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The High History of the Holy Grail

Author unknown. Translation by Sebastian Evans, 1898



   Mystic Realms      The High History of the Holy Grail

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The anonymous 'Perlesvaus' (entitled ‘The High History of the Holy Grail’ by Sebastian Evans in his translation) is believed to have been composed on the continent of Europe, circa 1220-1230, as a continuation of Chretien DeTroyes' unfinished work "Perceval, or the Knight of the Grail".  This romance is rather more mystical in tone than its predecessors although the basic events remain the same. Almost uniquely among the early grail texts this continental romance overtly draws on archaic Celtic legends. The hero of the tale, Perceval, comes from Kamelot in Wales. He is a descendant of Joseph of Arimathea. His grandfather was Alain li Gros. His uncles are King Pelles, the Fisher King and the evil king of Castel Mortel. In the romance Perceval encounters the 'Grail Knights' who wear white surcoats adorned with a red cross. The hero makes the journey to what is recognisable as a Celtic Elysium.


Contents of The High History of the Holy Grail

   *Introduction  *  
Branch I  * * Branch II * * Branch III *
* Branch IV * * Branch V * * Branch VI *
* Branch VII * * Branch VIII * * Branch IX *
* Branch X * * Branch XI * * Branch XII *
* Branch XIII * * Branch XIV * * Branch XV *
* Branch XVI * * Branch XVII * * Branch XVIII *
* Branch XIX * * Branch XX * * Branch XXI *
* Branch XXII * * Branch XXIII * * Branch XXIV *
* Branch XXV * * Branch XXVI * * Branch XXVII *
* Branch XXVIII * * Branch XXIX * * Branch XXX *
* Branch XXXI * * Branch XXXII * * Branch XXXIII *
* Branch XXXIV * * Branch XXXV *  


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The Celtic traditions become obvious when Perceval sails across the sea to the isle of the ageless elders.

"The ship has sped so far by day and by night, as it pleased God, that they saw a castle on an island of the sea....They came near the castle and heard four trumpets sound at the four corners of the walls very sweetly....They issued from the ship and went by the seaside to the castle, and within there were the fairest halls and the fairest mansions that one has ever seen. Perceval looks beneath a very fair tree, which was tall and broad, and sees the fairest and clearest fountain that anyone could describe, and it was all set about with rich golden pillars, and the gravel seemed to be of precious stones." – Perlesvaus

At the castle is a great hall filled with riches - cloths of silk, a depiction of the Savior, tables of gold and ivory and folk "full of great joy and seemed to be of great holiness." Thirty three men in white garments with red crosses on their breasts washed at a rich golden laver before sitting down to feast.

"While he was thus looking, he perceived above him a golden chain descending, adorned with precious stones; and in the midst was a crown of gold. The chain descended with great precision, and it held on to nothing but the will of Our Lord. As soon as the masters saw it being lowered, they opened a large, wide pit which was in the midst of the hall, so that one could see the hole plainly. As soon as the entrance of this pit was uncovered, there issued the greatest and most dolorous cries that anyone ever heard." - Perlesvaus

Compare the description of the island of the immortal elders in Perlesvaus with the description of Caer Sidi in the 'Spoils of Annwn’ - the four cornered fortress, , the two immortals, the glass tower with the silent sentry, the feasting, the prisoner.

"Perfect was the prison of Gwair in the Faery Fortress (Caer Sidi);

Before the spoils of Annwn dolefully he chanted...

In the Four-cornered Fortress, the isle of the strong door,...

Bright wine was their drink before their retinue...

It was difficult to converse with their sentinel. - The Spoils of Annwn

And the Mabinogion;-


"Perfect is my seat in the Faery Fortress (Caer Sidi)

Neither plague nor age harms him who dwells therein. 

Manawydan and Pryderi know it... 

And around its corners are ocean's currents. 

And the fructifying spring is above it. 

Sweeter than white wine is the drink in it." - Taliesin, Mabinogion

 'The description of the castle which rises from an island in the sea could come directly from Irish or Welsh legend of the blessed isles in the voyages of St. Brendan, or the feast of the followers of Bran on the blissful isle of Grassholm from the Mabinogion, the Kaer Sidi (Faery Fortress) of Taliesin or the otherworldly realm found in the Spoils of Annwyn

'Four trumpets sound at the four corners of the walls.' - from 'Holy Grail p.101+.

In ‘Perlesvaus’, Perceval conquers the Grail Castle after the death of his uncle. At the end of the romance the hero removes the coffins of Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, the Fisher king, his mother and his sister from the island - the entire lineage of the Grail;  and sets sail to the Isle of the Fountain of Youth. On his departure the Grail castle crumbles and falls.



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