The Nanteos Cup, which is claimed by some to be the Holy Grail, will be on permanent display at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth from Saturday (June 18).
This fragile piece of wood is all that remains of an ancient mazer bowl commonly known as the Nanteos Cup. According to one tradition, the Nanteos Cup is the Holy Grail and fashioned from a piece of the True Cross itself. Another tradition claims that it is actually the cup from which Christ and his disciples drank at the Last Supper.
The exact origin of the cup is a mystery, but according to tradition the relic came into the possession of the Powell family of Nanteos from Strata Florida Abbey during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
It is believed that seven Cistercian monks escaped from the abbey with the cup and sought refuge at Nanteos. Following the death of the last of the brothers, the cup was left to the family and has been treasured and preserved ever since.
Pedr ap Llwyd, the library’s director of collections and public programmes, said:
“At last, this much revered ancient relic has returned home to Ceredigion and Wales and placing it on permanent display will allow visitors to the library to view this mysterious object.
“Whether the vessel is the Holy Grail or a piece of the True Cross or a communion cup which belonged at one time to the abbey at Strata Florida Abbey, visitors have to decide the truth for themselves. This is truly a remarkable object and a very interesting addition to the national collections. We are grateful to the Mirylees family for entrusting the safekeeping of the cup to the National Library.”
Since the 19th century, it has been claimed that the cup possesses a supernatural power to heal. It would be lent to the unwell in exchange for a valuable deposit, such as a gold watch or coins, as to ensure its safe return to Nanteos. The patient would normally drink from the cup, however it is thought that many nibbled the wood hoping to increase its so-called mystical effectiveness.
The cup was exhibited publicly for the first time in St David’s College, Lampeter at a meeting of the Cambrian Archaeological Society in 1878 and word soon spread about its alleged healing properties.
In 1901, George Eyre Evans, a local historian from Aberystwyth, arranged a tour of Strata Florida and Nanteos, which resulted in widening the appeal of the cup and its virtues. Interest in the cup increased over the years and people from all over the world have visited Nanteos to view the cup and place their faith in its reputed powers.
Nanteos mansion was sold in 1967 and the cup was taken to Ross on Wye where the family made their new home. In 2014, the cup was stolen from the home of one of its owners, before being found again a year later.
To coincide with the arrival of the cup, Professor David Austin will present a lecture in the Drwm at The National Library of Wales on July 9: ‘Strata Florida and its Sacred Landscape: a context for the Nanteos Cup’.
The cup is on display from Monday to Friday 9.30am – 6pm and Saturday from 9.30 am – 5pm.