Indiana Jones Wiki

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

The Holy Grail was a Biblical 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 applied to a person's skin could rejuvenate their body and heal serious injuries, such as fatal gunshot wounds. Anyone who 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 was believed to be the cup that Jesus Christ 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. It was said that the Grail could give to whomever drank from it eternal life.[1] Indeed, the Grail had even the power to heal any injuries and clear any infections or diseases, giving sustenance and hydration to the drinker.[3]

Joseph of Arimathea reached Great Britain in 37 AD[4] with the Grail and housed it at the site that would become Glastonbury Abbey but the relic went missing some time after.[2]

The Grail was rediscovered centuries later by King Arthur and entrusted to 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.[2]

However, after Camelot fell to the invading Anglo-Saxons,[5] 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 ninth century and the Holy Grail got as far east as Kiev before trade or raid carried it south.[6]

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.[7] They swore to keep it safe from discovery and misuse by any means, including murder.[1]

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.[1] 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.[8]

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 about the Grail's location.[1] 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.[3][9]

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[1] 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.[6]

Modern times[]

Indiana Jones' father, Professor Jones Sr., 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. While in the ruin of Kaffa, the scholar Codirolli discovered a parchment with the testimony of the physician who attended the dying of the Franciscan friar who spoke of three trials at the location of the Grail. Codirolli later shared the Kaffa parchment with Jones around 1920.[6]

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

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.[1]

At the close of 1937,[6] Donovan hired Henry Jones to search for the Grail alongside archaeologist 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. 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, he discovered Schneider's Nazi affiliations and sent the book to his estranged son: Indiana Jones. He was abducted by the Nazis soon afterwards.[1]

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 their leader, Kazim, 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 Hatay. In order to reach the cup, the Jones was 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". 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.[1]

On Elsa Schneider's recommendation, Donovan made the mistake of choosing a False Grail which he saw as most befitting a "King of Kings" and 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.[1]

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.[1]

Though the Grail was ultimately lost, the experience gave both Indiana and his father the chance to mend their rocky relationship. Before leaving the Temple of the Sun, Indy and his father looked at the Grail Knight.[1] He smiled at them, content that the Grail, beyond anyone's reach, was once again safe.[10]


Years 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."[11] However, the Grail did have an effect beyond the Temple of the Sun, as it rejuvenated the health of Henry Jones Senior, who was nearly murdered at the hands of Donovan.[1] The Grail's final kindness permitted the elder Jones a peaceful passing through a natural death as opposed to homicide, a fitting legacy for the peaceful artifact.[12]

Behind the scenes[]

The prop Holy Grail currently resides at Industrial Light and 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. 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.

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.

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

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.[13]



Notes and references[]

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