11. Telling Stories About the Grail Led to the Development of Medieval Literature
Stories of the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper that came to be associated with mystical, healing powers, have a precedent that predates Christianity: Celtic lore in the British Isles. Celtic beliefs mostly revolved around the things that give life, namely, the seasons, agriculture, plants and animals, and the family hearth. Of particular importance were cauldrons, which were used to prepare food, and dishes in which food was served. These cauldrons and platters became associated with communal rituals that celebrated life and fertility (which is why they became associated with witchcraft and devil worship).
Europe’s pre-Christian lore was suppressed mainly and censored by the Catholic Church. However, these pagan stories never entirely went away, and they often reappeared in different forms, containing Christian elements. One example is the Holy Grail legends, which may actually be retellings of Celtic myths in which things like cauldrons have mystical powers. This use of the Holy Grail brought about the beginnings of what we would call Medieval literature. It began to appear in the 12th century, during the time of the Crusades and developed into things like the Arthurian legends. Whereas writing about pagan cauldrons would not have been permitted by the church, retelling them by using the grail was acceptable because the grail was a sacred relic from the life of Jesus.