By: Wiktoria Kępczyńska:
Scientists, archaeologists, writers, film-makers, myth and legend enthusiasts and even conspiracy theorists have been working for years on the mystery of the origin and existence of the Holy Grail – the chalice or bowl used by Christ at the Last Supper. In all possible theories on this subject one can find the Templars, the medieval Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon from Jerusalem. The subject does not escape Poland either, and the legend begins in England.
In the battle with William the Conqueror at Hastings in 1066, King Harold Godwinson of England was killed, and his wife and children leaving the kingdom took the relic, the Holy Grail, on a journey through Lithuania and Kievan Rus to Byzantium. However, the Grail remains in Lithuania with the sons of King Harold II. History links one of them, Godwin, with the family of Duke Gediminas, the progenitor of the Jagiellonians. As the legend has it, the Grail was looked after by Duke Švitrigaila (sometimes spelled Svidrigiello), the youngest brother of King Władysław Jagiełło. The relic was kept in the castle built by the Teutonic Knights in 1371, where Švitrigaila was hosted in the years 1402-1404 for his policy favourable to the Teutonic Order, nota bene against the interests of Poland. Bezławki is today a village in the Kętrzyn District in the Reszel municipality on the Dajna river, where in 1513 the castle was transformed into a catholic church, in which the Grail was to be walled up in one of the walls in fear of the Tatar invasion.
How much truth there is in this legend is difficult to prove, but what is indisputable in this tale is the fact that Duke Švitrigaila carried two chalices on his journeys, called…Greek and English – as confirmed by historians. If among the legendary treasures of the Templars there were also holy Christian relics, then the Grail story may turn out to be more interesting as it seems, because in every legend there is supposedly a grain of truth.
Can this legend then be linked to the Templars? Well, Duke Švitrigaila’s father was Gediminas, and the Gediminas family may have descended from Godwin, the son of English King Harold, whose descendants took part in the medieval Crusades to the Holy Land, from where the Templars took their treasures, including holy relics, after losing their last fortress and making a spectacular escape.
What was the further fate of the Holy Grail? A more serious answer could be given by the Vatican, but the Vatican so far …neither confirms nor denies any hypothesis. After the dissolution of the Order by the Pope, the Templars found themselves in various religious structures in Europe, including the Order of Montesa in Spain and the Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Portugal. They reached Scotland, England, Malta, Cyprus and Germany. They established their Commanderies all over Europe, also in Poland, where they appeared in the XII century together with Duke Henry Sandomierski, the son of Bolesław III Wrymouth, returning from a crusade. They settled in Opatów and in nearby villages.
In the 13th century, more Commanderies were established in the vicinity of Oława. They were brought by the Silesian Duke Henry I the Bearded. Duke Władysław Odonic hands Myślibórz, Wielka Wieś, Chwarszczany and Wałcz over to the Order, and the Duke Przemysł II of Greater Poland gives Czaplinek to the Order. Duke Bolesław V the Chaste settled the monks in Łuków with the intention of establishing a bishopric, which is mentioned in a bull of Pope Innocent IV from 1257. At the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries the Templars stayed in castles in Rogów Opolski, Krapkowice, Otmęt and Prudnik.
Historians estimate that in the period from the 12th to 14th century, when there were about 50 Commanderies operating in Poland, in the headquarters of each of them relics brought from the Holy Land from successive Crusades could have been kept, strengthening the legends connected with them, which in the public perception have survived to this day.
What secrets does the Templar chapel in Chwarszczany, a village in the West Pomerania Province in the district of Myślibórz, in the municipality of Boleszkowice, hide?
The answer is to be expected from historians and archaeologists, because most probably Chwarszczany was the centre of the Order’s Eastern European province, where the Commandery’s superiors met, and where the …. treasury was located. And if a treasury, then perhaps also the Holy Grail, as mentioned by CNN in their programme about the Templars.
The existence of a mysterious object (a chalice or bowl), from which Christ drank wine during the Last Supper and after the crucifixion was used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect the blood of Jesus – arouses much controversy. The most popular theory is connected with the miraculous power of the artefact. Scientists, historians, archaeologists and various kinds of home-grown treasure hunters do not cease in their efforts to discover the artefact and the truth about the Holy Grail, but we will probably still wait for an answer, and perhaps the story about it will forever remain an unsolvable mystery.