Quest of the Holy Grail
  • Publication Date: August 7, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554813766 / 155481376X
  • 368 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Quest of the Holy Grail

  • Publication Date: August 7, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554813766 / 155481376X
  • 368 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Old French Lancelot-Graal is an important but massive work, providing a place for King Arthur not only in the history of Britain but also in Christian history. This new translation of one section, the Quest of the Holy Grail, will be a flexible addition to courses on medieval literature or romance. The notes and guides are designed to help readers enjoy the text while appreciating its relationship to social and literary history.

Appendices include translations of material from two of Chrétien de Troyes’s romances (Perceval and Yvain); translations from other parts of the Lancelot-Grail Cycle (the early history of the Grail and the conception of Galahad); and excerpts from apocryphal works (from French versions written at about the same time as the Quest).


The Quest of the Holy Grail is a seminal work of medieval literature and still a constant source for allusion, quasi-proverbial citation, and even parody. The canonical version of the story is an early-thirteenth-century Old French prose romance, and Judith Shoaf provides a lucid and readable translation accompanied by an excellent learned introduction in which she situates the Quest in the history of medieval Arthurian romance and explains some of the key concepts of the romance for readers unfamiliar with medieval Arthurian romance and medieval Christian thought. This translation and introduction are clearly the best available for anglophone teachers of undergraduate (or high-school) courses in medieval romance, and scholars of Arthurian romance can learn much from both the introduction and the annotations to the text. This is a brilliant achievement that students and more advanced scholars alike can celebrate.” — Thomas D. Hill, Professor of English and Medieval Studies, Cornell University

“Judith Shoaf’s new translation of the Quest of the Holy Grail is essential for anyone encountering the Quest either for the first time or after repeated study. Shoaf’s text surpasses earlier translations in accuracy and readability. Its explanatory notes, always illuminating, are helpfully placed at the bottom of the page rather than at the back of the book. Shoaf’s is the first English translation to include alternative conclusions found in manuscripts of the Quest. Her Introduction is as accessible as it is scholarly, guiding the reader expertly through the Quest, the chivalric and religious culture it portrays, and its place in the Vulgate Cycle and the Grail legend. The translation is richly supplemented with manuscript illustrations, an identification list of proper names, a genealogy of Galahad, and appendices featuring relevant passages from the Quest’s contexts in Arthurian legend and biblical apocrypha.” — Michael Twomey, Professor Emeritus, Ithaca College

List of Illustrations
List of Proper Names
A Note on the Text
Genealogy of Galahad

The Quest of the Holy Grail

  • The Round Table at Pentecost
  • Galahad’s First Adventures
  • Lancelot’s First Adventures
  • Perceval’s Adventures
  • Lancelot’s Adventures, Continued
  • Lord Gawain’s Adventures
  • Bors’s Adventures
  • Galahad’s Adventures, Continued
  • King Solomon’s Ship
  • Galahad, Perceval, Bors, and Perceval’s Sister
  • Lancelot Completes His Quest
  • Galahad Completes His Quest
  • Sarras
  • Alternative Ending

Appendix A: Chrétien de Troyes

  1. Perceval, or the Story of the Graal
    1. The Graal at the Fisher King’s Castle
    2. The Quest Is Declared
    3. Perceval and the Hermit
  2. Yvain, or the Knight of the Lion
    1. The Serpent and the Lion
    2. The Two Daughters of the Lord of the Black Thorn

Appendix B: Apocryphal Bible Stories

  1. From André de Coutances, The Gospel of Nicodemus
    1. Joseph of Arimathea after the Crucifixion
    2. The Harrowing of Hell
    3. The Tree of Mercy
  2. The History of the Holy Rood-Tree
  3. Jean Beleth’s Summary of the Legend of the Holy Cross

Appendix C: Excerpts from the Lancelot-Grail Cycle

  1. History of the Holy Grail: The nature of the Grail object
    1. Joseph of Arimathea
    2. The Priesthood of Josephus
    3. Nascien and the Grail
  2. The Book of Lancelot du Lac: The Grail procession and the conception of Galahad

Works Cited

Judith Shoaf is Director of the Language Learning Center at the University of Florida.