Once thought to be the fabled Holy Grail, it is now known to be an oil lamp.
An intriguing object unknown to most visitors stands within a quiet gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Few would ever think this small artifact was once escorted by armed guards and took center stage at many well-attended viewings, showings, and exhibitions.
Created around 500 and discovered in 1910 in Syria, the artifact is thought to have belonged to a church in the ancient Turkish city of Antioch, which was an important city for early Christianity. After it was discovered, its inner cup was originally believed to have been none other than the fabled Holy Chalice, the cup Jesus used during the Last Supper.
The elaborate outer shell was thought to have been formed around the brittle, fragile inner cup to honor Christ. However, it’s now believed the cup wasn’t a chalice at all and was instead a standing oil lamp.
Even if it isn’t the lost grail, the artifact is still an exquisite item. It’s decorated with a variety of motifs including images of Christ, lotus flowers, and leaves. There are also many different animals on the chalice, plus figures thought alternatively to be Jesus’s apostles or philosophers all wrapped within a grapevine.
Know Before You Go
The chalice is in gallery 300, right by the main Great Hall.
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