The Nanteos Cup has a fascinating history. Legend relates that it extends back more than 2,000 years. It is believed by many to be the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper when he changed table wine into his blood.
To follow the cup on its journey through time and space, it is necessary to learn a little more about Joseph of Arimathea, the wealthy man who donated his own tomb as Jesus' burial site.
Legend suggests that Joseph was the brother of Joachim, who was the father of Mary, Jesus' mother. Thus, he was Mary's uncle and Jesus great-uncle. Since he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the group of Jewish elders who desired Jesus' death, Joseph had tried to keep his relationship to Jesus a secret.
However, Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus. It is said that he owned the house, with the upper room in Jerusalem, where Jesus had eaten the Passover meal with his disciples on Holy Thursday. The cutlery and the dishes also belonged to him.
After Joseph claimed Jesus' body and buried it in his own tomb, the news of their kinship became common knowledge. Both the Jews and the Romans were provoked by his duplicity and Joseph was forced to flee the country. He took with him the sacred cup which was used at the Last Supper.
Joseph fled with a party of Jesus' followers, which included his son, Josephus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus from Bethany, Zaacheus, Mary Magdalene and the Apostle, Philip. They sailed along the Mediterranean to Marseilles. Some of the party remained there, but Joseph sailed on until he reached the southwest coast of England.
He settled in Glastonbury, where the King Arviragus who had been a business acquaintance, bestowed a land grant on these "Judean refugees". Joseph erected a church in 37 A.D. and hid the precious cup on the site.
It remained hidden until 725 A.D. when the Saxons overran Somerset and the church was demolished. The cup was rediscovered during the demolition, enclosed in a box with documentation about its history, and entrusted to the care of Benedictine monks. In time, the church and the abbey were rebuilt.
In 1539, King Henry VIII announced the dissolution of all Roman Catholic monasteries.
The Abbot and six older monks, carrying the cup with them, fled over the mountains to Wales. They lived peacefully there at the abbey in Strata Florida for three years, until Henry's troops located and threatened them there.
The monks were forced to flee again, and this time they were directed to the Powell estate at Nanteos, near Aberystwyth, Wales. Here, the elderly monks passed away, one by one. When the last one was on his deathbed, he revealed the secret of the cup to Lord Powell and charged him to keep it under the protection of the Powell family, until " the Church shall claim her own."
The cup stayed in the possession of the Powell family for the next 400 years. There are many testimonials claiming that drinking water from the cup cured numerous illnesses. Water that had rested in the cup was sent around the world and reportedly worked many miracles.
Some pilgrims who traveled to Nanteos House took bites out of the sides of the cup in hopes of enhancing the healing blessings it conferred. The artifact, as it exists today, has been damaged by these and other hardships it has endured during the past 2,000 years.
The last Powell passed away in 1952, and the house was sold to the Mirylees family. In an effort to guard their privacy and also the cup, the Mirylees family sold Nanteos House and moved to Herefordshire. The cup is reported to be stowed away in a safety deposit box in Lloyd's Bank in London.
In a 1959 article, Marjory Mirylees hinted that the cup was still being used in a limited way to heal those with life-threatening illnesses. She was also interviewed for a BBC documentary in 1997. The Nanteos Cup itself was displayed in 2001 at the launching of the book, "Nanteos- a Welsh House and Its Families".
Is the Nanteos Cup the real Holy Grail, the vessel Jesus used at the Last Supper? There are believers and detractors; those who wholeheartedly accept the truth of the legend, and those who vehemently deny its veracity. The history of the Nanteos Cup is shrouded in so many myths and legends that each reader can form his or her own opinion and find convincing evidence to substantiate their choice.