The Black Cup of Christ

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by Ancient X-Files production team

Filming the story of the Valencia chalice was an extraordinary experience. This is a relic that is venerated as the true cup of Christ, used at the Last supper, not just by the priests of the Cathedral, or the devout of Valencia, but by a wide outreaching community of researchers and academics, stretching around the world.

The Pope has said Mass with it and the priests and cannons of the Cathedral revere it to the point of protecting it behind bullet proof glass.

Only on one occasion has the chalice been taken out of the cabinet and put on display for television. This was the local Valencia news channel. This time under the watchful eye of the Knights of the Holy Chalice, an ordained fraternity who have all sworn an oath to venerate and protect the chalice, if necessary with their lives, did they actually get it out of a special glass box. Something rarely done and never for television. The Brotherhood watching on could not believe it. Don Jaime the Cannon responsible for the chalice’s safety seemed prepared to allow us to get some truly beautiful shots of it outside a glass box. It was a phenomenal moment. To be so close to such an important religious relic that many devout believers think was held by Christ.

The honours didn’t stop there. At the end of the filming the cameraman and myself were asked to sign a special visitors book for people who had special access to the chalice, and on page one was Pope John Paul the second and a little later Pope Benedictus.

In another section of the film we followed the story of Parsifal, written in the Middle Ages and the clues led right to a mountain monastery that was known to have kept the Valencia Chalice, in the 14th century. It was like reading a map rather than a story. Wherever we went the trail of this incredible relic left its mark in the landscape and legends. We picked up the trail in Jerusalem, asking a phenomenal archaeologist called Shimon Gibson to look at the evidence for the Last Supper and to talk about the kinds of cups that may have been used based on the archaeological evidence.

He had found the only ritual cup from the time of Christ ever to have been discovered in Jerusalem itself. It looked nothing like the Chalice. But it had a prayer written in cryptic writing all over it. It was undecipherable. Shimon said this was the point, as the prayer was private between the priest who wrote it and God.

Although it never made it into the film, Shimon had looked at the evidence in the Bible and compared it to archaeological finds around Jerusalem and believed he had found the most likely place where the Last Supper would have taken place. It is popularly believed this was on the Mount of Olives, but he showed quite compelling detective work and showed me an area around the Siloam Pool, where Jesus would have practised his blessing and baptising. All of this for a cup.

Video Preview: “Holy Grail Guard” — In Italy the keepers of the Holy Grail stand guard over a chalice they believe to be the actual cup used at the last supper.

Don’t miss Ancient X-Files The Holy Grail premiering September 27th at 9P et/pt.