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Gemstone of ParadiseThe Holy Grail in Wolfram's “Parzival”$

G. Ronald Murphy

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195306392

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0195306392.001.0001

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(p.215) Appendix 2 Two Medieval Texts on the Consecration of the Altar and the Veneration of the Sepulcher

(p.215) Appendix 2 Two Medieval Texts on the Consecration of the Altar and the Veneration of the Sepulcher

Gemstone of Paradise
Oxford University Press

The two early medieval texts from England show the close analogy felt between the altar (in this case a fixed altar) and the Holy Sepulcher. The first is excerpted from the liturgy for the consecration of an altar as given in the Egbert pontifical. It antedates the First Crusade, coming from approximately 950 AD or a bit later. The second text is excerpted from the Middle English version of William of Tyre's account of the crusaders' first visit to the Sepulcher after the fall of Jerusalem in 1099. To William of Tyre's aristocratically distanced account, the Middle English version has added several lines rooted in fidelity, triuwe, about feeling the presence of the body of Christ in the Sepulcher. Both texts show congruence with Wolfram's presentation of the Grail.


Benedictio tabulae: “Dominum deum omnipotentem patrem artificem et immensae molis admirabilem conditorem … deprecemur … lapis Christus unigenitus excissus sine manibus … compage angulari solidaret. Ut adtollere caput sciret in caelum, quae de caelo acceperat fundamentum. Lapidem quoque hunc ad conficienda vitae sacramenta compositum, ita chrismate divinae sanctificationis suffundat, et aeterni luminis benedictione illustret, quatenus efficiatur altare sacrum caelesti impetu fluminis irrigatum.”

Oratio ad corporale benedicendum. “Benedic omnipotens deus pater domini iesu christi pannum istum lineum benedictione caelesti ad capienda mysteria caelestia corporis et sanguis domini nostri iesu christi filii tui, sicut per evangelia in sindone linea et (p.216) munda sepultam cognovimus carnem domini nostri iesu christi … atque in sindone ioseph lino texta totum te involvi permisisti.” …

Deinde vadunt ad eum locum in quo reliquiae per totam noctem preteritam cum vigiliis fuerunt et dicit sacerdos orationem hanc antequam inde levantur: “Aufer a nobis quaesumus domine iniquitates nostras ut et sancta sanctorum puris mereamur mentibus introire.”

Finita vero oratione elevant eas sacerdotes cum feretro, et cum honore dignissimo, cum crucibus et thuribulis atque candelabris et luminibus multis, laudes deo decantando, cum his antifonis. “De hierusalem exeunt reliquiae et salvatio de monte sion; Ambulate sancti dei ad locum destinatum quod vobis praeparatum est ab origine mundi.” Dum autem pervenerint ad ianuam ecclesiae canatur litania. Expleta vero dicit episcopus: “Ingredere benedicte domine praeparata est habitatio sedis tuae.”

Venientes autem ante altare et extenso velo inter eos et populum, facit episcopus crucem de sancto chrismate intus in confessione in medio ubi ponende sunt reliquiae, et per iiii angulos ipsius ita dicendo, “In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti. Pax tibi. Et cum spiritu tuo.” Deinde ponit tres portiones corpus domini intus in confessione et tres de incenso et recluduntur intus reliquiae, canentes: “Sub altare domini sedes accipitis. …” Deinde ponatur tabula desuper id est mensa altaris.1


The blessing of the altar table: “Lord God, almighty Father, designer and wondrous creator of this massive [stone], we beseech you that this stone, Christ your only Son, cut out without the help of human hands, will be the solid, unifying cornerstone. May this stone [altar] be able to lift its head into the heavens—the place from which its foundation came. May this stone, put together for the purpose of carrying out the sacraments of life, be flooded with chrism, the oil of divine sanctification, and may it be radiant with the blessing of eternal light—since it is becoming the sacred altar flowing with the river whose source is in heaven.”

Prayer for blessing the corporal. “Almighty God, Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, bless this linen cloth with your heavenly blessing so that it may hold the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, for we know from the gospels that the flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ was buried in a clean linen shroud … God, the Word who became flesh and lived completely among us, you permitted yourself to be wrapped up completely by Joseph in a linen shroud.”

Then they go to the place where the relics were kept throughout the entire preceding night with vigils, and the priest says this prayer before the relics are lifted up and carried: “Take away our sins, we ask you, Lord, so that with we may deserve to enter with clear consciences into the Holy of Holies.”


When he is finished the prayer, the priests lift them up and carry them in the portable reliquary, the feretory, with the greatest honor, with crosses and thuribles, with candelabra and with many lights, as they sing the praise of God with the following antiphons: “The remnants [here understood as parallel to relics] went forth from Jerusalem and salvation went forth from Mount Zion; Saints of God, walk to the place which has been destined and prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” When they have made their way to the door, they chant the litany [of the saints]. When they are finished the bishop says: “Come in, blessed Lord, the place for your throne has been prepared.”

When they come before the altar a veil is extended between them and the people. The bishop makes a cross using holy chrism inside the cavity at the top of the altar base [the confessio, “place for witnesses,” also called the sepulchrum] where the relics are to be put, and also on the four corners of the same, saying [to the altar]: “In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy Spirit. Peace be with you. And with your spirit.” After this he places three particles of the Body of Christ inside, in the compartment, then three of incense, and then the relics are enclosed within while he sings: “Beneath the altar of the Lord you have received your thrones.” … Afterwards the table, that is, the altar mensa is secured on top.”


Thenne began they goo bare foot, and in wepyings and teers [tears], into the holy places of the Cyte [city] where our sauyour Ihesu Criste had ben bodyly. They kyssed the place moche swetly [sweetly, devoutly] where his feet had touched. The Crysten peple and the clergye of the toun, to whom the turkes had many tymes don [done] grete shames for the name of Ihesu Criste, cam with procession & bare [bore] such relyques as they had ayents [toward] the barons; and brought them, yeldyng [yielding, giving] thankes to Almychty God, into the Sepulcre. And there it was a pytous thing to see how the peple wepte for joye and pyte. And how they fylle doun a crosse to fore [fell down prostrate before] the sepulcre. It seemed to everyche of them that eche [each one] sawe there the bodye of onr lord there deed [dead]. There were so many teers and wepyings that every man thought certaynly oure lord was there.



(1.) Two Anglo-Saxon Pontificals (the Egbert and Sidney Susses Pontificals), ed. H.M.J. Banting (London: Henry Bradshaw Society, 1989), pp. 46–50.