"But choose wisely. For as the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail shall take it from you."
Grail Knight to Walter Donovan[src]

The False Grail was a golden chalice found at the inner sanctuary of the Temple of the Sun in 1938.


A large drinking vessel, made of gold, and encrusted with jewels, was taken from Constantinople by the Knights Templar and eventually ended up in the Grail sanctuary of the Temple of the Sun, where it sat near the Holy Grail, along with dozens of other false grails that sat upon the altar, all guarded by the Grail Knight.[1]

The final test to prove one's worthiness to find the Holy Grail was to be able to correctly identify the real Holy Grail among the collection of other chalices and bowls set out as decoys. Once a seeker selected a grail, they would have to fill it from a font in the chamber and then drink from it. Water from any of the false grails would cause death to the poor crusader, while water from the true cup would grant eternal life.

Donovan with false grail

Donovan examines the chalice.

In 1938, Indiana Jones was forced to enter the Temple to find the Grail in order to save his father, shot by Walter Donovan. Jones made it past the assorted traps and tests to enter the inner sanctum where he encountered the Grail Knight. After making it through, Donovan and Elsa Schneider followed into the chamber. Donovan asked the Austrian doctor which vessel was the true Holy Grail and Schneider purposely selected the most beautiful, bright and princely false grail for him.

After assuring himself that the false Grail was in fact the cup of the King of Kings, Donovan filled it with water and took a drink, expecting eternal life. But to his horror, he instead began to age instantly. Dropping the chalice, he raised his arms and, decomposing before her eyes, tried to attack Schneider. Jones shoved him away and Donovan shattered against a wall, leaving nothing but bones, dust, and Donovan's Nazi pin.

Donovan death

The result of choosing poorly.

Recognizing that the true Grail would be the cup of a carpenter, Jones then selected the most humble of chalices and proved its authenticity by drinking from it and surviving. Needing the real Grail to save his dying father, Jones and Schneider ignored the golden chalice cast off to the side and returned to the entrance area of the temple.[2]

Behind the scenes

The false grail prop measured roughly 15 x 15 x 21 cm.[3]


  • There's some amount of debate whether Dr. Schnider chose the false grail for Donovan by accident or on purpose.
    • The case that she chose it by Accident
      • She volunteered to help Donovan chose for him as Donovan says that he's "not a historian" and has no knowledge of what the Grail would look like and chose the one that she believes is the Grail without knowing that the only way to find out that it is indeed the Grail she chose is to drink from it and survive.
      • Even after Donovan's death, she hints to Indy by saying that the true Grail is "not been made out of gold".
    • The case that she chose it on purpose
      • She chose the False Grail because despite the fact that she's a Nazi, she doesn't approve of their ideology, evidence is in the scene when she's in Berlin during a Book Burning event as she is seen sobbing at the event and then walked away from it when Indy (desguised as a Nazi Officer) was demanding his father's diary, during this scene she said to Indy that she "believes in the Grail, not the Swastika".
      • Donovan was more for the Nazi cause and his becoming more and more fed up with his methods to find the Grail.
      • She was also torn apart between her love for Indy and her loyalty to the Nazis and when push came to shove, she would choose her love for Indy.
      • At the end, Henry Sr. said to Indy that Dr. Schnider "never believed in the Grail" and "believed she found her prize" this is somewhat evident when she picked up the Grail and became hysterical and blindly so that she crossed the "Great Seal" while still grasping the Grail.



Notes and references

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