Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Importance of Faith in God and the Sacrifice of Personal Glory
An overriding theme in The Quest of the Holy Grail is the importance of unremitting and true faith in God. Though the story follows the exploits of many of the knights of King Arthur's Round Table, ultimately it is only the most holy among them—particularly saintly Galahad—who are able to lay eyes on the object of their extreme speculation: the Holy Grail, or the cup that Jesus drank from during the last supper.
In P. M. Matarasso's translation of the Celtic epic, the narrative focuses specifically on both Perceval and Galahad's success in reaching the Grail, and this is a direct result of their faithful devotion to their cause and firm belief in God. Toward the end of the novel, these two knights meet with Josephus in Gaul, who receives them with tremendous gratitude and hospitality.
They then travel together to the sea, coming across a ship with an inscription in its hull that forbids anyone from entering who does not firmly believe in Jesus Christ. Galahad and Perceval catch sight of the Grail lying upon a bed in the ship, enter, and then steer the ship to a distant shore.
It is heavily indicated throughout the story that Galahad in particular is only successful in finding the Grail because he demonstrates unwavering faith and love for God. For example, during his voyage across the sea, the ship he and Perceval have boarded is rocked very harshly in the waves, and the knights do not know where exactly the ship is being guided.
The story relates, however, that every morning and night, Galahad sedulously prays to God and asks for deliverance. The implication is that Galahad is of such a holy disposition that he would rather die at sea, having seen the perfectness of the Grail only once, rather than live his life fully and risk corrupting his memory of it. Such is Galahad's devotion to his cause and love for God.
Galahad eventually tells Perceval why it was that he requested deliverance from God. Being so moved by the pureness of his comrade's heart, Perceval himself decides to live out the rest of his days as a hermit in the forest rather than return the Grail to King Arthur and the Britons.
Thus, the story of the Grail ends without it ever having been returned to Britain. But the underlying theme which drives the motivations of the most successful of the knights who seek it out is undying devotion to God and the willingness to sacrifice personal glory in order to demonstrate faith.