In 1533, Henry took matters into his own hands and secretly married the pregnant Boleyn. Parliament then passed an act that dissolved Papal authority in
There was no public outcry for the loss of Papal authority. Most commoners saw the Catholic Church as a spiritual protection racket. The Church charged to perform weddings, baptisms, or funeral services. Without these services, the Church’s stance was that entry into heaven could not be obtained. To Henry, the Catholic Abbeys and Monasteries represented pockets of resistance to his reign. Pragmatically, they also represented a stream of income to the crown. Most Abbeys had large tracks of farmable land and other material assets that could be put to the King’s use. To insure that the monasteries were conforming to the law, Thomas Cromwell organized groups of commissioners to perform ecclesial spot checks. This turned out to be a rather lucrative job for the commissioners. Who had the honor of looting the monasteries where the monks were found to be in violation of the law.
It is during this time the Nanteos Cup surfaces. In 1539, the King’s commissioners were sent to check on the Abbey of Glastonbury. The Abbot of Glastonbury had evidently never denounced Papal authority. Some loyal Catholic had tipped the Abbot off that the commissioners were in the area. Upon hearing this, the Abbot made plans to hide the Abbey’s most prized possession. Along with what ever gold and silver wares the Abbey possessed, an olive wood cup measuring about five by three inches was hidden. One legend says the Abbot sent seven monks to the Strata Florida to safe guard the cup. The Abbot stayed at
At the Abbey Strata Florida in Cardiganshire, the monks found momentary refuge. Supposedly, they hid their treasure under a loose floor board in the main chapel. It wasn’t long before the commissioners picked up the monk’s trail. For a second time, the former Glastonbury Monks were informed that their position was in jeopardy. The group of seven could not go to ground forever. They had to find a patron to shield them from the King’s agents or leave the country.
The monks then made contact with the Powell family. It was also rumored that the Powell family was partners with the neighboring Stedman family in a rather extensive smuggling operation. There was said to be a tunnel running nearly a mile from the coast to the Powell’s manor. The local tavern talk was that the Powell’s loyalties to the King were bought with bribes to the local magistrates. Possibly it was the smuggler nature to turn a profit or secret Catholic ties that connected Lord Powell with the monks. For whatever reason Powell’s reasons, the seven monks were directed to fleet to the Powell estate of Nanteos.
When the monks reached Nanteos, the terms of their safe haven was struck with Lord Powell. In exchange for sanctuary, the Abbot would become personal chaplain to the family and the remaining monks would become servants around the estate. Lord Powell agreed and let the monks remain at the estate for as long as they liked. This arraignment went along for years. The monks lived their days with little difference than they had at
The ravages of age or disease began taking their toll on the monks, until only one remained. On his death bed, the lone
Lord Powell must have taken his charge seriously, because it stayed in the family for nearly 400 years. In 1739, the Nanteos House was rebuilt by Thomas Powell. The cup was housed in a glass container of an upstairs room. Visitors to Nanteos were even told the generations old tale of how this cup came into the family’s possession. The cup stayed there for another 200 years, attracting pilgrims hoping to receive miraculous healing from the cup. Water that had rested in the cup was sent to serious ill friends and family members all over the world. Richard Wagner made a trip to Nanteos in 1855 to see the cup while writing Parsifal, at the invitation of George Powell. George recounted tales of the cups healing powers to Wagner. It even convinced Tom Mac Donald of Western Mail and South Wales News to write an article on the cup. On 5 July 1934 he recounted the story of an 80 year old man who was healed of some unnamed sickness after drinking from the cup.
The pilgrims that traveled to Nanteos House to drink from the cup have taken a physical toll on the artifact. Those desperate enough to receive the blessings of the cup took to taking bites out of it. Hoping that by ingesting some of the cup, they would be made well again. At some point after the 1934 article was written, a silver ring was placed around the rim to hold the cup’s cracked pieces together. Some say that it was then the miraculous benefits of the cup ceased.
When the last of the Powell family passed away in 1952, the Nanteos House was sold to a Major Mirylees. The Mirylees were somewhat private about the cup. They no longer publicizing the fact they were the owners of the “Holy Grail”. The family did allow a few interviews regarding the cup. One was a 1997 BBC Television documentary and another was an interview granted to the Martinist Review in 1959. In the Martinist Review article, Marjory Mirylees hinted that the cup was still being used to some extent to heal the sick. She also mentioned that sometimes the water that was poured in the remaining portion of the cup turned a yellowish color, and tasted almost like wine. Mrs. Mirylees also assured the reporters that experts had told her the wood had absolutely nothing to do with the color change.
The present Mirylees have moved from Nanteos House. The once proud House has turned into a run down bed and breakfast. Choosing to preserve both the cup and their privacy they moved to Herefordshire and deposited this contender for the true Grail in a Lloyd’s Bank safety deposit box. The only time the Nanteos Cup has been displayed was in 2001, at the launching of a book Nanteos and their Families. At the time, Miss Mirylees said that she still sent water out from the cup.