The Holy Grail is a silver vessel that, according to much more ancient legends, originally held the food Jesus Christ ate at Passover dinner on the night before he died. In Malory’s book, the Holy Grail has been held in England at a castle, where it holds the power to give people around it unlimited, sumptuous food and wine. The Holy Grail’s powers, however, are directly tied to the spiritual goodness of those around it. Indeed, by the end of the book, it has been proclaimed that the Holy Grail will no longer rest in England, since its citizens are no longer holy enough.
In addition to its physical powers, the Holy Grail also allows the one who can “achieve” it to see spiritual things that are normally barred to mere mortals—to reach a level of spiritual wholeness unparalleled while still on Earth. In Malory’s book, one must be entirely pure in order to “achieve” the Grail—that is, one must be both a virgin and lacking other major sins. The quest for the Holy Grail, then, is also a quest amongst those of the Round Table to prove their spiritual worth. Like Excalibur, the Grail is a symbol of glory and honor, though one relating to spiritual rather than physical prowess.
The Holy Grail (Sangreal) Quotes in Le Morte d’Arthur
Ah Gawaine, Gawaine, ye have betrayed me; for never shall my court be amended by you, but ye will never be sorry for me as I am for you. And therewith the tears began to run down his visage.
My sin and my wickedness have brought me unto great dishonour. For when I sought worldly adventures for worldly desires, I ever enchieved them and had the better in every place, and never was I discomfit in no quarrel, were it right or wrong. And now I take upon me the adventures of holy things, and now I see and understand that mine old sin hindereth me and shameth me, so that I had no power to stir nor speak when the holy blood appeared afore me.
He called to Galahad, and said to him: Come forth the servant of Jesu Christ, and thou shalt see that thou hast much desired to see. And then he began to tremble right hard when the deadly flesh began to hold the spiritual things. Then he held up his hands toward heaven and said: Lord, I thank thee, for now I see that that hath been my desire many a day. Now, blessed Lord, would I not longer live, if it might please thee, Lord.