The Silver Chalice

by Thomas B. Costain

Hardcover, 1952



A Greek artisan is commissioned to cast the cup of Christ in silver and sculpt around its rim the faces of the disciples and Jesus himself. He is struggling with his feeling and is torn between his adoring wife and a wily temptress. He travels to Jerusalem and eventually to Rome to complete the task. Meanwhile, a nefarious interloper is trying to convince the crowds that he is the new Messiah by using nothing more than cheap parlor tricks.

Library's rating


(114 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jeyra
The story of a poor man's son adopted by a wealthy Roman just after the time of Christ. As a silver-smith, the young man is commissioned to craft the frame for the holy grail and in the process, meets many of the apostles. Appropriate for all readers.
LibraryThing member MerryMary
A young sculptor is commissioned to create a frame for the cup from the Last Supper. He travels around the Roman Empire, sculpting the faces of Jesus' disciples, and praying for the chance to see Christ's face.

Inscribed: Erma M. Spray (grandmother)
LibraryThing member mmignano11
This novel begins in Antioch, shortly after Christ's death and resurrection. Ambrose, a young boy, is sold after his father's death(a common custom in those days)to make good on his father's debts. It is a difficult transition for a boy who is accustomed to the typical freedom of youth, as well as never giving a thought to how fortunate he was to eat well and have more than decent clothes to wear. After he is purchased as a slave his name is changed to Basil, and he begins to perform as a slave for a silversmith where he learns the trade, masters the art and soon outshines those who taught him. His imagination and talent causes his work to have an aspect that brings life to it. He soon catches the eye of Luke, the apostle, as he is seeking a man of particular talents. Basil is talented, modest and clean living. Luke approaches him and asks him to create the case or the chalice that will hold the silver cup that Christ and his disciples drank from at what would become known as the Last Supper. The design Basil comes up with includes the likenesses of the disciples, and most importantly, that of Christ.
Quickly, it becomes obvious that it is necessary to move Basil, as his greedy older brother seeks to harm him, if only he can discover his whereabouts. He is brought to stay with Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and devout follower of Christ, and the grandfather of the lovely and pious Deborah.

The characters that Basil confronts, those that care for him and those who are his enemies,are well-drawn, and form the basis of the book. Without the help of many, Basil would not accomplish his work and thus achieve his destiny. The nefarious characters that wish him ill are equally important in this book. Basil is constantly in a struggle with good and evil, light and dark.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Basil's journey from Antioch to Jerusalem is accomplished only with the help of many others. These characters are both well-developed and believable. Basil's struggle with the relationship that he develops with two beautiful young women (again portraying the struggle between good and evil)is both exciting and revealing. Basil is a young man with the desire to be righteous and at the same time kind. He can feel the tug of desire while himself desiring nothing more than to be recognized by the woman he truly loves.

After looking at some other reviews I realize that they there exists varying opinions on the novel. While I was engrossed in the story, it seems some readers found the writing amateurish and dull. I could not disagree more with that opinion. It is quite a long book,so some parts do tend to drag, but I find that in every book I read there is one if not several passages that could have been edited more closely. Those parts only left me looking forward to the more entertaining parts of the book. If you have ever read any of Taylor Caldwell's historical fiction, it is very similar, in that it takes a long distant past and makes it seem relevant. At the least, I would say to give the book a shot.The beginning dragged a bit, as did a few other parts, but not enough to make me abandon reading. The rest of the book was delightful enough to disregard a few slow passages.

Hugely recommended.
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LibraryThing member janerawoof
Basil, the son of a poor seller of pens and ink is adopted by a rich merchant in Antioch. The young man is a gifted sculptor and silversmith. Upon the merchant's death, his evil uncle steals his patrimony and sells him into slavery. The book follows his meeting early Christians and at the behest of Joseph of Arimathea [sp.?] he fashions a silver frame for the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper. Basil travels from Antioch to Ephesus then Rome to sculpt the faces of the apostles, which, in silver, will adorn the chalice. Basil also tries to regain his inheritance and his citizenship.

A classic, still a good story and worthwhile reading, the novel is written in an old-fashioned manner and the passing of years have not been kind to it. Style has so changed. It was packed with tiny details, which while adding to the vividness of the narration, sometimes slowed down the action. There were anachronisms galore. I read it years ago in high school when it came out, and loved it then.
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LibraryThing member gwenraab
A special illustrated publication by the Peoples Book Club, Chicago, IL
No date given
Originally published by Doubleday
LibraryThing member MerryMary
A young sculptor is commissioned to create a frame for the cup from the Last Supper. He travels around the Roman Empire, sculpting the faces of Jesus' disciples, and praying for the chance to see Christ's face. A sweeping epic, and engrossing. Recommended.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Follows the trail of the cup Jesus drank out of and how it touched people's lives. A good book to give kids who don't want to read the New Testement.


Doubleday (1952), Edition: 1, 503 pages

Original publication date





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