as good story-telling; though they are, alas! generally all-too-successful as propaganda.

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