Thursday, December 31, 2020

Holy Grail Contender ?

 The Portville Review


Ancient Relic In St Lorenzo Church

Has Eventful and Interesting


Genoa, Italy.—Nothing was more Interesting

a score of years ago in the

rococo church of St. Lorenzo in Genoa

than the silk tapestry which used to

cover the walls, Its cherry brocade

throwing a glow of unusual warmth

over the interior. But the real object

of attraction for tourists was the

holy grail kept in the sacristy. It

was broken even in those days and

to any but the eyes of the faithful

It was to its historic and religious associations

rather than to Us beauty as

a work of art that its great fame was

attributed. Its history was, however,

most picturesque and its antiquity

was never disputed even when its merits

as a work of art began to be questioned.

When in 1101 the crusaders under

Baldwin I penetrated the mosque of

Cesarea, the ancient temple of Herod,

they found a wonderful green tinted

octagonal dish which they believed

from its appearance to have been fashioned

out of a single emerald. A century

later James de Voragine, archbishop

of Genoa, the author of the

Golden Legend, declared the vessel to

be surely the holy grail. According

to the archbishop's chronicles the victors

of Cesarea had divided the war

booty into three parts. The first comprised

all the land of the city, the second

all movable treasure and merchandise

and the third was the emerald

dish. The Genoese crusaders under

Guglielmo Embriaco chose the latter

as more valuable than all the other

spoils. After the thirteenth century

the grail became the most venerated

relic of Genoa. It was preserved with

the most reverent care in the chapel

of St. John the Baptist of the San

Lorenzo cathedral. A guard of honor

selected from the most noble Genoese

famines was formed for its protection.

The severest penalties were imposed

for touching the grail with a touchstone

or any other object.

It was the popular belief that the

vessel was not made by the hand of

man, but that Christ himself had fashioned

it miraculously out of common

clay on the day of the supper. Others

maintained the view that its origin

dated back to the-time of the queen

of Sheba, It was asserted that she

presented it as the most precious gift

among all her treasures to King Solomon

in Jerusalem, by whom it was

used in the ceremony of the paschal

lamb. However much opinion differed

as regards the origin and composition

of the relic, there was no divergence

on ths point that the grail was the

most prized possession of the mighty

republic—nay, the greatest treasure in

all Christendom.

Skeptics did hot dare to raise their

voices until the eighteenth century,

when some French visitors, on close

Inspection, claimed to have discovered

air bubbles in the glassy substance of

the basin.

Napoleon did not overlook the grail

of Genoa. He ordered It to be con-

-veyed to the cabinet of antiquities of

the national library of Paris A special

committee was then appointed of

members of the French institute of

sciences, and they, after prolonged ex

amination, declared the vessel to consist

of mere colored glass of very little

intrinsic value. When Napoleon's

spoils, after his final defeat were returned

again to their rightful owners,

the grail was, in 1815, restored to

its shrine in the cathedral of Genoa,

but much of its mystic atmosphere had

vanished, never to return, Lately the

view was almost universally accepted

that although the extreme antiquity of

the dish was not disputed—it is now

said to be of old oriental, probably

Phoenician, origin—it has never been

employed as a table utensil, but probably

served as a priest's hand rinsing

basin or as a sacrificial vessel for

casting fragrant substances upon the


The Portville Review 1908 - 1952

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