The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief

Overview

The elusive image of the Holy Grail has haunted the Western imagination for eight centuries. It represents the ideal of an unattainable yet infinitely desirable goal, the possibility of perfection. Initially conceived in literature, it became a Christian icon which has been re-created in a multitude of forms over time even though the Grail has no specific material attributes or true religious significance.

Richard Barber traces the history of the legends surrounding the Holy ...

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Overview

The elusive image of the Holy Grail has haunted the Western imagination for eight centuries. It represents the ideal of an unattainable yet infinitely desirable goal, the possibility of perfection. Initially conceived in literature, it became a Christian icon which has been re-created in a multitude of forms over time even though the Grail has no specific material attributes or true religious significance.

Richard Barber traces the history of the legends surrounding the Holy Grail, beginning with Chrétien de Troyes's great romances of the twelfth century and the medieval Church's religious version of the secular ideal. He pursues the myths through Victorian obsessions and enthusiasms to the popular bestsellers of the late twentieth century that have embraced its mysteries. Crisscrossing the borders of fiction and spirituality, the quest for the Holy Grail has long attracted writers, artists, and admirers of the esoteric. It has been a recurrent theme in tales of imagination and belief which have laid claim to the highest religious and secular ideals and experiences. From Lancelot to Parsifal, chivalric romances to Wagner's Ring, T. S. Eliot to Monty Python, the Grail has fascinated and lured the Western imagination from beyond the reach of the ordinary world.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Mr. Barber, the author of The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe and The Knight and Chivalry, demonstrates a gift for lucid, lively prose and an ability to make highly complex developments — cutting across religion, literature and politics — both immediate and accessible … Though the current best seller The Da Vinci Code didn't make it into these pages, Mr. Barber provides a sweeping if cursory index of allusions to the Grail, in works ranging from T. S. Eliot's Waste Land to Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" to "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." — Michiko Kakutani
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674013902
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/2/2004
  • Pages: 488
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Barber is one of Britain's leading authorities on medieval history and the author of The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe and The Knight and Chivalry.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
A Note on Names
Introduction 1
1 Imagining the Grail: Chretien de Troyes 9
2 Completing the Grail: Chretien continued 27
3 Sanctifying the Grail Hero: Robert de Boron 39
4 The Old Law and the New Law: The High Book of the Grail 46
5 Creating the Grail Hero: The Lancelot-Grail 53
6 Visions of Angels, Versions of Men: Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival 73
Epilogue to Part One 86
7 The Grail 91
8 The Setting of the Grail 104
9 Obscure Histories, Dubious Relics 116
10 The Eucharist and the Grail 135
11 The Holy Grail 148
12 The Secrets of the Grail 161
13 The Grail Outside the Romances 167
14 'There is a thing that's called the Gral' 173
15 The Adventures of the Grail: The Later German Romances 187
16 The Adventures of the Grail: The Last Flowering 198
Epilogue to Part Two 222
Interlude 227
17 The Scholars and the Grail 231
18 The Revival of the Grail 256
19 The Grail as Mirror 290
20 The Grail Today 321
21 The Question Answered? 356
Epilogue 367
App. 1 The Major Grail Romances 1180-1250 373
App. 2 Visual Images Relating to the Medieval Grail Stories 374
App. 3 Theological Terms Used in Text 378
App. 4 Use of the Term 'Holy Grail' in Major Newspapers, 1978-2002 380
Bibliography 381
Abbreviations 412
Notes 414
Index 441
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2004

    Everything You Wanted to Know About the Grail but Didn't Know What to Ask

    THE HOLY GRAIL: IMAGINATION AND BELIEF by Richard Barber is a tremendous book with unparalleled research. It tells you everything about the Holy Grail and then some. It¿s divided up into three major sections. The first section begins with the origin of the Grail ¿ The Story of the Grail by Chrétien de Troyes. This section explores and analyzes the medieval romances. The second section explores and explains the environment of the medieval centuries -- how it was influenced by the Grail legend and how the Grail influenced it. The third section explores the creative imagination of the Grail in the modern world, mainly concentrating on the 19th and 20th centuries. Not only are movies like INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE mentioned, but he also looks at EXCALIBUR by John Boorman and a silent film with Lon Chaney, Sr., as well as many others. THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley is mentioned and it has something on the notorious HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Many other authors and books are surveyed with intricate analysis and a discerning eye. Everything is mentioned that had any real or bogus connection to the Grail ¿ Templars, Masons, Rosicrucians, Glastonbury; you name it this book has it. There are four appendices, an index, abbreviations, and an extremely good bibliography. If you¿re interested in the Holy Grail, this is the book to get. It¿s beyond excellent! -- Leslie Strang Akers

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