Chrétien de Troyes   

Is the "meillor conte" based on a Latin chronicle?      

To date, experts are unable to identify Chrétien's sources and symbolism. Our quest had success when we realized that they are hidden in a wordplay with "conte" that  localizes "graal" a most creative idea because etymology is the perfect symbol for a source! 

(Revised in 2015)

I. GRAAL identifies the grail region    

        The Etymologies (or Origines) of Isidor of Seville was “the most influential book, after the Bible, in the learned world of the Latin West for nearly a thousand years”(1). This is mirrored in Chrétien's prologue of the Conte du Graal which is full of Biblical quotes to celebrate Philip, the count of Flanders, and culminates in an etymological jeu de mots that introduces the word "graal" (grail) for the first time in history as we have shown earlier. After using cuens six times to reference the count, the poet repeats conte four times in lines 63-66 and then returns to cuens in line 67 to assure his audience that Count Philip did indeed provide a book for the story. These are the last eight lines of the prologue:

                                             61 Donc avra bien sauve sa peinne

                                             62  Crestiens, qui antant et peinne

                                             63  a rimoier le meillor conte,      

                                             64  par le comandement le conte,  

                                             65  qui soit contez an cort real.
                                             66  Ce est li contes del graal,        

                                             67  don li cuens li baille le livre,  

                                             68  s'orroiz comant il s'an delivre.

     Hence, he won’t have wasted his effort,

     Chrétien, who strives and toils
     to put in rhyme the better story (account),

     by command of the story (count, accounting)
     that will be told (recounted) at the royal court.
     It is the story (count or account) of the grail,
     to which the Count gave him the book,
     so listen all how he delivers himself of it.


(Paris, BnF. fr. 794 (ms. A), Hilka, is available online: University of Ottawa)

         The lavish praise of the count had the experts conclude that conte in line 64 replaced cuens to rhyme with 'meillor conte' in the previous line, suggesting that the poem was created by "the count's command".  They apparently fail to consider the etymology of the word conte, which is derived from "comitem" (Count) and from "computum" (story, calculation) as established by Adolf Tobler (1835-1910) and Wendelin Foerster (1844-1915) over a hundred years ago (2). This means that if a story was known at the royal court that Chrétien could correct with a "meillor conte", the count may not have become his patron and the praise could be ambiguous!

           That the poet was even more sophisticated at the end of his career is shown by the comedy Cligès, where Perceval is introduced as a minor character and which is rated by Frappier as "the most studied, the most intellectual, and in some ways the most amusing of Chrétien's romances" (3). In the Conte du Graal the poet refers to Cligès by making Perceval its leading hero and continuing the comedy with the first adventures of a pious, young fool. That's after he had teased his audience with a religiously themed prologue which ends with "conte" in a wordplay, one of the most ambiguous words in the French language. It took academics centuries to fix the problem by splitting the word into "conte" (story), "comte" (Count) and "compte" (account, calculation), but only in the written form. Even today, a public speaker would have to clarify the context because all three versions are still pronounced the same way, as kɔ̃t, according to the Grand Larousse (attached), in spite of their different meanings.    

          This ambiguity continues to be overlooked, which is probably why the arbitrary interpretations of Potvin, Foerster, Hilka, Frappier, and Roach have (admittedly) never led anywhere! Had they considered that the solution of Chrétien's riddle is hidden in the origins of "conte" and "graal", they would have had to deal with the option that the work was not created by the count's command, but by the command of a false story that circulated at the royal court. Hence, a "peilor conte" (lesser story) could have obliged the poet to preserve the truth for posterity in a roman a clef. The jeu de mots would then be the key to unlock the origins of graal because there is no better symbol for an obscure source than etymology:                    

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origins are as follows: “Grail (grě.l). Also greal, graal, graile. [ad. OF. graal, grael, greel, greil = Pr. grasal, grazal (whence OCat. gresal-s): med. L. gradalis a cup or platter, of uncertain origin; commonly referred to a popular L. type *cratalis, f.*cratus altered form of L. crater cup.] The (Holy) Grail, the Saint Grail or SANGRAIL..."

The Matter of Britain:                 

          We learn that "grail" is derived from gradalis, a Latin word of uncertain origins. It is, in fact, so uncertain that it is not even listed in the Oxford Latin Dictionary, which gives us two choices: We can follow the etymology to Pr., which is Provençal, and to OCat, Old Catalan, regions near Barcelona – or we take the beaten path with the learned Helinandus to the North. He was a Flemish trouvère who became a Cistercian monk at Froidmont and scholar who is widely quoted as an early informant on the Holy Grail. But it is rarely considered that he was "one of the most ardent preachers of the Albigensian Crusade", which would taint his motives if Chrétien had any "heretic" tendencies! In view of his Roman catholicism, Helinandus may have been one of the firsts to understand Chrétien's riddle and to serve the Medieval Church with disinformation. Hence, he presents the vision of an hermit in Britain (717-719 CE) and alludes to Chrétien's unfinished poem, but sides with Robert and features the grail as a Paschal "dish" to connect grail romance to the Matter of Britain. His timing coincides with the Transubstantiation Treatese of Thomas Aquinas which "inspired" some poets to replace Robert's vessel with the Cup of the Last Supper. And because it was heretic, according to Loomis, that the grail is carried by a virgin, “the ecclesiastics who composed the Didot Perceval, the Queste del Saint Graal, and the Estoire del Saint Graal carefully substituted for the beautiful maiden a youth or a priest.”(4)  Eventually, other poets "under orders" reduced the holiness of the grail to folklore and magic and opened the door for Celtic cauldrons and pre-Christian legends. This confusion extended well into the 20th century and the conjectures that were published could fill an entire library.

The Matter of Catalonia:        

            According to du Cange (5), the earliest documented form of gradalis is from Urgell in the Pyrenees of Catalonia, dated 1010CE. The Catalan philologist Joan Coromines (University of Chicago) points out that the word was used for large bowls and deep platters that are commonly used in households (6):

GREAL “del cat. Greala ‘escudella’ (cat. arcaic gradal, f.)… La dada més antiga que es té del mot en qualsevol país es troba en una escriptura catalana, in més concretament urgellesa en latí en l’any 1010 (du C.): "ad Sancta Fide coenobio gradales duas de argento" [...], d’Ermengarda, filla del comte Borrell de Barcelona, any 1030, tornem a trobar "vexela de auro et de argento, id sunt enapos V, et gradals II".

        He also shows that gradalis was shortened to gradal, which is typical for Catalan and Occitanean languages where variations of grala are used today. Hence, Chrétien's etymological jeu de mots leads us straight to the testaments of Count Ermengol I of Urgell and his sister Ermengarda, whose father was the celebrated count Borrell of Barcelona. He was patron of the famous scholar and expert of Arab sciences Gerbert, who became pope Sylvester II in 999 CE. Catholic scholars credit him with introducing the Arabic numerals we use today, but downplay claims he was an alchemist and magician with Gnostic or Manichean tendencies.   

             That Catalonia is properly identified as the "grail region", and certain historical personages as major protagonists in grail romance, is not only supported by the testaments from Urgell, but also by independent visual evidence and a Latin chronicle from Sant Miquel de Cuixa, a monastery at the Northern slopes of the Pyrenees. We can demonstrate therefore from three different, independent perspectives that the Conte du Graal is "the story of the grail", and that only the count of Flanders could have provided a book with the true facts if a false story (peilor conte) circulated at the royal court. This may come as a shock to some experts because the evidence is conclusive : 


A: The etymological proof

          At this point, it is important to repeat that none of the past interpretations of Chrétien's prologue have led to results. Scholarship is admittedly completely in the dark, even after developing "unstable conjectures" (Roach) from the general context. Even in recent years, an academic version of this blog has been rejected by several publishers because their reviewers seem to be reluctant in discarding so much of their learned apparatus. Nevertheless, neither has Philip's book been found to date, nor any lesser tale that could have served as Chrétien's source! Most scholars maintain that the grail symbolism was merely borrowed from the South to enhance the "Matter of Britain" and make the Arthurian tale of Perceval more mysterious.  

          But with our new approach the origins of Chrétien's keyword graal take us straight to Catalonia, to Urgell in the Pyrenees, where we meet an illustrious family that used gradal over a century before the poet was born. The region confirms the "heretic" theme as indicated by Loomis and as we had proposed in earlier findings:  In addition to the controversial Gerbert, it is where Bishop Felix of Urgell revived Adoptionism in the late 8th and early 9th century, which developed from the Arianism of the Visigoths that questions the divinity of Christ. It survived in Charlemagne's compromise of the "filioque" addition, which contributed to the separation (chism) of the Roman and Eastern Churches.

B: The visual proof



In the early 1900's, nine churches were identified in the diocese of Urgell where the transformation from gradalis to graal is mirrored in their Romanesque frescoes. The most dramatic examples are the above details, where a fiery, enclosed container was painted around 1085 CE at Sant Pere de Burgal, followed by an open bowl in 1123 at Sant Climent de Taüll, which may have inspired grail romance. Chandler R. Post writes in History of Spanish Painting (Harvard, 1930, p.195) that the painting "has been tentatively explained as the Holy Grail because Montserrat in Catalonia is connected with this legend and because the vessel seems to be filled with the Sacred Blood emitting miraculous rays". Otto Demus supports this identification in Romanische Wandmalerei, (München, 1968, p.160): "The Virgin... holds up a dish filled with the glowing blood of Christ, a reminder that Catalonia was one of the centers of the cult of the Grail." In his book The Virgin and the Grail: Origins of a Legend (Yale, 2005, p. 95) the Canadian historian Joseph Goering proposes that "Mary holding a vessel of any sort seems to be attested nowhere else in Christian art" – yet it was painted half a century before Chrétien created the word graal!   

      This fresco of Taüll became internationally known when Joan Vallhonrat, a friend of Picasso, painted a detailed copy which was published  in 1908. (According to the Canadian historian a wood carving of the Virgin of Taüll from the period was acquired by Harvard's Fogg Art Museum in 1920 where it is displayed today – minus the grail that someone had chipped off.) During his visit, Vallhonrat encountered Italian workers that were removing frescoes from another church with the entire plaster wall for an American client. It is fortunate they didn't dismantle the entire church, because such "acquisitions" with Yankee dollars were quite common at the time. A large portion of the cloister of Sant Miquel de Cuixa was shipped to New York and rebuilt on the shores of the Hudson river as the main attraction of the museum "The Cloisters". The frescoes of Sant Climent de Taüll seem to have survived for two reasons: During a period of Iconoclasm, the paintings behind the altar, including the grail image, had been covered by panels of wood, and all other paintings inside the church were whitewashed, which protected them for centuries at their isolated location in the high Pyrenees. Because they had only survived in isolated locations, we can't exclude the possibility that images of these "gralas"existed in many churches, even at Montserrat! In the early 1920s, Italian craftsmen were hired to cover the frescoes with a transparent glue and peel them off carefully. The bare walls were repainted with copies of the originals, which are now exhibited at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona. (See Urgell for a detailed account!) 

C: The written proof

    The earliest genealogy of the family that first used gradal is the Gesta comitum Barcinonensium, a Latin chronicle that opens with Sunifred of Urgell and the vita of his son Guifré el Pelós (Wilfred the Hairy), celebrated as first Count of Barcelona and founding father of Catalonia. He is linked on the first page from Barcelona to Flanders where Guifré is allegedly taken as a child and raised after the death of his father and there are so many similarities with the story of Perceval that it qualifies as the false story that was told at the royal court. It also shows that only the genealogy of the count of Flanders could disprove the false claims of the Gesta for the "meillor conte" or Conte du Graal which the poet said he "had pains to put into rhyme". Even this pun was overlooked by scholars because we will show the reasons why it would be painful for any poet to make a rhyme of it.

      The Gesta was published in 1688 by the French scholar Etienne Baluze in "Marca hispanica sive limes...", but the printer had confused two dates: The "scripta circa annum MCXC" at left is an error that would match Chrétien's period, but the cover page of the Gesta shows under accessere MCCXC (1290 CE), which is a hundred years too late to prove that the story was known at the royal court in the 1180's. But we discovered the grail region and shouldn't give up that easily! Our "quest" leads to Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, where most scholars face another obstacle: Catalan, a fairly obscure language which is related to the Langue d'Oc and Provençal, the language of the troubadours. The first critical study of the Gesta was published in 1925 in Barcelona as Cròniques Catalanes and its authors reward us with the news that there are two versions in Latin. There is the "definite edition" from St. Maria de Ripoll, the one Baluze published, one of four copies of a lost original. There exists, however, another manuscript that was started at the monastery Sant Miquel de Cuixà which predates all of the above, the "primitive redaction", which is also at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and registered under Baluze. For some reasons we'll address below, he decided to publish the final edition, including the typo with the misleading date – which may explain why it was overlooked as Chrétien's source for centuries. (You can click on it to enlarge it!)


II. Grail romance separates fact and fiction:             

           According to Foerster, Hilka, Frappier, Roach, et al., Chrétien composed his poem roughly between 1179 and 1190, although Frappier favors a date around 1182. Unaware of the importance for us, and that there could be a connection to grail romance, Barrau Dihigo and Massó Torrents (7) establish that Guifré's vita in the "primitive redaction" was compiled around that time, which validates it as a potential source for Perceval:

Escrits despres de la mort de Ramon Berenguer IV (1162), I abans de la d'Ermengol VII, comte d'Urgell (1184), aquests caps I-VIII formen no pas precisament una historia, pero si una genealogia de les dinasties comtals de Catalunya...  Si en aquest fragment que es, en general, bastant posterior als fets querelata, hi ha alguna part d'originalitat, es el cap. V que s'ha d'anar a cercar, essent l'autor un contemporani de Ramon Berenguer IV..."

        The scholars show that chapters I-VIII were written between 1162 CE, death of Ramon Berenguer IV, and 1184, when Ermengol VII of Urgell was still alive. Here is a page of their report, but the dates are a bit confusing. Although this was written long after (bastante posterior) the events, they are of the opinion: "If there is any original part, it is chapter V, because its author was a contemporary of Ramon Berenguer IV". Because Guifré's vita in chapters I and II was written earlier, the subject could have been discussed at the royal court at the time of Chrétien's writing. This is also supported by more recent scholarship: In 2008, Stefano Maria Cingolani (8) suggested that the early chapters were compiled between 1180 and 1184, but based on much older material. His opinion supports our conjectures because he concludes that the "anonymous forger" was well aware of the actual historical events and that his version of Guifré's vita is not a legend but an intentional forgery. It should be said that none of these historians, from Baluze to Cingolani, mention Chrétien or make a connection to grail romance. Their findings about the Gesta are therefore fully independent, which makes them a great asset for our researches.

        The Gesta tells a dramatic story that would have been widely discussed at the royal courts: It presents the origins of the illustrious counts of Barcelona and Aragon and involves the king of the Franks, Charles the Bald, and his daughter Judith who was robbed by Baldwin "Ironarm" of Flanders. Our comparison of the story of Guifré with Perceval's first adventures is herewith submitted "for the record" as solid proof that one of the alleged "lost sources" of grail romance has been found. We shall see below that both texts open with references to the counts of Flanders and that the 'Gesta' is not Philip's book which Chrétien merely put into rhyme, but a "lesser tale" (or forgery) he was obliged to correct:

In both tales, Guifré and Perceval are children when their father dies. (Click on Latin text to review chapters I and II). That Guifré is raised by the countess in Flanders and his poetic counterpart by his own mother in a forest is a significant difference. Until we review the differences below, let's first compare the similarities:

Gesta comitum Barcinonensium

After the death of his father, a famous knight who owned many lands, Guifré is sent to far-away Flanders, a vast forest region in France.
He is raised there by the countess who never reveals to him his high lineage and heritage
Le Conte du Graal

After the death of his father, a famous knight who owned many lands, Perceval grows up in a vast forest region.
He is raised by his widowed mother who never reveals to him his high lineage and heritage.

Told as a serious story: When Guifré reaches puberty, an unexpected event forces the countess of Flanders to reveal his lineage to him.  He had intercourse with her adolescent daughter and only the countess knows she is pregnant. He learns from her that he is of noble descent himself and rides to Barcelona in the South to claim his rightful heritage.

The narration points out that Guifré is wearing foreign clothes when he rides all the way to Barcelona, a city at the sea shore.
Told as a comedy: Perceval has an encounter which forces his mother to reveal his lineage. He had met knights in the forest chasing after virgins and mistook one of them for God. When he learns from his mother that his father was such a knight, the young fool leaves to become also a knight and reaches a tent, which he takes for a church, and violates the girl inside it. 

is wearing foreign clothes that make him look ridiculous when he rides to Carduel, a castle at the sea shore.

        In the Gesta and in the poem, the heroes have their first adventures when they are still very young, which explains their foolishness. Here's a quote from the Gesta regarding the clothes: "Que facto, sordidis eum uestibus induit, et sub habitu peregrini cum quadam uetula ad matrem suam..."  Chrétien's version is similar, because Perceval's mother dresses him like a peasant: A shirt of rough burlap, the pants are attached to the socks, extra-heavy boots, an overall, and a silly circular cap of deer leather. Wolfram takes it even further and says that she dresses him on purpose like a fool.

When Guifré arrives in Barcelona, he meets his mother who recognizes him by a hairy birthmark. She introduces him to the nobles of the city who inform him that Catalonia is wrongfully claimed by the knight Salomon. 

The nobles promise they will gladly accept him as successor of his father and ruler of Catalonia if he is able to defeat Salomon. Guifré confronts him on the streets of Barcelona and demands his rightful heritage. 
Perceval arrives at King Arthur's court, where a mysterious woman that hasn't laughed is featured and he learns that the Red Knight at the gate has stolen a golden chalice and claims wrongfully Arthur's land. 

A noble is angered by his foolish demand
to be made a knight and jokes that if he defeats the Red Knight, he may take his armor and weapons. Perceval returns to the gate and claims his property.  

         According to Chrétien, Perceval's mother dies right after his departure. But the mysterious lady at Arthur's court, who hasn't spoken a word in six years, proclaims that Perceval will become "the greatest knight in the whole wide world". Otherwise, the similarities continue.

The knight Salomon fails to take the young man seriously and is killed by him in a surprise attack. Guifré becomes ruler of Catalonia and restores the honor of the Flemish girl by marrying her.

The count of Flanders recommends him highly to the king of the Franks and Guifré becomes one of his trusted vassals. 
The Red Knight fails to take the young fool seriously and is killed by him in a surprise attack. Perceval restores the honor of the girl he had "raped" in the tent by defeating her knight.

The protector of the girl recommends him to King Arthur and Perceval becomes a knight of the Round Table.

        If we take a closer look at this story we note that, vive la difference, even the variations are covered by Chrétien's brilliant symbolism. While the Gesta connects directly to Flanders, Chrétien's names the count of Flanders as his source. The French king and the counts of Flanders are not named, only their titles. The first to identify them was the Spanish historian (and inquisitor!) Francisco Diago in 1603 (9) to support of the authenticity of the story. But it is a historical fact that Guifré was born in the middle of the 9th century and that he began to rule Catalonia in 870, when Charles the Bald was king of the Franks. Earlier, Baldwin of Flanders had married Judith, the daughter of Charles, which would explain why the French king sent the boy to Flanders.

        The identification of Charles the Bald raises an interesting point, although some Arthurian scholars might pull their hair out and look like the king. They would have to concede that the historical prototypes of grail romance are finally identified, although King Arthur is transplanted to the wrong century. But if they appreciate Chrétien’s comedy Cligès, and Geoffrey's History of Britain, they would know that anything is possible in medieval romance! That we meet King Arthur on the European continent has the support of other scholars, including his identification as "Lucius Artorius Castus" (Littleton, Malcor) and as "Riothamus" (Ashe), where Arthur's exploits in France are featured. Nevertheless, it will come as quite a shock to these fine scholars that, according to the Gesta, the historical prototypes and their poetic counterparts in grail romance are:

Guifré el Pelós  (Wilfred the Hairy)
Salomon of Cerdana
Gunedildis, daughter of Baldwin
Baldwin "Ironarm" of Flanders
King Charles the Bald

   The Red Knight
   The Girl in the Tent/Blanchefleur

   l'Orgeuilleux de la Lande
   King Arthur

III. Why Chrétien had pains to rhyme a "better story":        

          A "Count from the Grail" is found at last and we could conclude that Perceval, le conte du graal means "Perceval, the Count from the Grail". That the grail is not mentioned in the Gesta is of little relevance. Unaware of sources like the Gesta, the gradal documents of Urgell and its grail paintings, scholars like Foerster, Hilka, Loomis, and Frappier agree that Chrétien fused several themes or sources. This makes perfect sense because Perceval was already known from Erec and Cligès. Foerster (10), who attributes the Dümmlingsmotif (young fool) to Celtic folklore, speculates that Chrétien may have added the grail story from Philip's book and transposed both to Arthur's legendary court. We will end these arbitrary conjectures with a second Latin chronicle in another article where the missing grail elements support the frescos of Urgell. But for now, we have already come a long way with the identification of Perceval as a Catalan from the Pyrenees.        

           Consequently, Chrétien's mellor conte should address the credibility of the Latin chronicle if it was discussed at the royal court. On the surface, his "corrections" seem quite elegant and in a fine courtly style. In view of the adultery, it is understandable that both, Gesta and Chrétien, would protect the royal family, the "sang real". We see that Chrétien, the master of rhetorical double meanings, confirms the official version, and even protects the count – because the Flanders of the Gesta is reduced to an anonymous forest region. Flanders was known in the 9th century as the famous Selva Carbonara of the Franks, where the kings went hunting and got the wood to heat their castles. Soon after Baldwin had married Judith, Charles the Bald made him chief forester of the region. Hence, it makes good sense that Chrétien would replace the king's daughter with Perceval's mother to protect the reputation of the court, including count Philip, and hide the adultery and pregnancy of the young girl behind a poetic veil – and make fun of it. Only after Perceval leaves his mother, he encounters – removed to the forest's edge – the girl in a colorful tent which he mistakes for a church. In another misunderstanding of his mother's advice, he jumps her like a fool and "embraces her with his strong arms, as she defends herself, and he kisses her, whether she wants to or not, about twenty times". To symbolize the adultery, or rape, Chrétien has him drink her wine, eat her fine patées, and steal her emerald ring. When he leaves, the poor girl is left behind crying.

          Later, when he meets Blanchefleur, the poet links to the other girl by joking that her "land is so deserted that neither wine nor patées are available". Then, both scenes fuse: Blanchefleur is also crying as she stands before the bed of her hero, and then "they sleep side by side mouth by mouth, until morning, the beginning of a new day". What timeless descriptions of passion and tender love – during the so-called Dark Ages! But why are the two girls fused by their tears? The poetic allegory of their fusion is taken later to an even higher level when Perceval falls into a trance in a forest in the winter: He is enchanted by a vision of Blanchefleur's face in three drops of warm blood that melt the snow, from a wild goose "that felt no pain" when she was attacked in flight by a hawk.

         According to Loomis (11), such symbolical fissions and fusions were quite common in medieval romance. Chrétien’s symbolism indicates that Guifré's wife is split into the "girl in the tent" and Blanchefleur, and that it was to protect the reputation at the royal court. But we shall see that he had an even more sophisticated concept: What if the Gesta told a false story and Guifré grew up in Catalonia? This would be consistent with Chrétien's claim that he needed to correct a "peiour conte" (worse story) with a "meillor conte" (better story), as implied in his ambiguous word play. This suggests that he participated in the cover-up by only confirming the official version on the surface, and that the differences of both versions should lead to Philip’s book and reveal the truth.


IV. Why the "lost sources" of grail romance eluded the scholars:  

         In the "Conte du Graal", young Perceval is raised by his mother and not by the counts of Flanders. He is raised in the same forest where his father and mother die, where he "rapes" the girl at the forest's edge, searches for his mother to meet Blanchefleurand where he finds the grail castle. Of course, this could easily be taken for a naive, poetic simplification and is certainly typical for the period. But Chrétien was its greatest master and insisted that he rhymed a better story from Philip's book. This makes perfect sense because only the Count of Flanders would have known that Guifré was not raised in Flanders! In view of the sophisticated jeu de mots, which introduced graal as the etymological key to the source, Chrétien could very well have gone beyond the royal cover-up. This forces us to consider that everything happened in Catalonia because it is the "grail region" of medieval romance! .

         Again, there is some etymological evidence: In the Enciclopedia Universal (12) one of the explanations for Guifré’s nickname el Pelós is derived from Pilosus, an equivalent of the Latin "hirsutus", which means that he was count of a "prickly and wild" forest region, because "Catalonia was covered by an abundance of forests". This would debunk another claim in the Gesta, where his nickname is attributed to a hairy birth-mark. Here is a excerpt, where Wifredo, the Spanish version of his name is used:

Wifredo I el Velloso. Biog. Conde de Barcelona... Es creencia general, y al parecer la mas acertada, que Wifredo debia su apodo a su exuberancia capillar...  pero Balari discrepa de esta opinion y cree que el calificativo de 'comes pilosus' equivalia al de comes hirsutus comes silvestir, es decir, conde de las malezas y de las espesuras, en atencion a que en aquella epoca el condado de Barcelona era abundante en bosques."

           The entertaining opposition of Wilfred the Hairy and Charles the Bald did not escape Gerbert, one of Chrétien's continuators, which could be another confirmation of our findings! He supports the cover-up and "peior conte" by claiming that Joseph (of Arimathea) hid the grail so well that "neither someone hairy nor bald knew the location aside from him" (13).  That this could also relate to the "hairy" Elijah and "bald head" Elisah will be a subject for the higher levels of our quest! Because the link to Cuixà is replaced by Ripoll in the definite edition, this could be part of a cover up to replace Prades near Cuixà with Flandres. Our scan of the first page shows that the scribe's layout narrowed the first 13 lines. Flanders comes up as "cuidam comiti, ut fertur, de Flandres..." in line 11, and is depicted in the first of two lines below, where many words are abbreviated as customary at the time. The horizontal mark between the a and d of Flades adds the missing n, and the mark after the d adds the r.

For a better comparison, here is a scan of Barrau's expansion of the Latin text, which we have adjusted line by line to the original. In line 24, "Missis deinde legatis in Galliam, filiam supradicti comitis de Flandres..." the mark between the p and d stands for the missing ra, in "supradicti" and the r is included this time in Flandres:


The similarity of Prades and Flades and the abbreviations indicate that the "primitive redaction" may have been doctored, which a microscopic examination in Paris could expose. The different spelling of Fladres makes little sense, unless the length of Prades needed to be matched. According to the Gesta, Guifré el Pelós was born at the Castle of Arria (Arrianum) next to Prades and Cuixà, and if Prades was replaced with Flandres, it would even explain why the counts remain anonymous. If the "erudite forger" (Cingulani) had the intention to link the counts of Barcelona to the Carolingians, he would have identified Countess Judith, the daughter of Charles the Bald! Furthermore, Geoffrey of Monmouth's "History of Britain" shows that historical facts were taken lightly in the Middle Ages, which is why so many chronicles include legends in their narrations. Important, legal documents were written twice on the same parchment and connected by capital letters to prevent forgeries, as demonstated by Pujades with a Catalan escritura from 1094 (14). But more important in this case, and as piece de resistance, is the fact that the Gesta recorded a false story was already implied by its 12th century redactor. According to Barrau Dihigo and Masso Torrents (p.XXII): 

"...el que raporta essencialment son tradicions, i, cosa curiosa, tradicions de les quals sembla malfiar-se. Molt circumspecte, multiplica les formes tals com narratur, dicitur, dicuntur, ut fertur, ut aiunt..."

(...what he reports are essentially traditions, and, quite curiously, traditions which he doesn't seem to trust. Very cautiously, he repeats such terms as narratur, dicitur, dicuntur, ut fertur, ut aiunt...)

           We are either dealing with an honest monk or a most sophisticated forger because he questions in chapter II with "ut fertur" if Guifré was really raised in Flanders (or Prades)? Yet this false claim is repeated in the "redaccio definitiva" of the Gesta in the 13th century as a fact because the doubts of the original redactor were removed, and which was the time to replace Prades as well:

Primitiva: II. Susceptum tamen [rex] puerum cuidam comiti, ut fertur, de Fladres...

Definitiva: II. Susceptum tamen rex puerum cuidam comiti de Flandres...

          Click here for the definitive text, which confirms our brief sample. This raises some interesting questions. Both versions are registered under Baluze at the Bibliothèque Nationale, yet why would the ambitious scholar acknowledge the definitive edition and not mention the primitive? Did he add the typo to discourage further research in the matter? If our interpretation of Chrétien's jeu de mots is valid, the symbolism of the fancily woven Venetian scabbard of Perceval's Magic Sword would indicate that a cover-up was ordered by pope Alexander III after 1177, the Peace of Venice. This could mean that Baluze was persuaded by the Maurists of St. Germain, especially by Mabillon, to support the cover-up. This could  include the Bollandists Henschen and Papenbroek who visited Paris in 1662 right after the death of Pierre de Marca.       

         As a consequence, scholars may have been unable to solve the grail mystery well into the 20th century. An important factor is that the "researches" of the Maurists and Bollandists are considered the most reliable source for Medieval history, and that the corrections of the historian Jeroni Pujades were not available. When the Jesuits began to collect manuscripts at monasteries in Germany, Italy and France for the Acta Sanctorum, which established the fame of the Bollandists, Pujades was already a generation ahead of them in Catalonia and compiled documents for his own historical work. But his manuscripts and collection were allegedly taken by Pierre de Marca, a French bishop and friend of Mazarin, "by force of arms". After de Marca's death in 1662, the entire collection was inherited by his secretary: Etienne Baluze. Included were the two testaments from Urgell that are quoted by du Cange, which enabled us to interpret Chrétien's jeu de mots, and a copy of ms. B of the Gesta, which was made by either de Marca or Pujades. We should add that most of our other findings are only possible because the work of Pujades was rediscovered in Rouen (France), in the library of archbishop Colbert, and published in Barcelona between 1829 and 1832, two hundred years after the alleged robbery.

         As usual, Pujades (15) contradicts the historians of his era and is the first to debunk the forged Gesta as accepted by Francisco Diago in 1603. He shows that Judith was the widow of the king of England (Ethelbald of Wessex, d. 12.20. 860) and Baldwin had robbed her in 862. Because Guifré's appearance in 870 in Barcelona is documented, he calculates that eight years are too short for Judith to get pregnant and have a daughter with Baldwin that is old enough to get pregnant herself. Which is probably why Baluze withheld the "redactio primitiva" of the Gesta and slandered Pujades as ignorant. (See Pujades Affair)         

        The revisions of this legend began in the 20th century, when Catalan scholars finally concluded from other sources, allegedly independent of Pujades, that "Guifré's vita in the Gesta is a tradition without value" (16), and that he was neither raised in Flanders nor his wife related to its counts. According to Soldevilla (17):

"Guifré married Guinidilda, a lady of noble Catalan lineage, in all probability, and not the daughter of the counts of Flanders as the legend claims."

         With the Gesta exposed as a forgery and "peiour conte" without value, we need to ask why this cover-up was invented in the first place? And if it was a cover-up, why was it was necessary to invent an adultery?  It's something a medieval monk would only write if some sort of sexual transgression was attached to Guifré's name. This is another reason why Chrétien had such "pains" to make a rhyme of it! (See line 62 of prologue). But how could the French poet have known the truth some eight centuries before our historians? 


V. Why Chrétien credits Count Philip as his informant:        

         It is an undisputable fact that there existed a book in the Roman Empire that could contradict the claims of the Gesta at he time Chrétien worked on the on the Contes du Graal: Philip's family chronicle, of which several versions from the period have survived. Even if the poet had never been in Flanders, there is a perfect scenario that would have given him an access. According to Frappier (18):

" …le comte de Flandre fit d'assez frequentes visites a la cour de Troyes: il avait l'espoir d'obtenir la main de Marie de Champagne, veuve d'Henry de Champagne mort le 17 mars 1181, sept jours apres son retour de Palestine...  Il fit une court pressante, mais vaine a la comtesse; au cour de l'annee 1182, elle refusa d'epouser le pretendant."

          During his "frequent visits" of Troyes and "pressing courtship" between 1181-1182, the persistent suitor would have tried to impress Marie de Champagne with his illustrious genealogy, with the evidence that he was a descendant of Charlemagne. Chrétien, whose presence at her court is established, needed to only take one look at the chronicle to realize that the story in the Gesta, as told at the royal court, was not true because a Count of Barcelona is not listed as Baldwin's son in law! Hence, it would be a dilemma for any poet, even the most brilliant – to create a masterpiece out of nothing! (Note the curious parallel of Kepler's little book de nive sexangula, which is also a "gift of nothing"!)

         This changes the traditional interpretation of the prologue as well: Our new interpretation of line 64 (Par le comandement le conte) shows that the count of Flanders did not commission the work and only provided a book, as stated clearly in line 67 (Dont li quens li bailla le livre). Because of the peiour conte in the Gesta, Chrétien was obliged to set the record straight: He put the meillor conte into rhyme and added a satirical prologue on account of a lesser count – but hidden in an allegorical veil of flattery. In the sense of the flattery, the count did indeed provide the book for the mellor conte, even though he persecuted the Gnostic sects. But his contribution is reduced to providing a better calculation or accounting as stated by the ambiguous conteThe old master may have used the reversals of lines 63/64 himself to entertain his audience and to provoke a discussion.  

          For a better understanding of the count's pressing courtship and why it was rejected, we should consider the religious conflicts between the liberal South and the orthodox North. Marie was the daughter of the celebrated Eleanor of Aquitaine and Philip a most pious count who delivered heretics to the stake in Flanders. Here is Sandkühler's (19) subdued version:  

" Die dem kirchlich-religiösen Leben zugewandte und stark in den politischen Intrigen stehende Art des Grafen Philipp mochte wohl der heiteren und sinnenfrohen Lebensart der Gräfin Marie nicht ganz entsprechen..."

Rough translation: The count's dedication to church and religion and his strong participation in political intrigues did not seem quite compatible with the joyful and passionate lifestyle of countess Marie.

           According to William of Tyre (20), Philip's reputation suffered greatly from his ill-fated campaigns in Tripoli and Antioch (1177-78). He had plotted earlier with Frederick I, and then betrayed his friend Henry II by siding with Thomas Becket and Alexander III. That's a story Marie knew first hand, because her mother was Henry's wife, although incarcerated by him at the time. The count also betrayed his godson Philip Augustus, Marie's half-brother, by taking Paris, devastating Normandy, burning Noyon and besieging Nenlis. What a fitting satire, if Chrétien reversed destre/senestre from the gospels himself to entertain his patroness: As a play with the cunning count's amazing ambidexterity - where the left didn't know what the right hand was doing – and vice versa. This is probably why some manuscripts have these lines reversed as well.   

        Frappier (21) is of the opinion that "the opposition of the largesse of chivalry and Christian charity, and the superiority of one over the other was not in the mind of an author so careful with 'conjointure' if it has nothing to do with the 'sen' of the poem". From our point of view, we could say that Chrétien opposed the sinister North with the enlightened South, a dualism that he continues with the parallel quests of Perceval and Gauvain, the grail castle and the castle of wonders. Chrétien's "heretic" position is also expressed in his quotes from the New Testament, particularly the one he attributes to St. Paul:

God is love, and who lives in love lives in God, and

 God in him. Our love is brought to perfection in this."

(1 John 4:16)

         Love (charité) and perfection (parfaits) are central ideals of the Cathar sects in the South, which were later so brutally annihilated during the Albigensian Crusades. Frappier refrains from touching upon these issues, perhaps because Chrétien did not complete the poem, but seems to be the only scholar who concedes that he may have dedicated the poem to the count without leaving the service of Marie de Champagne (22). In view of our new interpretation of the contes and the flattery, we finally know for a fact that Chrétien did not move to Flanders – at least not voluntarily.


VI. Orality, performance, and audience participation

        To help us imagine how Chrétien would have opened the prologue of a religiously themed comedy, Frappier shows that he used rhyme and rhythm, and the placement of vowels and consonants to “translate the audio-visual perceptions of the hero”(23). The grail procession with the blanche lance is described with long vowels that enhance the mystery, and a dramatic scene with birds is animated by interchanging rhythms to show the contrast between a disturbed flock of wild geese and the linear flight of an attacking falcon. William Kibler noticed a “spectacular use of vocalic harmonies, repetition and chiasmus” in Yvain, “where the repetition of the ui and oi diphthongs and the high vowels u and i underscores the mental anguish of the girl caught in a storm in the forest” (24).  If we look for such techniques in the prologue of the Conte du Graal, we notice that the “lavish praise” could indeed be read against the grain. In this case, Chrétien would have chanted the beginning like a benediction – that is, as if it were the Gospel truth. The first lines certainly suggest the familiar rhythm and pious intonations:

“Qui petit seme petit quialt,

et qui auques recoillir vialt

an tel leu sa semance espande

que fruit a cent dobles li rande.”

         The ambiguous concept is already apparent in the first twelve lines of the prologue, where the chanting seems to pretend humility because the poet’s rhetorical claims are open to interpretation: According to the original text, only “if the seeds are sown in a good soil, it would not be without great rewards”, because Chrétien is allegedly doing it for “the most noble man in the Roman empire" (27). Before he actually identifies the count, however, Chrétien’s octosyllabic pattern allowed him to extend line 12, which has only seven syllables, to chant an unoctuous “l’em-pi-re de Rome” which his audience could have rewarded with laughter for two reasons: Firstly, the stretching of 'pi-re' implies 'worse' for those who dislike the Roman empire, and secondly, because the count supported the Roman empire even though Flanders was not part of it. The suspenseful pause is also important because lines 13-24 change to a different type of satire that features the guttural accent of the Flemish: “C‘est li cuens Phelipes de Flandres. Qui mialz valt ne fist Alixandres…” While entertaining with short vowels and harsh consonants, Chrétien praises Count Philip as much worthier than Alexander, of whom he only reveals: “it was said about him he is doing so much good” although he was really “vicious and evil”. 

        Pious Catholics would have been led to believe that Chrétien meant emperor Alexander III “the Great”, as modern scholarship has assumed, but others could identify none other than Pope Alexander III, who “understood clearly that the Roman Church was the proper heir to the Roman Empire" (28).  He had decreed at the Third Lateran Council in 1179 that because of their loathsome heresy”, the “Patarenes, Publicani”, and “others by different names” are “under anathema,” including “those who hire, keep or support them (29). The faithful were also encouraged to “take up arms against them,” an exhortation that anticipated the Albigensian Crusades. This is supported by the fact that if Chrétien’s praise of the pious count had not been ambiguous, he would have said “Christendom”, since the Count was not a subject of the Empire. This interpretation is supported by Nigel Bryant who chose Christendom in his translation (30).    

        Such a reference to current events would mirror Cligès where “scholars have found intriguing analogies in several of its situations to contemporary politics between 1170 and 1175" (31) and it “reflected real events which interested the courts of Byzantium, Germany, France, and Champagne" (32).  If we consider the Third Lateran Council and its effects, we see that Count Philip continued the legacy of Pope Alexander, who had died in August of 1181 CE, by punishing heretics “unmercifully with righteous cruelty," (33)  So that “in 1182 a great number of heretics were burned in Flanders… accused of renewing Manichaeism and Arianism" (34).

        Reading the prologue as a performance, then, a pattern emerges: Chrétien divided it into five units of twelve lines, each followed by a brief pause, closing it with the eight lines that introduce the grail. This is supported by the third unit, lines 25-36, where Chrétien returns to a pious tone so as to preach that “the count hates all evildoers because he loves justice and is loyal to the Holy Church”. From the difference between good (seeds) and evil (weeds) he develops the argument that the count is far more generous than commonly known because, according to St Matthew (Mt. 6, 3-4), the good deeds of his right hand are so secretive that he has to keep them from his own left hand. With this entertaining satire of one of the strangest metaphors in the Gospels, Chrétien reveals rhetorically that none of the count’s good deeds are known. Lines 37-48 then explain why the Gospel proclaims that the left hand should not know the good his right hand is doing: the left hand signifies a vainglory that comes from false hypocrisy. Chrétien’s argument thus allows the conclusion that only the actions of the count’s left hand are publically known, which condemn him as a vicious and evil hypocrite.

       Then, Chrétien goes on to celebrate “charité”, which is “charity” for Paul, and “love” for John, and continues the theme of mistaken identities by attributing a popular quote from St John to St Paul, and by insisting he had read it there himself. He sets this up by asking: "And why does the Gospel say 'Hide from your left hand your good deeds'? The left, according to the scriptures, signifies vainglory that comes from false hypocrisy. And what does the right signify":

           43: Charité, qui de sa bone oevre
           44: pas ne se vante, ençois la coevre,
           45: que nus ne le set se cil non
           46: qui Dex et Charité a non.
           47: Dex est charitez, et qui vit
           48: an charité, selonc l'escrit,
           49: sainz Pos lo dit et je le lui,
           50: qu'i maint an Deu et Dex an lui.
43: Charity; which of its good works
44: does not boast, but does them covertly,
45: so that they are secret save to the one
46: whose names are God and Charity.
47: For God is Charity; and the man who lives
48: in charity according to the scriptures,

49: Saint Paul says, and I say to him,  
50: he lives in God, and God in him.

           Most experts regard line 49 as a scribal error, including Bryant (35) whose translation we used above, although Chrétien states clearly “Saint Paul said it and I read it".  However, if the pause is inserted and the passage read as a performance, it is divided into two entirely different statements that eliminate the alleged error: The first statement ends in lines 47-48, following John (I Jn 4:16) : “God is love and who lives in love – as it is written.” Hence, the comma should be a period!

Then, after the pause, a separate statement opens the fifth unit of twelve lines, 49-60: “St Paul said it and I read it, he lives in God and God in him.” This is something Chrétien could indeed have read as claimed: Paul addressed his epistles in the name of God, as in 1 Cor. 1-3, which implies he lives in God and God in him, and he wrote to the Ephesians 4.6: “…one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in all.”

          After the jeu de mots that introduces the grail, Chrétien tells his audience in the last line of the prologue to “hear” how he delivers the poem, but the Gospel is here also ambiguous because, as the audience might know, it itself continues with a lesson that fanatics could interpret as a divine command to burn heretics at the stake (36). To laud so pious and powerful a man as Count Philip with quasi-heretical ambiguities would have been dangerous indeed, and we can only wonder if Chrétien was playing with fire in another jeu de mots  (vv.3250/51):

“Qu'aussi bien se puet an trop teire

   Con trop parler a la foiee.”

              This is said after Perceval has seen the grail for the first time; carried in a procession by a beautiful maiden. Loomis notes that Chrétien’s depiction of “the sacramental vessel in the hands of a woman… was already condemned in the sixth century, and according to conciliar decrees and episcopal edicts …regarded as an abuse down to the thirteenth century”.  He points out, therefore, that “Chrétien’s account of the Grail violates not only common sense but the most solemn sacramental usage” and “the ecclesiastics who composed the Didot Perceval, the Queste del Saint Graal, and the Estoire del Saint Graal carefully substituted for the beautiful maiden a youth or a priest." (37).  The distinguished scholar may have been too involved with the Celtic origins of the grail myth to consider that heretic sects like the Cathars allowed both men and women in their clergy (38).  It fits this context that the prologue opens with the microcosmic seed, and that the first jeu de mots links it directly to the macrocosmic “graal” which shines so brightly in the grail castle “that the light of the candles fades like stars when the sun or the moon rises" (39).  


VII. Tentative Conclusions

            Part one of the grail mystery is resolved and it leads to a better understanding of Chrétien's work. His etymological word play reveals more about the sen and matière of the poem than any of the traditional interpretations. The sen appears to be our learning process, like Perceval's, which depends on making the right choices. Choices in the Gnostic or Manichean sense in favor of light over darkness, spirit over matter. Philip's elusive book is the key to the matière, because it corrects a false story that circulated at the royal court about Guifré el Pelós. With "graal" confirmed as key to the source, a closer examination of Chrétien's Magic Sword is probably warranted. If the false story of the Gesta is symbolized by the Venetian scabbard and cover-up, there should be two other broken pieces out there that are still needed for our fusion. Thus, the higher meaning of sen and matière may require two additional Latin chronicles from Catalonia with information about Guifré as an adult and the missing details about the grail. This would mean that when the "the blade of truth" of the Magic Sword broke into pieces, the pieces are actually the Latin chronicles that Wolfram's "Kyot" searched and discovered in the grail region.With this new understanding of the prologue, there is even the option that Chrétien's quote of St Paul is ambiguous as well (see footnote**).

               We have seen that the reversals of the two Alexanders, of destre/senestre, and of lines 63/64 offer a new understanding of the poem. Chrétien handed us the formula with the etymology of graal and the different meanings of conte, perhaps with one exception. According to Wolfram, he may have died before he could offer the other right conte (calculation/accounting) of Perceval's generation and off-spring.  Eight centuries have passed – and we can only hope with Chrétien that his work was not in vain! Let us also hope that he did not have to pay the ultimate penalty for insulting the Roman pontiff and his most devout Catholic count – and for saving the keys to the grail for posterity. This is why we owe much to the German poet Wolfram who protected Chrétien's legacy. His second opinion if fully in the spirit of the French master, and eliminates his many continuators as bad imitators or falsifiers of the truth "under orders". But Wolfram adds some original ideas that could reverse the entire scenario once again. Because Charles the Bald is such bad match for King Arthur, the vita of Guifré may have been borrowed to protect the real "Perceval". Wolfram's reduces Guifré to "Jofreit fils Idoel", sitting between Gawan and Parzival, which is an interesting clue we will pursue on a higher level! It may relate to "Mir" and "Anschouwe". But why did Wolfram make the "girl in the tent" an older duchess? We will have to spend some serious time with Wolfram's "eilfte span", the hidden numbers, and his astronomical scenario. Let's hope the elusive "Master Kyot" has the answers!

                    And finally, a word about the shocking fact that the Gesta propagates lies about Flanders and accuses Guifré el Pelós of adultery – who is celebrated as the beloved founding father of Catalonia. This implies that rumors about a sexual transgression were attached to his name, and that some higher authority invented a story to remove it to Flanders, as far away as possible. Does this mean that the medieval Church tried to cover up an alleged "rape" in Catalonia and created several fraudulent Latin chronicles? Because if it wasn't a rape, the faithful would take it for another miraculous virgin birth – and believe in a "second coming" of Christ, as implied by the grail frescoes at Urgell. It would be a tragic situation, with major consequences, if it were to expose that the Vatican missed such an important event! That's established by another Latin chronicle that we'll debunk with Chrétien and Wolfram, and under the guidance of the enlightened Catalan historian Jeroni Pujades. This part of our quest may be the most challenging because it deals with the origins of the "Society of Jesus".           

         Our starting point will be the reason why Chrétien's poem led from the Gospels and parable of the seed, the Microcosm, to a grail that symbolizes the Sun and planets, the Platonic/Pythagorean Macrocosm. We'll investigate if Wolfram's addition of the phoenix clarifies the mysterious scenario at the grail castle. In Chrétien's version, Perceval's father is wounded between the legs like the Fisherking, as if he were leading from St Joseph to St Peter, the Holy Father. Thus, the bleeding spear at the grail castle could confirm the death of Jesus and imply that the pontiff is castrated because Peter's successors turned the Eastern concept of reincarnation into an instant resurrection from death, with contemporary witnesses to confirm it. Consequently, the long-awaited 'second coming' might have been missed 854 years after 6 BCE. 


Some choices where to go from here:

BACK                         GRAILGATE                         NEXT 


1  Ki petit semme petit quelt,

2  Et qui auques requeillir velt,

3  En tel liu sa semence espande
4  Que Diex a cent doubles li rande.
5  Car en terre qui riens ne valt,
6  Bone semence seche et faut.
7  CRESTÏENS semme et fait semence
8  D'un romans que ii encomence,

9  Et si le seme en si bon leu
10 Qu'il ne puet [estre] sanz grant preu,
11 Qu'il le fait por le plus preudome
12 Qui soit en 1'empire de Rome.
13 C'est li quens Phelipes de Flandres…

He who sows little harvests little,

But he who wants to reap a lot,

Plants his seeds in a fertile soil

That God multiplies a hundred fold.

Because if the soil is worthless,

Good planting dries up and fails.

Chrétien plants and casts the seeds

Of a romance he is starting here,

By sowing it into such fertile soil

That it can't fail becoming bountiful,

Because it is for the noblest (?) man

Who is in the Roman Empire.

It is the count Philip of Flanders...


NOTES and References:

* The Adoptionism of Felix of Urgell was a challenge of the Trinity and Christ's divinity, which had evolved from the Arianism of the Visigoths and influence of Islam. It is said to have contributed to the chism with the Eastern Church because Charlemagne insisted on the "filioque" addition. Although the connection to Iconoclasm is widely disputed, we are currently researching claims that the display of crosses was allegedly prohibited at Sant Miquel de Cuixa in the 9th century, and that the recent "fission" of Felix and Claudio of Turin, his Catalan disciple, may be without merit. Iconoclasm is also documented at Sant Pere de Rodes, where the stones were laid in "opus espicatum", the pattern of fishbone. Accordint to Deulofeu, this practice was discontinued in the 9th century and reappeared after the Albigensian Crusades.

Scholars maintain that Wolfram refers to Chrétien only once when he mentions his name in the last "unit" (Springer) of 30 verses in Parzival. But now that we know more about the hidden, etymological key to the grail, we recognize a reference in the first "unit" of the poem, right after the prologue. By framing his work as an homage of the French master, Wolfram says that "even if I stood three times before you, I could not better tell this story". This is a pun on the Trinity, and on Chrétien's contes and a key to his prologue, because Troyes (Troies in old French) is pronounced like the French number three. The first lines of Chrétien's prologue quote from the Gospel according to Mark, that when the Sower (Jesus) plants seeds in a good soil, they produce "a crop multiplying thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times (Mk 4:8). This parable is unique, because it is mentioned by three apostles, Matthew, Luke and Mark, but only explained in Mark. It is the "word" that is being sown... and when sown on good soil, people hear the word, and accept it... (Mk 4:20) To make sure we get the point, and the etymological joke "Christian of the Three Apostles", the French poet says in the last line of his prologue: Oeez coment il s’en delivre.  (Hear how he delivers it!)

Let's also consider that Wolfram credits his informant for finding the grail: "Kyot, the wise master, began to search for them in Latin books, to find a people who are true enough to guard the grail. He read the chronicles of Britain and elsewhere, in France and Ireland. He found it at last in Anschaue, where he read the whole truth of Mazadan..." This is precisely the concept we are following, and every piece of evidence is found in the Latin chronicles of three monasteries in Catalonia. Scholars translate Anschowe as Anjou (France), but if we consider that Wolfram worked from Chrétien's poem, we know that he also understood the etymological jeu de mots. Hence, the German word means "anschauen", to look at something, and may include an invitation to look at "Mir" (Count Miro?) and the grail paintings of Urgell!

** The quote of St. Paul appears to be another key to the source, and actually to the grail itself. It is a link to the hermit in the poems, because the apostle Paul preached supposedly in Spain and installed "St Paul of Narbonne" as his disciple. This other "St Paul" lived for a while in a cave with an altar in the Pyrenees, and according to a Benedictine chronicle, a vessel with the blood of Christ was hidden there. This is the only Christian grail legend we know of and will be covered in detail!


           1. See According to FRANK N. MAGILL, Great Events from History, Vol.2, Salem Press, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1973, p.1086.  In view of Isidore's influence on Chrétien's interactive poem, it's not surprising that pope John Paul II declared him patron saint of the internet in 1997!

           2. WENDELIN FOERSTER, Wörterbuch zu Kristian von Troyes' sämtlichen Werken, 4., unveränderte Aufl., (Tübingen, 1966), pp. 67-68. ADOLF TOBLER, Tobler-Lommatzsch, Altfranzösisches Wörterbuch, Neudruck von Adolf Toblers nachgelassene Materialien / bearbeitet und mit Unterstützung der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, (Wiesbaden, 1955), pp. 751-55.

           3. JEAN FRAPPIER, Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, A Collaborative History, ed. Roger Sherman Loomis, Oxford University Press, 1959, p.171  Note: This article is a most valuable introduction to Chrétien by a leading expert!

           4. ROGER S. LOOMIS, ibid., pp. 277-78

          5. C. DU FRESNE DU CANGE, Glossarium, L.Favre, Niort 1885, Tom. IV, p.91

          6. JOAN COROMINES, Diccionari Etimològic Complimentari de la Llegua Catalana, Vol. IV,  Curial Edicions Catalanes, Barcelona, 1984, p.637.         

          7. L.BARRAU DIHIGO & J.MASSO TORRENTS, Gesta comitum Barcinonensium, Fundació Concepcio Rabell i Cibils, Barcelona, 1925, p.XXII

           8. STEFANO MARIA CINGOLANI, Gestes dels comtes de Barcelona I reis d’Aragó, Valencia, 2008, pp. 29,37,39. Note: If you google Cingolani, you'll find out he is currently working on a book about the Gesta, and if you google the Gesta, you'll notice the link to our Grailgate, which is also used by Wikipedia.

          9. FRANCISCO DIAGO, Historia de los victorissimos Condes de Barcelona,
Sebastian de Cormellas al Call, Barcelona, 1603, p.62

          10. FOERSTER, (see above, No. 2), pp.152-56

          11. ROGER S. LOOMIS, Arthurian Tradition & Chrétien de Troyes, New York, Columbia Press, 1949, pp.50-54

          12. Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada (Europeo-Americana), Espasa- Calpe S.A., Madrid, 1922, Vol.?, p.231, under "Wilfredo".

          13. KONRAD SANDKÜHLER, vol.2, Gawain sucht den Gral, Verlag Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart, Sonderausgabe 1977, pp.168-9

          14. GERONIMO PUJADES, Crónica Universal del Principado de Catalunia, José Torner, Barcelona, 1832, tome VIII, pp. 53-54. Pujades cites the entire document to show that the count of Barcelona Ramon Berenguer I was murdered by his brother Berenguer Ramon, which he compares to Cain and Abel and regards as a rare key to unlock historical truths that are often abscured by forgeries.

          15. ibid, 1830, tome VI, p.279

          16. BARRAU (see above, No. 7), footnotes p.4

          17. FERRAN SOLDEVILLA, Historia de Catalunya, second edition,  Editorial Alpha, Barcelona, 1963, p.61

          18. JEAN FRAPPIER, Chrétien de Troyes et le Mythe du Graal, Societé d'édition d'enseignement superieur, Paris V, 1972, p.50

          19. SANDKÜHLER, (see above, n. 13), vol.1 Perceval, p.196

          20. MARTIN DE RIQUER, Perceval - Li Contes del Graal?, Barcelona, p.50

          21. FRAPPIER, (see above, No. 18), pp.48-9

          22. Ibid.

          23. Ibid., pp. 267-272.

          24. WILLIAM KIBLER trans, Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances,  (London, 1991), p.20

          25. THE HOLY BIBLE, New International Version, (Michigan, 1978), p.1306, Mt. 13. 6-9: “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”

          26. Ibid, p.1529, 2 Cor. 9.6: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows generously will also reap generously”.

          27. See above APPENDIX. Lines 9-12 reduce the “sowing” of the romance to ambiguous speculation, which is usually lost in translations. The key is “et si le seme an si bon leu” in l.9, where the first “si” is ignored by all translators. They may be relying too much on the 1947 version in modern French by Lucien Foulet. See Chrétien de Troyes, Perceval le Gallois, ou le Conte du Graal, mis en français moderne par Lucien Foulet, (Paris, 1947), xxxiv + 221 p. — Réimpr.: Paris, Nizet, 1970, xxx + 221 p.; 1972; 1975; 1977, p. 3: “Chrétien veut semer le roman qu’il commence en si bon lieu qu’il ne puisse manquer d’en tirer une riche moisson; car il le fait pour...” The unconditional interpretation is followed by Nigel Bryant, Perceval, The Story of the Grail (Cambridge, England.,1982), p. 1: “Chrétien now sows and lays the seed of a romance that he begins, and sows it in so good a place that he cannot fail to have great reward; for he is doing it for…”. It is also followed by Martín de Riquer, Li Contes Del Graal – El Cuento del Grial (Barcelona, 1985), pp. 83-84: “Chrétien sembra y echa la semilla de una novela que empieza, y la siembra en lugar tan bueno que no se puede quedar sin gran provecho, pues lo hace para el...” The German translator Konrad Sandkühler, Perceval, vol.1 (Stuttgart, 1977), p. 7., ignores every condition: “Chrestien sät und streut den Samen eines Romans, den er beginnt, und er streut ihn in einen so guten Boden, dass es ihm nur zu grossem Nutzen sein kann, tat er es doch für den...”

           28. PETER MUNZ, intr. Boso’s Life of Alexander III (Oxford, 1973), p. 9. 27. He follows G. Le Bras, ‘Le droit romain au service de la domination pontificale’, Nouvelle revue historique de droit francais et étranger (Paris, 1949).

           29. Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Nicæa I to Lateran V, vol.1, ed. Norman P. Tanner S.J. (Georgetown, 1990) , pp. 224-225. According to Munz (see above, n. 29), p.16, Alexander III “was firmly set against the growing ‘heretical’ movement and at the Council of Tours in 1163 he laid down the basic principles on which the Inquisition was later to be founded.”

           30. NIGEL BRYANT, Perceval, The Story of the Grail (Cambridge, England.,1982). Bryant does not consider any of the heretic implications and translates: “…for he is doing it for the worthiest man in Christendom.”

            31. WILLIAM KIBLER trans, Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances,  (London, 1991), pp. 7-8.

            32. FRAPPIER, (see above, n. 3), p. 171.

            33. RALPH OF COGGESHALL, Chronicon Anglicanum, tr. Robert I. Moore in The Birth of Popular Heresy (Toronto, 1995), p. 86.

           34. ANDRE J. PANCKOUCKE, Abrégé chronologique de l’histoire de Flandre (Dunkirk, 1762), p. 111.

            35. BRYANT, p. 1 (see above, in n. 27).

            36. Mt. 13.37- 43: “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the devil, and the enemy who sows them is the devil… As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of this kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will be weeping and gnashing their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

           37. LOOMIS, The Origin of the Grail Legends, History (see above, n. 3), pp. 277-78.

           38. MALCOLM LAMBERT, The Cathars, (Oxford, 1998), pp. 62-64.

           39. CHRETIEN, vv. 3225-3229: “Atot le graal qu’ele tint, Une si granz clartez i vint Qu’ausi perdirent les chandoiles Lor clarté come les estoiles Quant li solauz lievre ou la lune.”





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