The Holy Grail is an image familiar to us all as an almost unattainable, infinitely desirable goal. The idea has passed into everyday speech and the legends behind it are as current in today's culture as they have ever been. And yet the Grail has no real religious meaning and is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. What is the truth behind this elusive symbol? Here, Barber traces the history of the stories surrounding the Holy Grail. He describes how through a long series of imaginative transformations, the grail has moved from the sphere of romance to religion, and in twentieth century popular culture has become an emblem of mysticism and man's highest aspirations, intimately linked with the central ritual of the Christian faith. The search for the grail has always been described as a quest; in this book, Barber goes on his own quest, brilliantly exploring the richness of the Holy Grail's cultural impact. Barber traces the history of legends surrounding the Holy Grail, from Chretien de Troyes' great romances to the popular bestsellers of the late twentieth century.
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... [Barber] performs a valuable service in rescuing the original grail from 800 years of garbled and improbable misreadings. -- Nicholas Shakespeare, The Daily Telegraph, January 11, 2004
... a really valuable and fascinating book... One finishes the book just wishing there were more works like it. -- Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph, January 12, 2004
A survey .... of the versions of the Grail story... a fascinating compendium of theology, literary criticism and cultural history. -- Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Sunday Times, January 25, 2004
Barber has created a splendid foundation for a continuation to a compelling story. -- Juliette Wood, The Times, January 11, 2004
Its combination of scholarship and clarity might itself be described as an intellectual Holy Grail. -- Michael Arditti, Daily Mail, January 10, 2004
Richard Barber is one of Britain's leading authorities on medieval history. His books include The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe, The Knight and Chivalry (winner of the Somerset Maugham award), King Arthur: Hero and Legend, and Pilgrimages. He lives in Suffolk.
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