Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Grail: from myth to reality - by Philip Coppens

The basic Grail account opens with a young man, Perceval, encountering knights and realising he wants to be one. Despite his mother’s objections, the boy trains for the knighthood and begins a series of travels. On one such trip, he comes across the Fisher King, who invites him to stay at his castle. While there, he witnesses a strange procession in which young men and women carry magnificent objects from one chamber to another, passing before him at each course of the meal.
The first person to write about the Grail was Chrétien de Troyes, who did not identify the nature of the Grail itself. Subsequent authors, like Robert de Boron, identified it as a Christian relic, and normally as the cup used during the Last Supper. However, the German author Wolfram von Eschenbach then wrote his Grail book, Parzival, in which he stated that previous authors had committed serious errors in their accounts, while at the same time identifying the Grail as a stone that had fallen from heaven, and which displayed supernatural qualities, bestowing apparent longevity on those who were near it, as well as attracting water.
Parcival has a unique position in the Grail literature, but is still seen as a work of fiction. Wolfram stated that the characters of those who possessed the Grail were genuine people, whose names and histories his sources had investigated in Latin documents. Furthermore, Wolfram did not write fiction, and stating that Parzival is nothing but a work of fiction therefore needs an explanation why Wolfram departed from his non-fictional writings to meddle in the fictional literature.
There are over 600 names in Parzival and its sequel Titurel combined, resulting in one of the longest identification parades ever. As most believe we are faced with a literary invention by Wolfram, any identification with historical characters seems futile.
Interestingly, most of those who have attempted this match, have tried to find correspondences with the kings and nobles of Aragon. This is interesting, for Guyot de Provins, one of the primary candidates for the role of Kyot of Provence, had strong ties with Aragon. Guyot wrote about the kings of Aragon, who were his magnanimous protectors: his patron was Alfonso the Chaste, Alfonso II, the son of Alfonso I (1104-1134), who freed Saragossa from Moorish domination in 1118.
Using this as his starting point, Swiss scholar, André de Mandach, began his research, resulting in the first publication of his work in 1992, arguing for the existence of an “UrParzival”. De Mandach felt that Wolfram’s account might not only be based on real events, he also wondered whether the legend was perhaps written in a code. The key to unlock this code, de Mandach felt, lay in the history of the Northern Spanish kingdoms, in the period of 1104 to 1137. Is it not a nice coincidence that Flegetanis, the enigmatic “first source” from which Wolfram stated he retained his information, is a family name in the Empordà, the northern Catalonian region of Spain?
The Grail Code
De Mandach realised that the key to breaking the code was the “honorary surnames”, nicknames, which was a popular tradition in Spain and specifically in Islam since the 7th century AD. Indeed, the practice became so popular that it was exported to other parts of Western Europe, with kings being labelled “the Good”, “the Seemly”, “the Just”, etc.
He argued that Anfortas, identified as a king, was thus King “something” Anfortas – “something” requiring to be substituted with a name like Alfonso, Raymond, or another popular name of the time. This approach is much more direct than most researchers’ attempts, when trying to explain that Anfortas might come from the ancient French “enferté(z)”, itself derived from the Latin “infirmitate(m)”. Such reasoning is indirect at best.
Alfonso I of Aragon
This approach enabled de Mandach to identify this person as King Alfonso I of Aragon, who was nicknamed “Anfortius”. Indeed, it is that simple: Anfortas was Anfortius. He is identified as such numerous times, including in his will, and in Flamenca, where he is known as “Anfors”. Coins minted under his reign identify him as “ANFUS REX”, some of these coins having Toletta (Toledo) on the reverse side. Just on this basis alone, it is clear that de Mandach had just cracked the code. The question is why it lasted until 1992 until someone did so. And why few have noted his contribution. Perhaps the reason can be found in the fact that de Mandach wrote for a scientific audience, who had impossible pains to accept the historical nature of the Grail account.
Read More:
Servants of the Grail

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