The Grand St. Graal.
- The romance thus entitled is one of the longest and latest of the cycle. Allusion to an episode contained in it, and it alone, is made in the chronicle of a certain Helinandus, assigned to a date prior to the year 1204, and this has been held by some scholars to enable the dating of the romance. But the argument is doubtful, firstly, on account of the extremely composite nature of the Grand St. Graal in its present form, and, secondly, because the dating of the passage in Helinandus' Chronicle is by no means sure.
The romance opens with a prologue in which the authorship is boldly ascribed to Christ Himself. It then tells of Joseph of Arimathea, who, believing in Christ and desiring to possess somewhat belonging to Him, carries off the dish of the Last Supper, and, having begged Christ's body from Pilate, uses the dish to collect the blood flowing therefrom before he places it in the sepulchre. He is imprisoned, but comforted by Christ and fed from the holy dish. Delivered by Vespasian, baptized by St. Philip, he converts seventy-five of his kin and friends, and, at the Lord's command, makes an ark for the dish. The company, miraculously fed thereby in its journey through the wilderness, reaches Sarras. Here Joseph and his son, Josephes, aid and convert Evelach. Josephes is instructed by Christ how to perform the Sacrament, and is made sovran shepherd over the new sheep. When the dish is first shown to Evelach's brother-in-law (who receives the name Nasciens at baptism) he says it pleases him (li grée) entirely, hence it is called Gréal. Josephes, wounded by a lance, and Nasciens blinded for approaching too near the Grail, are both healed by an angel, the lance head being preserved : it shall drop blood at the beginning of the Wonders of the Holy Grail and the Lance, and but one man should behold those marvels of the Grail, and but one other be struck by the lance, and he should be the last of Josephes' kin, and his healer, the achiever of the Grail wonders, should be the last of Nasciens' kin. Divers adventures of Evelach (baptized Mordrains) and Nasciens follow, and visions to Nasciens concerning his descendants ("all these wonders are true, as Christ Himself wrote the book of the Holy Grail, and, save it, naught else but the Lord's Prayer and the judgment on the woman taken in adultery"). Nasciens finds Solomon's sword and is wounded by it. The story returns to Josephes, who leads a choice company to Great Britain. Here they find Nasciens' son, Celidoine. Joseph and Josephes are imprisoned by King Crudel of North Wales, but delivered by Mordrains, to whom our Lord appears in the likeness of one crucified, bidding him go to Britain. Mordrains retires to a hermitage, building a monastery for white monks, and stays there until Perceval and Galahad see him, as is told in the tale of the Holy Grail. We then hear of Brons, who up to now has not been mentioned; he brings his twelve sons to Josephes, eleven are married, and the twelfth having chosen virginity is appointed guardian of the Grail at Josephes' death. Alain's fishing is described, and how, having caught a fish which suffices to feed all the company, he is called the Rich Fisher, a title borne after him by all the Grail keepers. We are also told of Petrus, who converts and marries a heathen princess, and from whom descends Lot of Orcanie, father of Gauvain. Also of Galahad, Joseph's son, whom the men of Hocelice take as their king, and who is ancestor to Ywain, son of Urien. Joseph and Josephes die and the latter confides the Grail to Alain. A lordly castle hight Corbenic ("Holy Vessel in Chalclee"), is built for it. For sleeping in such a holy place a king is wounded through both thighs. At Alain's death his brother Josue becomes Grail keeper, and after him six kings, the last of them Pelles, on whose daughter Lancelot of the Lake begets Galahad, Lancelot being, himself, eighth in descent from Celidoine, son of Nasciens.
There exist three romances which are concerned with the Quest of the
Grail, but, nevertheless, must be reckoned among the two Early History
versions just summarised, with which they are closely connected. One of
the three, known as the Quête del St. Graal, was for long
the most famous work of the cycle, and is still the one best known to
Englishmen, as it was embodied, almost entire, by Malory in the Morte
Darthur. Malory's work being generally accessible, the story need
only be given briefly.
Quelle: The Legends of The Holy Grail, Alfred Nutt, London 1902, S. 26ff