The chalice, an object steeped in religious, devotional, and cultural history, has long been heralded as a symbol for redemption, honor, and various other celebratory uses. The word 'chalice' itself originates from the Latin word 'calix' which means cup. It’s often also referred to as a goblet, this object is a large footed cup intended to hold a drink. Perhaps the most telling sign that an object is a chalice is the node, or pummel that separates the stem and the cup, making elevation and holding the object easier. The chalice is utterly immersed in a variety of instances throughout history, conjuring up religious and devotional ideas.
Since antiquity, the chalice has rested as one of the most important liturgical symbols of Christianity and the Catholic Church. As a fundamental object used in celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the chalice is a sacred vessel in Christian Liturgical worship. In fact, evidence of the earliest uses of the chalice can be seen in ancient calf-skin illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells.
In ancient Rome, the chalice was often a common fixation at lavish banquets, blanketing tables amongst sumptuous foods and company in extravagant dress.
Legends in ancient literature and art surrounding chalice fascinated cultures for centuries. The quest for the Holy Grail, perhaps the most enduring, is said to be the chalice present at the Last Supper where Jesus Christ shared bread and wine with his disciples, an act that forms the basis of Holy Communion in the Christian Church. It’s also believed this object was also present at his crucifixion. The search for the sacred vessel landed in the principal quest of King Arthur and his troupe, solidifying this particular chalice as one of the most fascinating enigma’s in history. As the culture of the Middle Ages lost touch of the quest for this chalice, it’s mysterious presence was once again reignited by writers such as C.S. Lewis and artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. All the while, popularizing chalice and goblet-like vessels.
In 19th century Russia, the chalice prevailed as an object of splendor and prestige. Royalty and nobility would often give a chalice to close friends and even churches as the perfect gift, often crafted from precious metals such as gold, that combined art and religion. In Russia, this era saw a burgeoning class of skilled craftsman and artisans. Consequently, chalices were adorned with some of the most sophisticated ornamentation that had been seen: delicate embossing, lavish enameling, and intricate medallions affixed to the surface.
Today, in the religious art and antiques world, chalices are seen as windows into legendary history and the past. As witnesses to centuries of spiritual and cultural forces, the chalice and its numerous symbols are prized by collectors and connoisseurs alike.