Academic journal article German Quarterly

Gemstone of Paradise. The Holy Grail in Wolfram's

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Gemstone of Paradise. The Holy Grail in Wolfram's

Article excerpt

Murphy, G. Ronald, S.J. Gemstone of Paradise. The Holy Grail in Wolfram's Parzival Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 241 pp. $29.95 hardcover.

This is a thoroughly engaging book, dealing more specifically than usual with the perennial question of the perception and (more significantly) the importance of the Grail in Wolfram's Parzival, but going well beyond that to offer an interpretation and indeed an appreciation of Wolfram's poem as a whole. Wolfram's Grail, of course, is described as a stone, and the study concludes that what Wolfram had in mind was a portable altar-stone with a place for the Host. It should perhaps be stressed that we are not pursuing "the Holy Grail," however much attention it may have received in popular culture lately, although there is indeed an additional narrative here of a personal pursuit, which frames the scholarly investigation of the poem and suggests an identification of what may have been in Wolfram's mind when he envisioned his Grail: a portable altar in the Bamberg Domschatz, green on top and with the rivers of paradise on it (the rare reading of Abenberc in the text as Babenberc is, however, treated with due caution). The work is far more extensive than this rather specific point, however, and looks at the knowledge and literary use of gemstones in the work, at the use of such altars during the Crusades, and even more broadly at Wolfram's pleas for tolerance at the sack of (Christian) Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204. There is a useful etymological excursus on five of the women's names in the poem (although whether the name Sigune is really a deliberate anagram for cosine, mentioned several times, remains debatable) and another with extracts from the Egbert Pontifical and from the Middle English Caxton Eracles on the consecration of the altar and the veneration of the Holy Sepulcher. The work is fully and usefully illustrated.

Murphy argues that the Bamberg altar inspired Wolfram's concept of the Grail, which is of course famously unspecific when he calls it ein dinc, and other links have been made with the stone in Apocalypse 2:17. But even the neutral designation is solidly material, and Murphy offers a detailed and convincing contextualization of the Grail into medieval thought on precious stones, and into the liturgical context, focussing upon the links between the stone altar and the representations of the Holy Sepulcher. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.