Indiana Jones Wiki

"That's the cup of a carpenter."
Indiana Jones[src]

The Holy Grail , also known as Cup of Christ[4] or simply the Grail, was an artifact said to have supernatural powers, specifically the ability to grant immortality and was tied to the story of Jesus Christ and later connected to Arthurian legend.

The Grail gave water extraordinary powers, as water drunken or applied to a person's skin could rejuvenate their body and heal serious injuries, such as fatal gunshot wounds. Anyone who continuously drank water from the True Grail would be granted eternal life. However, such a prize came with a catch: the Grail was required to stay within its resting place and any attempts to take the Grail beyond the temple's boundaries would result in the destruction of the site.

Contrary to popular belief, which held that the cup of the King of Kings would naturally be a fabulous golden chalice encrusted with jewels and inlaid with silver, it actually took on the misguiding appearance of a simple, worn, and very battered clay cup.



"The Holy Grail, Dr. Jones. The chalice used by Christ during the Last Supper. The cup that caught His blood at the Crucifixion and was entrusted to Joseph of Arimathea."
Walter Donovan[src]

Crafted around 33,[1] the Holy Grail was believed to be the cup that Jesus Christ, the son of God, used during the Last Supper. It was also used to catch Christ's blood at his crucifixion, after the Spear of Longinus pierced his side. The cup was then entrusted to Joseph of Arimathea,[2] who had caught the blood as Christ was removed from the cross.[5]

It was said that the Grail could give to whomever drank from it eternal life.[2] Indeed, the Grail had even the power to heal any injuries and clear any infections or diseases, giving sustenance and hydration to the drinker.[6] Many of the Grail's attributes would be culled from several different narratives, each building upon its predecessor to perpetuate the relic's legend.[5]

Joseph of Arimathea reached Great Britain in 37 AD[7] with the Holy Grail and housed it at the site that would become Glastonbury Abbey but the relic went missing some time after,[3] remaining lost for a thousand years. Legends of the 4th century claimed that Mary Magdalene took the Grail as she fled from the Holy Land to Marseilles, France.[5]

The Crusades[]

"After the Grail was entrusted to Joseph of Arimathea, it disappeared, and was lost for a thousand years before it was found again by three knights of the First Crusade. Three brothers, to be exact."
Walter Donovan[src]

The Grail was rediscovered centuries later by King Arthur who placed it under the care of Sir Bedivere. When Arthur was mortally wounded by his nephew Mordred, he was taken to Glastonbury Tor by Bedivere. After the king's passing, Bedivere returned the Grail to where Joseph of Arimathea had left it and founded a hermitage.[3] Another Arthurian legends involving the quest for the Holy Grail were that of King Arthur's young knight Perceval, who sought the Grail due to his beliefs that it would restore the Fisher King's health, people and land or that of Sir Gawain, who actually saw the Grail and discovered it through a series of visions that culminated in the image of a golden chalice that provided a brilliant light. Perceval's story would go on to become the prototype for all other subsequent legends, though some later works eclipsed his role with Gawain's.[5]

However, after Camelot fell to the invading Anglo-Saxons,[8] the Holy Grail was delivered by Sir Galahad to the monastery at Iona where the cup remained for around three hundred years. The monastery was sacked by Vikings in the 9th century and the Holy Grail got as far east as Kiev before trade or raid carried it south.[9]

In the year 1000, an Aramaic-speaking Semite secret society used a pre-existing Greco-Roman facade to construct a temple in a hidden gorge to house the Grail. The group eventually established itself as the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword,[10] which had started to protect the Cup of Christ around six decades prior.[11] They swore to keep it safe from discovery[2] for its sanctity[5] and misuse by any means necessary.[2]


A depiction of Christ's blood being caught in the Holy Grail.

The Grail was found in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon after the First Crusade by a company of knights from France, three brothers who pledged to protect it. They lived in the cup's sanctuary—where a Great Seal acted to prevent the artifact from being taken beyond the temple's entrance—for nearly one hundred and fifty years.[2] Around that time, a chalice was looted from Constantinople by the Knights Templar and it became one of many false grails placed on an altar in the canyon temple to disguise the real cup of Christ as well as to test any seekers; only those of true heart and faith would be able to identify it, while others would fall victim to the allure of glittering gold and shining silver.[12]

Although all three lived to a remarkably age,[5] the bravest and most worthy of the brothers was chosen to stay behind while the other two returned to Europe and left a marker near Ankara, Turkey about the Grail's location.[2] During his vigil, however, the remaining Grail Knight, would age a day for every time his spirit wavered and was not worthy to drink from the cup.[6][13]

Sir Richard's shield carried a second marker but the man died on the journey back and he was buried with his shield in a tomb in Venice, Italy. The third brother returned home and in the 13th century told his story to a Franciscan friar[2] who recorded about the whereabouts of the holy relic somewhere "in a canyon deep in a range of mountains" and made a painting about it which was kept in a castle's chapel at Klasenheim, Austria-Hungary.[9]

Legend over legend[]

The earliest story about the Holy Grail was written by the northern French poet Chrétien de Troyes, who was credited for starting the entire cycle of Grail Romances in 1188 with his narration of Perceval's adventures in the form of Perceval, though de Troyes depicted the Holy Grail inaccurately, describing it as a wide, deep bowl instead of a cup in his romance.[5]

Robert de Boron would later bring the subject of the Holy Grail to his narration of Joseph of Arimathea, known as Joseph d'Arimanthie. There, de Boron defined the Grail as the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper and passed to Joseph so he could collect Jesus' blood when he was removed from the cross and introduced the relic as a vessel that possessed miraculous healing powers.[5]

The next Grail Romance authored by the French would be Perlesvaus, which was composed anonymously between 1191 and 1212. The romance's author credited the Knights Templar as the Guardians of the Grail and introduced Sir Gawain as the Grail legend's new hero rather than Perceval.[5]

In the middle of the 15th century, Thomas Malory took on the task of combining, editing, re-arranging and developing the earlier myths of Le Morte D'Arthur, his seminal work, bringing together the Holy Grail's chief attributes. In a tribute of his own to the conclusion of the Age of Chivalry, Malory had the Grail appear first in a vision to all of the Knights of the Round Table during the Pentecostal feast of King Arthur, prompting all of the knights to vow to search for the fabled Cup of Christ, ignoring that many of them were just too sinful or immature to achieve more than a fleeting glimpse of the sacred Christian vessel.[5]

Modern times[]

"The quest for the grail is not archeology, it's a race against evil. If it is captured by the Nazis the armies of darkness will march all over the face of the Earth!"
Henry Walton Jones, Senior[src]

Indiana Jones' father Professor Henry Walton Jones, Senior became obsessed with the Holy Grail after a vision he had beheld in 1898. He made thorough researches and travels for its study, and kept several notes about it in his Grail Diary.[9] He even went on to always attend the annual British Grail lore conference at Glastonbury, England as a speaker.[7] Devoting his life to uncover the legendary vessel, Dr. Jones didn't see the search as a vulgar hunt for a powerful relic, but instead, did recognize the quest as one of virtue, healing and compassion. By contrast, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler later wanted the Grail for his own glory.[5]

In 1910, a cup found in Antioch was thought by many scholars to be the Holy Grail due to being an ancient chalice.[14]

While in the ruin of Kaffa after the end of World War I, the scholar G. Codirolli discovered a parchment with the testimony of the physician who attended to the dying of the Franciscan friar who spoke of three trials at the location of the Grail. Codirolli later shared the Kaffa parchment with Henry Jones around 1920.[9]


Men under Walter Donovan's employ found the knights' first marker.

Despite his father's obsession with the Cup of Christ,[2] Indiana Jones himself didn't believe that the Holy Grail had a basis in reality, as he dismissed the relic as mythical along with King Arthur's sword Excalibur in 1935 when he was approached by Kai Ti Chang and Mei Ying to find the Heart of the Dragon. In turn, Kai considered the Holy Grail as nothing more than "Western fancy".[15] The following year, Indy scoffed at an acquaintance named Reeko offering information on a find worth $500, asking if he had the Holy Grail, Noah's Ark and Atlantis "wrapped up in one".[16]

In his lust for obtaining the Cup of Christ, Hitler dispatched his dreaded Schutzstaffel troops to search for the Holy Grail, leading his soldiers to primarily look for the relic around Renne-Le-Chateau's ancient ruins in the South of France, after looking into the legends about Mary Magdalene taking the Grail there.[5]

The Ankara marker to the Holy Grail's location, a stone tablet, was eventually unearthed by engineers excavating for copper under the employ of American industrialist and antiquities collector Walter Donovan. Donovan was enticed by the Grail's promise of eternal life but the tablet was missing its top portion.[2]

At the close of 1937,[9] Donovan hired Henry Jones to search for the Grail alongside Doctor Elsa Schneider but both Donovan and Schneider were secretly in league with the Nazis, who had their own sights on acquiring the Holy Grail for Hitler. While working on the project, Jones and Schneider became lovers but as Jones traced the location of the second marker to Venice, Italy with his Grail Diary, which told them to go to Alexandretta, he discovered Schneider's Nazi affiliations and sent the book to his estranged son: Indiana Jones. He was abducted by the Nazis soon afterwards.[2]

In 1938, Donovan contacted Indiana to pick up where Henry had left off and find the Grail, which Jones used as an opportunity to seek out his father. After being attacked by the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword who sought to protect the Grail, Indiana was told by Kazim, their leader, where Henry Jones was being kept. Indiana rescued his father and the pair resumed the Grail quest to prevent the Nazis from harnessing its powers. The Grail was located in a mountain-side temple in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon in the Republic of Hatay. In order to reach the cup, the Joneses were required to overcome three challenges. The first was the "Breath of God", the second the "Word of God" and the third being the "Path of God",[2] though Henry knew how to bypass them thanks to learning from the challenges in Saint Anselm of Canterbury's writings.[5] Afterwards, there were extra trials, as the guardian of the Grail had to be defeated in single combat. Finally, the correct Grail had to be found among the altar's other cups. While the Holy Grail would grant eternal life to its drinker, the wrong chalice would see their life taken away.[2]

On Elsa Schneider's recommendation, Donovan made the mistake of choosing a False Grail which he saw as most befitting a "King of Kings". Donovan toasted to eternal life, but instead rapidly aged to death. Indiana Jones, however, found the most modest of the chalices and recognized the true Grail as the cup of a carpenter, though the Grail Knight warned him about the Holy Grail's limitations.[2]


The Holy Grail just out of Schneider's reach.

Indiana retrieved the Grail in order to heal a gunshot wound that Donovan had inflicted upon Henry Jones Sr. After Henry was healed, Schneider tried to take the Grail from the temple despite the warning not to do so by the Grail Knight. Her actions caused a large earthquake, and the Grail fell onto a ledge in a ravine which had opened up in the temple floor. Schneider, who had nearly fallen in herself, was saved by Indiana but greedily tried to grab the Grail below with her free arm. Indiana had a hard time holding on to one arm and pleaded with Elsa with give him her second arm so he could get a firm grip to save her. Elsa insisted she almost had the Grail, but her hand broke free of her glove, thus losing her grip and plummeting to her death in a seemingly bottomless pit. A tremor then knocked Indiana into the pit, but he was caught by his father. Indiana, like Schneider, tried to reach the cup, but was persuaded by Henry to let it go thus avoiding Schneider's fate.[2] Consequently, the Grail fell into the vast chasm.[5]

Though the Holy Grail was ultimately lost, the experience gave both Indiana and his father the chance to mend their rocky relationship,[2] as the journey itself revealed the Grail's true nature, allowing them to rediscover each other and heal their long-estranged relationship.[5] Before leaving the Temple of the Sun, Indy and his father looked at the Grail Knight.[2] He smiled at them, content that the Grail, beyond anyone's reach, was once again safe.[17]


Indiana Jones would later draw a sketch of the Holy Grail in his journal, noting that he hoped his father hadn't gotten used to tagging along with him, thinking that the older man had had enough of the adventuring lifestyle. On his part, Henry wrote an article for the Princeton Review, a copy of which was also kept inside Indy's journal.[14] Even though the Grail was gone, Jones Sr. kept speaking at an annual British Grail lore conference in England, including one event where a German delegation piqued his interest in the Spear of Longinus due to it being another of the sacred objects involved in the Grail procession, and the professor correctly deduced that the attendees were secretly a group of Nazis maneuvering an expedition in pursuit of the lance.[7]

In 1941, Daan van Rooijen queried how the Golden Fleece could be a myth when the Holy Grail and Ark of the Covenant ended up having a basis in reality.[18] Months later, the elder Jones remarked on the elusive, indefinite nature of the Grail, commenting that the cup discovered by the father-son team was simply "a Grail. But many of the oldest Grail texts, written by the most ancient seers, refer to the Grail as an elixir, as a bread, a powder, gold, or a stone".[19] In the end, the Grail did have an effect beyond the Temple of the Sun, as it rejuvenated the health of Henry Jones Sr, who was nearly murdered at the hands of Donovan.[2] The Grail's final kindness permitted the elder Jones a peaceful passing through a natural death as opposed to homicide.[20]

Behind the scenes[]

The prop Holy Grail currently resides at Industrial Light & Magic in San Francisco, California.

If the assertion by Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, set in 1938, that the Grail Knight and his brothers began guarding the Holy Grail 700 years prior, around 1238, is accurate, then the siblings can't be knights of the First Crusade per Walter Donovan's "bedtime story" earlier in the film.[2] The First Crusade lasted from 1095, as pointed out specifically by the knight in the novelization by Rob MacGregor, until 1099. In the novel, however, Jones says 800 years instead.[6]

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, the Grail's appearance is random each time, and its final determination is part of the game's copy protection. When Indy looks at each Grail, he comments "Now THIS is a cup of a carpenter". In the game, it's possible to catch the Grail with the whip, and then surrender it back to the Grail Knight. This can be done even before Elsa tries to catch it, and that way, she can live through the end of the game.[21]

The carpenter line is spoofed in Monkey Island, where it's repeated by Guybrush Threepwood when he sees a chalice.[22] It's further spoofed in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, when looking at an Atlantean stone cup, Indy comments "Certainly NOT a cup of a carpenter".[23]

There were plans by Icons in the mid-1990s to create a Holy Grail prop replica for a proposed Indiana Jones licensed product-line called The Treasures of Indiana Jones, so a prototype was made to convince Lucasfilm Ltd., but Icons' plans ultimately did not go ahead.[24]


Non-canonical appearances[]


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Indiana Jones apparel  (Design: Rare Artifacts Poster T-Shirt)
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Templars
  4. Lucasfilm 40 Great Indiana Jones Quotes on (backup link on
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 IndianaJones Holy Grail's Marshall College entry on (backup link on
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade novel
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny
  8. Young Indiana Jones and the Ghostly Riders
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Grail Diary
  10. Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide
  11. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade comic
  12. Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide doesn't give a date, though it is likely to be connected to the taking of Constantinople in 1204 at the end of the Fourth Crusade, at a time after the Knights of the First Crusade discovered the Holy Grail.
  13. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989 junior novel
  14. 14.0 14.1 The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones
  15. Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb
  16. FAIJ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones – "Revenge of the Ancients"
  17. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Read-Along Adventure
  18. Indiana Jones and the Golden Fleece
  19. Indiana Jones and the Mystery of Mount Sinai
  20. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  21. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure
  22. Monkey Island
  23. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
  24. Icons GRAIL CUP prototype at THROW ME THE IDOL (Web archive)

External links[]