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The Marian Chalice and The Da Vinci Code

 

 

Although Graham's original research into the mystery of the Marian Chalice was carried out over ten years ago, there are a number of remarkable similarities with the plot of The Da Vinci Code.  (For the full story of Graham's search for the Marian Chalice, the historical object that may have inspired the legend of the Holy Grail, see> here.)

 

 

A Brief Recap

 

 

The stained-glass window in Hodnet Church depicting the four gospel writers.

  The figure of St. John is portrayed holding a chalice, and above him is the image of an eagle.

   These were the clues that led Graham to the eagle statue in Hawkstone Park.

 

 

In the nineteenth century Thomas Wright, an historian from the English county of Shropshire, claimed to have possessed the Holy Grail.   He purported that it had been handed down to him through generations of his ancestors, the Shropshire Peverel family who claimed to have possessed the Holy Grail in the Middle Ages (Wright's mother was a descendant of the Peverels; his father was a Yorkshire man.)  Furthermore, in the 1850s, Wright said that he had hidden the relic, leaving a trail of cryptic clues to lead to its secret location.  (Why he did this is unknown, but it may have been that he had no heir to pass it onto.)  Most of Wright's contemporaries regarded him as something of an eccentric, and so few people took his claim seriously.   When Graham learned about it, however, he was not so inclined to dismiss it out of hand.   After all, Wright's ancestors' castle at Whittington seems to have inspired the setting for the Grail Castle in the Arthurian Romances.  Perhaps the Peverel family really had possessed an ancient relic that they believed was the Holy Grail, and what Wright claimed to have hidden was this same artifact.  Wright had certainly gone to a great deal of expense and trouble to set his trail of clues, the last of which was a large stained-glass window that he designed and paid to have installed in the parish church of Hodnet, a Shropshire village some twelve miles east of Whittington.   When Graham discovered the window, he was intrigued: did it really hold clues to reveal the whereabouts of something that was thought to be the Holy Grail?  Or was it merely an elaborate Victorian joke?

 

 

The Search for the Grail

 

 

 

The grotto where the eagle statue can still be seen

 is in a labyrinth of artificial caves cut into the rocks

 beneath this ruined arch on a rugged hill at Hawkstone Park.

 

 

Graham examines the damaged eagle statue in the cave grotto at Hawkstone Park in Shropshire.

 

 

Walter Langham, the man who discovered the cup hidden in the base of the eagle statue in 1920.

The stained-glass window in Hodnet church depicts the four gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and one of these figures, St. John, is actually shown holding a chalice. (See photograph at the top of this page.) Above the figures' heads there are depicted four other images: an angel, a lion, a bull, and an eagle.  These were the early Christian symbols for the four Gospels. However, Graham eventually discovered, they were also the subject of four statues that Thomas Wright had commissioned to be erected in a cave grotto on the estate of Hawkstone Park, some three miles west of Hodnet.  If the window really did contain a message, Graham reasoned, then it probably related to these statues.  As the image depicted above the figure with the chalice - St. John - was the eagle, then perhaps it was in, or under the eagle statue that the relic was hidden.

 

Two of the original four statues survive in the cave: the lion and the eagle.  The lion statue is fully intact, but when Graham examined the eagle statue he found that it was badly damaged.  Nonetheless, what remained indicated that the full statue had been completely solid and carved from a single piece of stone.   Graham realized that there was no way anything could have been hidden inside it.  However, it had once stood on a pedestal, so something might have been placed inside that.  The problem was that this had been destroyed in 1920 when a local businessman named Walter Langham decided to buy the statues from the landowner to have them erected in his garden. When Langham tried to remove them from the caves, they proved too heavy and the lifting tackle broke; the eagle statue was damaged and the base was completely smashed.  Graham discovered something concerning this incident in a contemporary guide book that was both exciting and disheartening.  When the base broke apart, it was found to be partly hollow, and inside something was discovered: it was described as "an interesting curio" "a small green cup made from stone".

 

This had to have been the artifact Thomas Wright had claimed was the Holy Grail.  Although it seemed that Graham had successfully solved Wright's cryptic trail of clues, the prize had already been found completely by accident decades before.  As far as Graham could discover, Walter Langham had no idea what the object was.  Had he sold it or thrown it away?  Was it lost forever?

 

After further research Graham discovered that Langham had considered the cup to be an interesting oddity because of the unusual circumstances in which it was found.  Langham had given up trying to move the statues but luckily he had kept the cup.  When Graham traced and contacted Langham's descendants, he was delighted to discover that it was still in their possession.  In fact, they had it stored away with junk in their attic.  Nevertheless, like their ancestor, they had absolutely no idea what it was.  The artifact was a small stone vessel made from onyx, a type of green alabaster, and was about the size and shape of an eggcup.   It was nothing like Graham had been expecting to find.

 

 

The Hawkstone Cup

 

The Holy Grail is usually depicted as an ornate golden chalice, but if the Grail had been the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper - which it traditionally is - it is unlikely to have been such an elaborate vessel.  The cup of a man who led a life of poverty was probably a far simpler vessel, possible one made from stone.  Nevertheless, the object  found in the eagle statue was too small to have been used as a drinking cup.   If this was the artifact passed down to Thomas Wright by his ancestors, why should he or his predecessors ever have thought it was the Holy Grail?

 

           

 

The small stone vessel discovered in the eagle statue in the cave grotto at Hawkstone Park.

 

Graham took the artifact to the British Museum where it was identified it as a Roman-style ointment or scent jar, probably dating from the first century AD.   Furthermore, it was made from green alabaster, also known as onyx, a popular material used by artisans of that time in the area of Palestine.  Jesus lived during the first century, and he  preached around Palestine.  Remarkably, the vessel might actually have originated from the right place and the right time to have had some association with Christ.  However, it surely could not have been the cup used at the Last Supper; it was too small.  It might, though, have been another relic that has been associated with the Holy Grail - a scent jar that had belonged to Jesus' follower Mary Magdalene.

 

 

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