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The Quest of the Holy Grail

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,873 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Composed by an unknown author in early thirteenth-century France, The Quest of the Holy Grail is a fusion of Arthurian legend and Christian symbolism, reinterpreting ancient Celtic myth as a profound spiritual fable. It recounts the quest of the knights of Camelot - the simple Perceval, the thoughtful Bors, the rash Gawain, the weak Lancelot and the saintly Galahad - as th ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 28th 1969 by Penguin Classics (first published 1230)
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3.94  · 
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This is the story of the Quest for the Holy Grail by the knights of King Arthur's court. The ideal of knighthood here is a spiritual one so the flawed and worldly Lancelot is replaced as foremost knight by his unsullied son, Galahad.

Combat and the perils described here are also spiritual, spurring your horse into battle to aid the weaker side runs the risk of aiding the devils fighting against the angels. An incident which is repeated in several variations - not spurring your horse forward may
Jacob Aitken
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Although choppy at times, and the characters seem to be superhuman in terms of combat and piety, this remarkable book is useful on a number of levels.

What many reviewers fail to note is that this book was intended primarily to be a manual on spiritual growth, not to tell stories of great knights. Given the original audience, this makes sense. The average peasant in the 12th century would not be able to follow scholastic reasoning, but they would be able to follow a story of heroism and spiritual
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arthuriana
This is a modern translation of a work incorporated into Malory's "Morte D'Arthur," and at first glance there would seem to be no need for an new translation in the face of that monument. Yet this is the second of three that I know of.

There is good reason for this situation. Malory cut what he didn't like or understand, had a different understanding of the Grail than the thirteenth-century text he was translating in the fifteenth century, and had to make use of whatever manuscript came to hand.

Mary Overton
From the Introduction by translator P.M. Matarasso: "The QUESTE DEL SAINT GRAAL despite its Arthurian setting is not a romance, it is a spiritual fable. This may seem surprising in view of the fact it forms part of a vast compilation know as the PROSE LANCELOT, which might justifiably be called the romance to end romances. It is less surprising however when one considers that it is the product of a period when things were rarely quite what they seemed, when the outward appearance was merely a ga ...more
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This has easily become my favorite book. For those who have or intend to embark on their own personal quest for the grail, this book serves as an inspiration with all of its symbology and displays of inner strength and faith. The relatable qualities of each knight and character is endearing. It is through their strength and weakness, success and failure that one sees how difficult the journey to the grail (enlightenment) is. But, having Galahad reign most triumphant in all aspects of the quest g ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
If you are looking for spiritual symbolism, spiritual teachings and metaphoric analogies for enlightenment and spiritual quests etc.. you will find it in the Quest of the Holy Grail.

This book is by far the best of the Arthurian Legends, seeming the most authentic and undistorted.

It is right on my top 3 spiritual books along with The Bhagavad Gītā and The Flight of the Feathered Serpant which have each touched me and inspired me very unexpectantly.

I truly had no expectations when I picked up th
Emma Getz
This is like self-insert Bible fanfiction and Galahad is the self-insert who is a bastard and related to Jesus
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medieval
After reading The Mystery of King Arthur, I was in the mood for more of the Matter of Britain, so I read this volume, one I'd received for Christmas from my brother Michael some years ago.

The Quest of the Holy Grail is excellent. Matarasso's 20-page introduction is definitely worth the read -- she gives enough information and context for one to enjoy the book, but it doesn't feel weighed down or unbearable the way some introductions do. The key to understanding this text, as Matarasso observes,
Oct 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
The book was recommended by the instructor for a course on the origins of the myths about King Arthur. It was meant to be, for us, an introduction to the characters surrounding Arthur and succeeds on that level. But when the translator (the author is unknown) tells you in the introduction that this story is a spiritual fable, she is not understating the problem that many of us are going to have reading it.

And we're talking about Christianity in its early stages, just following the dark ages and
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Beginners and Advanced Spiritualists :)
Recommended to Roumissette by: another friend
This is a great little spiritual book that was recommended to me by a friend. I did not know what to expect and thought that all I needed to know about Lancelot was that he was the knight that steals his best friend and King's wife; but the story was written as a spiritual text, to teach people about enlightenment. It was then used as inspiration for other texts on forbidden love.

But this book rocks. Galahad is amazing in terms of showing the behavior and standards required to be worthy of recei
Persephone Abbott
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it
You know there is a marvelous story about a man and his posse, come from a far, crescent region, enough to inspire island locals or incite jealousy. But let’s not be blasphemous. No, let’s politically integrate identities and reap the rewards in good company and hospitality, well just in case we all fall into disfavor.

It’s rural, it’s travel, it’s communication points, it’s holy sites, it’s territorial. It fills a void. Accessories optional.
Anna Groover
Best Bible fanfic I’ve ever read

(Bonus points to me for taking 200 pages to realize that “Saint Graal” means “Holy Grail” and not some random saint with the name “Graal”)
Richard Bartholomew
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
This tale is described as an "anti-Romance", with pious and virginal knights whose ideals are a critique of the "cult of the lady" and other aspects of courtly chivalry. As expected, the knights travel around rescuing maidens and attacking castles, but visions also abound and the landscape is dotted with mysterious chapels and innumerable hermits who pop up at convenient moments to give interpretations and religious discourses. Lancelot encounters several of these in a row while repenting his ad ...more
Apr 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
And now I see why Malory's quest for the Holy Grail always felt a disconnect from the rest of his work. This is certainly the most satisfying Grail quest I have read excepting perhaps Parzival which requires a complete reread at this point. It certainly suffers from the Medieval necessity to make everything a metaphor and to fully explain each and every vision of which there are many. Still, it is fresh water amidst the ocean of courtly love in Arthurian Lit.
Ed Smiley
Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
The translation is workable, and with copious footnotes for those who have't read much of the Bible. Yes, it's allegorical.

This is, in a way, thirteenth century revisionism, reworking the earlier naturalistic chivalric tradition and the Celtic mythos (can I say mythos without cracking up?... mythos, mythos, mythos, OK, it is a little pedantic, but I will let it stand).

It does not attempt to deconstruct gallantry as such, and still gives a shout out to incredible, and sometimes absurd feats of a
Kevin Hogg
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Fun to read about the series of adventures that each knight encounters. A bit disappointing and frustrating at times, though. Were knights really that stupid? Some of the mysterious things they see clearly need interpretation, but others seem incredibly straightforward. Like, if they know that black and white are opposites, they should be able to figure that the good person wearing white and the bad person wearing black are on opposite sides. And it got old to hear over and over again that the m ...more
Aaron Crofut
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I liked the idea, I liked the moral, but I just was not impressed with the execution. The supernatural elements occur so frequently and the main characters act too nonchalantly to be very impressed with them. These events took me out of the story. There's also no real tension. At no point do the characters seem in any real danger of failing. There were a couple of exceptions, especially the dilemma of Bors versus his brother Lionel, but otherwise there are few moments when the outcome is really ...more
Nicholas Bobbitt
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is just in general a wonderful Arthurian tale. There's not much else to ask for from it.
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
This is an epic work of literature, though the value is less in the prose (which is so ghastly as to be comical) than in the book ability to transport the reader directly into the distant past. This is a bizarre past, where the Lamb of God is much less a lamb than a fierce lion. Some of the choice quotes below give a sense of the brutality that the author engages with so easily. So incongruent is this worldview with my own that I spent a good part of my time catching myself from laughing, rememb ...more
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
At first glance The Quest of the Holy Grail looks like another chivalric romance, but it's actually a religious allegory that sets out to be the antithesis of those.

As it starts off the knights of the round table set out in different directions to find the holy grail and the novel follows the most famous of them as they happen upon a number of adventures along the way. As they leave the treshold of King Arthur's castle however it's as if we enter an alternate, spiritual dimension, because none
Drew Darby
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
May also be titled "The Utter Debasement of Lancelot." Thinking I was merely in for some good old-fashioned Grail lore, I had actually begun a pretty amazing spiritual work on what it takes to actually seek an unveiled encounter with the Divine. Few of the storied knights of the Round Table prove worthy enough to even encounter any "adventures" on this spiritual quest, but rather seem to wander aimlessly until giving up—in this book, a sure sign of the spiritual blindness of most of the knights. ...more
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Though its title led me to expect chivalric romance, this is actually an introductory meditation manual for lay people. So ... basically I was exactly the reader the book wanted. It has all the usual faults of a promise-one-thing-deliver-another religious novel. If you read it primarily as an entertainment, it's interrupted constantly by preaching and hamfisted allegories. If you read it as devotional literature in the allegorical mode, it features superior storytelling and invention, but has so ...more
Feb 15, 2012 added it

The quests for the holy grail despite its Arthurian setting it is not a romance but, a spiritual fable most medieval literature can be read on more that one level.
But the quest of the Holy Grail has a place in the cannon of spiritual literature
Not among the theological treatise but, works of popular appeal.
As this is a combinations of translations welsh French Cistercians
And thia may have not been a comedy, unless in the dantetan sense

Anthony J.
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The "Queste del Saint Graal" is nothing short of a masterpiece. It could stand as one of the greatest pieces of medieval literature strictly on its merits as a story of fantastic adventures and legendary battles. However, to limit an understanding of this French anti-romance to its surface features would be to under-appreciate the timeless qualities of this spiritual fable. Ultimately, this book is an allegory for man's quest to see God, born of an innate desire to comprehend the divine and to k ...more
Babis Papadimitriou
Well, how should i rate this book. Should i rate it as progenitor of modern novels or as a paper valuable only to modern scholars of Arthurian legend. Should i rate it as a medieval theological treatise? The truth is this book is more of the latter. It was really painful to finish it because of this. As a piece of literature doesn't have much aesthetic value. Thus the two star rating. This is a book that will be found enjoyable only by those who like myself love arthurian legend or want to see t ...more
russell barnes
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
Slightly more religious than I anticipated, but that made it all the more inadvertantly amusing. You can see where Terry Jones got most of the source material to take the piss out of in Monty Python and Holy Grail.

It's brilliant, particularly whenever God gets involved when the otherwise Byzantine dreams and visions easily get explained as works of God. You get used to it, but it's still funny...
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
After having read much of the Grail legend, I still find this among the funniest of versions--given its authorship, which some scholars attribute to a member or members of a monastic order, the monks are portrayed as witty and brilliant, while most of the secular figures we know and love are characterized as incompetent nitwits. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is much less a tale of swords and daring-do than it is a fable of the search for righteousness and purity. Many knights take up the quest, but many fall away for one reason or another. It's a wonderful tale that measures its heroes more by their spirituality than by their skill and strength.
Benji Cossa
Sep 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Couples with the Death of King Arthur. It is an easier read than the Wolfram von Eschenbach version but also totally different. This one having Galahad as the true Grail hero. It is basically a string of allegorical vignettes which all get explained for you within the story as the adventure progresses.
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics
sermonizing classic wtih disconnected plot, good historical reference of course, very much related to monty python's quest for the holy grail. not fun to read otherwise of course, besides historical enlightenment.
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Books can be attributed to "Anonymous" for several reasons:

* They are officially published under that name
* They are traditional stories not attributed to a specific author
* They are religious texts not generally attributed to a specific author

Books whose authorship is merely uncertain should be attributed to Unknown.