Gemstone of Paradise: The Holy Grail in Wolfram's Parzival

Overview

"The story of the Grail, usually identified as some kind of mystical vessel, has gripped the imaginations of millions since it first appeared in several medieval romances. Of these, Wolfram von Eschenbach's Middle High German Parzival (c. 1210) is generally recognized as the most complex and beautiful. Strangely, in Parzival, the Grail is identified as a stone rather than a cup or dish. This oddity is usually seen as just another mystery, further evidence of the difficulty of discerning the true sources of the Grail legend." In this study, G.
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Gemstone of Paradise: The Holy Grail in Wolfram's Parzival

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Overview

"The story of the Grail, usually identified as some kind of mystical vessel, has gripped the imaginations of millions since it first appeared in several medieval romances. Of these, Wolfram von Eschenbach's Middle High German Parzival (c. 1210) is generally recognized as the most complex and beautiful. Strangely, in Parzival, the Grail is identified as a stone rather than a cup or dish. This oddity is usually seen as just another mystery, further evidence of the difficulty of discerning the true sources of the Grail legend." In this study, G. Ronald Murphy seeks to illuminate this mystery and to enable a far better appreciation of Wolfram's insight into the nature of the Grail and its relationship to the Crusades. Murphy explores what it signifies for the Grail to be a translucent gemstone and an altar made portable only by a woman. Wolfram's stone is a sacramental reference to the stone the Crusaders fought to obtain - the Holy Sepulcher. Parzival, Murphy believes, was intended as an argument against continued efforts by Latin Christians to recover the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem by force of arms. In Wolfram's story, warring Christian and Muslim brothers are brought together in peace by the power of Wolfram's Holy Grail - a stone Murphy believes still exists. This book appeals not only to scholars and students of medieval literature but to anyone who is drawn to the lasting mystery of the Holy Grail.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Murphy...offers an important, thoroughly documented argument that the Grail is a portable altar. ...This book is an invaluable addition to Wolfram scholarship...Essential." —Syndetic Solutions

"I think his association of the grail/stone with a portable altar and in particular with the Paradise Altar at Bamberg is brilliant and very convincing." —Jonathan Riley-Smith

"....readers will find Murphy's book a singular and thought-provoking scholarly quest. In the end one is left with the indelible impression of gems and the sense that they draw attention to aspects of Wolfram's text that have not yet been fully appreciated. Murphy's book points the way." —Will Hasty, H-Net Reviews

"A convincing and well-written interpretation of the story." —imes Literary Supplement

"Wolfram von Eschenbach was certainly not an orthodox Christian, but a Christian after all. Yet his interpretation of the Holy Grail and the relationship between Christianity and other religions must have been quite provocative for his audience, as Murphy demonstrates in his refreshingly innovative reading of Parzival . In fact, Murphy's insightful and far-reaching interpretation of Parzival in light of the New Testament, carefully supported by philological analysis, reveals Wolfram's exuberant passion and love for all people, as perhaps best represented by the female figures in this romance. Did Murphy find the original model of the Grail used by Wolfram, as he argues in the frame narrative of his investigation? There are good reasons to embrace his conclusions, and it is a joy to follow Murphy on his research paths from the very first to the last page of his book." —Albrecht Classen, editor of Meeting the Foreign in the Middle Ages

"In Murphy's reading, Wolfram's Parzival becomes at once a quest for the actual Grail and an exploration of the deepest mysteries of Christian sacrament and conversion. Lucid, transformative, and generous, Gemstone of Paradise is itself the work of a master craftsman of the symbolic arts, its purpose being to make visible the hitherto elusive physical and spiritual beauty of Parzival's long-sought Grail. This is a treasure of a book combining literary criticism, natural philosophy, and history with a sophisticated and rigorous theology of art. It should be required reading for all those who have ever asked the question: what is the Grail?" —Rachel Fulton, author of From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200

"The witty and graceful voyage of discovery in this book on Wolfram's Parzival and splendid imagery of the Holy Grail is immediately rewarding. Murphy provides readers with an education in literary Grail texts and mystic thought, in medieval crusading, in the continuities and ruptures of religious thought, and in the vast 'lithotherapy' of gems. His demonstration of the meanings of the Bamberg Paradise Altar is a thrilling example of brilliant scholarship." —Bonnie Wheeler, editor of Arthuriana

"Very good indeed. I think his association of the grail/stone with a portable altar and in particular with the Paradise Altar at Bamberg is brilliant and very convincing." —Jonathan Riley-Smith, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

"Murphy offers an important, thoroughly documented argument that the Grail is a portable altar. The author offers original insights into such topics as the idea of the Grail, the significance of gemstones and the holy Sepulcher... excellent analysis of the Parzival elements of Wolfram's and Chretien's epics...he emphasizes the importance of artifacts throughout. The book is an invaluable addition to Wolfram scholarship. Summing Up: Essential." —CHOICE

"Murphy does an excellent job weaving each of the topics covered into a unified whole at the end. not only do you learn a lot about the various subjects, he presents them in an appealing way, and brings it altogether in a convincing fashion. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Grail Myth." —Mythprint

"This is a thoroughly engaging book ... a well-produced and very readable work which may serve, too, as a stimulating introduction to a great work of literature. ...As an overall reading of Wolfram's work, this is a convincing and eminently readable study." —The German Quarterly

"This is a major book, which offers creative solutions to a number of the key questions which have preoccupied Parzival scholarship for the last hundred years or more, and sheds new light on Wolfram's understanding of the Grail. [Murphy's] engaged theological reading is made to seem neither sentimental nor anachronistic, but in tune with key parts of Wolfram's narrative." —Speculum

"An intriguing and carefully documented investigation, this study will be of interest to historians of art, literature, and the crusades, as well as theologians and liturgists." —Theological Studies

"Murphy's success is twofold. As a work of historical scholarship, Gemstone of Paradise shows how Wolfram's story of Parzival gains its full imaginative power only within the medieval vision that the world is the book of God and humanity is fulfilled in the Christian sacraments. And as a work of literary crticism, Murphy's book renews the potential of Wolfram's vision as a text for our times, still in need of help to imagine a way to reconciliation across violent divisions." —Christianity and Literature

"Gemstone of Paradise stands...as one of the most important books on Wolfram, in any language, produced in the last few decades. ...Murphy's contribution enriches our understanding of Wolfram's text and context and is a delight for all those interested in Wolfram and the Grail." —Monatshfte

"A marvelous and entertaining exploration of one of the most unique and difficult manifestations of teh Holy Grail — and one of the most unique and difficult medieval romances in which this Grail is contained." —H-Net Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199747597
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/27/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Professor of German at Georgetown University. He is the author of several titles, including The Heiland: The Saxon Gospel and The Owl, the Raven, and the Dove: The Religious Meaning of the Grimms' Magic Fairy Tales .

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Table of Contents

Prologue: In the Beginning Grails, the Grail, and the Stars
1. The Idea of the Holy Grail
2. The World of Precious Stones
3. The Crusaders' Quest The Holy Sepulcher
4. The Frame Story Feirefiz, Parzival, and Their Father
5. The Frame Story Ending The Overflowing Grail
6. The Grail in the Inner Story
7. The Paradise Altar of Bamberg Afterword Aftermath Appendix 1: Etymological Excursus The Meaning of the Five Women's Names Appendix 2: Two Medieval Texts on the Consecration of the Altar and the Veneration of the Sepulcher Select Bibliography Index

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