The Quest of the Holy Grail

by Anonymous

Other authorsPauline M. Matarasso (Translator)
Paperback, 1984



Call number





Penguin Classics (1984), Edition: reprint, Paperback, 304 pages


Composed by an unknown author in early thirteenth-century France, The Quest of the Holy Grail is a fusion of Arthurian legend and Christian symbolism, reinterpreting ancient Celtic myth as a profound spiritual fable. It recounts the quest of the knights of Camelot - the simple Perceval, the thoughtful Bors, the rash Gawain, the weak Lancelot and the saintly Galahad - as they journey through danger and temptation to reach the elusive Holy Grail. But only one of them is judged worthy to see the mysteries within the sacred vessel, and look upon the ineffable. Enfused with tragic grandeur and an aura of mysticism, The Quest is an absorbing and radiant allegory of man's perilous search for divine grace, and had a profound influence on later Arthurian romances and versions of the Grail legend. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Mary_Overton
From the Introduction by translator P.M. Matarasso: "The QUESTE DEL SAINT GRAAL despite its Arthurian setting is not a romance, it is a spiritual fable. This may seem surprising in view of the fact it forms part of a vast compilation know as the PROSE LANCELOT, which might justifiably be called the romance to end romances. It is less surprising however when one considers that it is the product of a period when things were rarely quite what they seemed, when the outward appearance was merely a garment in which to dress some inward truth, when the material world was but a veil through which the immutable could be sporadically glimpsed and perpetually reinterpreted. "(9)

As King Arthur's knights gather at the Round Table: "When they were all seated and the noise was hushed, there came a clap of thunder so loud and terrible that they thought the palace must fall. Suddenly the hall was lit by a sunbeam which shed a radiance through the palace seven times brighter than had been before. In this moment they were all illumined as it might be by the grace of the Holy Ghost .... When they had sat a long while thus, unable to speak and gazing at one another like dumb animals, the Holy Grail appeared ... and yet no mortal hand was seen to bear it." (43-44)

Lancelot is admonished by a hermit on the sin of squandering one's gifts: "'Sir, you owe God a great return for creating you so fair and valiant .... He has lent you understanding and memory, and you must so use them for good, that His love being kept perfect in you, the devil may derive no profit from the great gifts God has given you.'" (87)

Another holy man tells Gawain: "'Do not imagine moreover that the adventures now afoot consist in the murder of men or the slaying of knights; they are of a spiritual order, higher in every way and much more worth.'" (174)
… (more)
LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
This 1220's redaction is very much an extended sermon, the various questing knights, having their spiritual stages being established quite clearly. I don't think this was anyone's favourite part of the canon. I'm sure this is an accurate translation, and I thank Pauline Matarasso for her efforts. I read it for completion, twice, looking for some fun in it.… (more)


Original language


Physical description

304 p.; 7.78 inches


0140442200 / 9780140442205

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