Valencia shines in the Santo Cáliz

Last week, a traveler from Canada visited the Cathedral of Valencia guided by the curiosity of The Mysteries of Faith that is broadcast on Netflix.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 10:33
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Valencia shines in the Santo Cáliz

Last week, a traveler from Canada visited the Cathedral of Valencia guided by the curiosity of The Mysteries of Faith that is broadcast on Netflix. This tourist made the entire journey of the Holy Chalice from San Juan de la Peña - where the glass supposedly arrived from the hands of San Lorenzo following the mandate of Pope Saint Sixtus II to save it - to Valencia seeking help for his sick relatives. The story is told by Álvaro Almenar, custodian of the Holy Chalice, the agate cup that could have been used at the Last Supper.

Almenar explains that it cannot be stated that it was the one used at that time of such importance for Christianity, but he points out that there is certainty that it is a Jewish blessing cup and "due to the style and dating it could have been used in this context." Of course, he clarifies that the relic, which has been kept in the Cathedral of Valencia since 1437, is only the upper part and that the handles and jewels were added later.

This Holy Thursday, Almenar took the relic out of its chapel. It only comes out twice a year, on the day that commemorates the Last Supper and on the last Thursday of October, when the annual festival of the Holy Chalice is celebrated. To do so, special care is taken; The custodian remembers how in 1744 "it fell and broke."

Almenar told La Vanguardia that he recovered "brilliantly," but legend has it that the custodian who fell died three days later of syncope. "If I fell, I wouldn't want to take so long to die," he explains, showing his devotion to the relic that he has in his care. Therefore, every time he leaves the chapel, he is surrounded "more than to catch me if I stumble, to prevent anything from happening to him," he says half seriously, half jokingly. Last Holy Thursday, luckily, there was no damage to people or property.

The canon comments that the relic is not used as a liturgical vessel, except when the Pope came to Valencia in 1982 (John Paul II) and in 2006 (Benedict XVI). It is possibly the greatest treasure of the Cathedral.

With the idea of ​​adding luster to the cup, the plenary session of the Consell València de Cultura (CVC) this week approved - with 9 votes in favor, 6 against and 3 abstentions - a report that proposes recognizing the Holy Chalice as Material Cultural Heritage and Intangible and highlight its relevance for cultural and religious tourism in the Valencian Community. The objective of the report, the CVC explains, was to place the Holy Chalice as a fundamental piece for religious and cultural pilgrimage, both for the historical and archaeological value of the glass and for its immaterial value.

It was not a unanimous vote, as José Vicente Navarro, president of Lo Rat Penat and author of the report, explains to this newspaper, although an attempt was made to remove the confessional part of the piece - and those parts that were understood to be the same were eliminated from the conclusions. liturgical character -, "it is very complicated to separate it from the religious component".

This statement, not without controversy and several dissenting votes, has served the Valencia City Council to reinforce its project to create an Interpretation Center of the Holy Chalice next to the Cathedral. An initiative with which the municipal government seeks to mark "a before and after in the study, promotion and dissemination of one of the most precious relics of Christianity."

Navarro insists in his report on the possibilities that the relic has from a cultural and tourist point of view and the Consistory adds that "the interpretation center of the Casa del Relojero could be the starting point of a set of public-private initiatives to enhance the values ​​and wealth of Valencian heritage around one of its most valuable assets."

As the custodian of the agate cup pointed out, the legends surrounding the Holy Grail are becoming more and more interesting and for years the path of the Holy Chalice has been encouraged, like the one the Canadian tourist took last week. "Hopefully this route can gain as much strength as the Camino de Santiago and Valencia can be known as the city of the Holy Chalice."

Precisely, in its magazine Paraula this March, the Archbishopric echoed two recently published investigations by Professor Manuel Zarzo, from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), which provide unpublished indications about the possible authenticity of the Holy Chalice. Zarzo explains that "the production of glass by blowing was developed at the end of the first century BC. Previously, glass containers were made with molds, being expensive and not very transparent." For this reason, the researcher points out, "in the case of the Holy Chalice, the thickness of the agate suggests a manufacture prior to the blown glass boom. That is, prior to the Last Supper."

However, Zarzo highlights the need to continue investigating "the traceability of the cup from Jerusalem to Huesca, since the evidence of its presence in the Iberian Peninsula is very scarce before the 12th century." The professor indicates that this search "raises many questions, since there are very few vestiges of the presence of the Holy Chalice in the province of Huesca", which is why many people consider that "it cannot be proven that the relic venerated in Valencia is the authentic Chalice of the Last Supper". Whether it is authentic or not, Almenar will surely continue to take care of it and explain stories to all those devout or simply curious who come to the Cathedral of Valencia.