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A mysterious lost chalice….

Sir Humphrey's Chalice

Before I go further, let me point out that this is not the chalice I refer to, merely how I think it could have looked. The real thing might have been encrusted with pearls and rubies.

On December 13th, 2000, a gentleman named Adrian Fray posted an interesting item about a gold chalice that had once been at Glastonbury Abbey, and might also have once been owned by Sir Humphrey Talbot, Marshal of Calais, brother of Lady Eleanor Talbot. The post is as follows:-

In an English 15C ‘will’ there is mention of a gold standing cup / chalice, and the ‘will’ states that this chalice is chaced with rubies and pearls. I have been searching all references to chalices and I have been unable to find one that comes anywhere near to meeting this description. I am therefore posting this message to ask if anyone knows if there is might be one of this description in a museum, church, or private collection.

The item may be much older than the 15C. It may have been taken from France during the 100 years war, and it might have passed to Sir Humphrey Talbot, who was Marshall of Calais. Consequently it may have gone back to France. At one time it was held at Glastonbury Abbey.

If it can be located, it may help to validate what I believe to be a Medieval fraud.

How very intriguing! I have written to Mr Fray, to see if he learned anything more, but his message was posted almost fourteen years ago now. I would love to know about the suspected medieval fraud, and if Sir Humphrey actually possessed such a wonderful chalice.

The will in which Mr Fray found the reference is not disclosed, but Interestingly (although far from conclusively) a transcript of Sir Humphrey’s will contains the following:-

“ . . . . Which I bequeath vnto my Lady my suster to gedir with the gilt cuppe that she gave me nowe being in Calis?  . . . .”

The sister, of course, must be Elizabeth, Duchess of Norfolk, Lady Eleanor by then having been dead for a number of years. It really cannot be said that the two cups are one and the same, but it is a curious coincidence. If it should by any chance be the same cup, and Elizabeth gave it to Humphrey in the first place, how did it come into her possession? And what has Glastonbury Abbey to do with it? Of course, as soon as one mentions Glastonbury and chalices, the magical name King Arthur leaps to mind. Well, it leaps to mine, so I wonder if the abbey was presenting it as that legendary king’s cup. Not that I can say if it was at Glastonbury before or after it came into Sir Humphrey’s possession.

I do not even know what such a wonderful jewelled cup might have looked like. Like Mr Fray, I cannot find a similar example studded with those particular stones, hence the guesswork in the pictured chalice.

Does anyone know anything about this mysterious cup and its intriguing history?

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One thought on “A mysterious lost chalice….

  1. I doubt Glastonbury Abbey was claiming it was Arthur’s or a replica of the Holy Grail or whatever. It was likely used to hold the wine during mass at the Abbey, as the vessel holding what Catholics/the medieval church believe(d) to be the transmutated blood of Christ must be pure, and nothing is more pure in men’s eyes than gold.

    The Host is also placed in a gold bowl during mass, and a gold bowl is also used to hold the extra pieces that are stored in the tabernacle after mass.

    Even today, chalices like this are elevated by the priest with a triangular portion of the Eucharist and shown to the congregation during mass (at both cathedrals and smaller parish churches) to the words, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold He who takes away the sins of the world.”

    Today, most of the chalices and bowls are gold-plated.

    Liked by 1 person

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