Chalice (cup)

Chalice (cup)

A chalice (from Latin "calix", cup, borrowed from Greek "kalyx", shell, husk) is a goblet intended to hold drink. In general religious terms, it is intended for quaffing during a ceremony.

Religious use


thumb|250px|Chalice_in_the_vestry of the Ipatevskii Monastery in Kostroma.]

In Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Lutheranism and some other Christian denominations, a chalice is a standing cup used to hold sacramental wine during the Eucharist (also called the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion). Chalices are often made of precious metal, and they are sometimes richly enamelled and jewelled.

The ancient Roman "calix" was a drinking vessel consisting of a bowl fixed atop a stand, and was in common use at banquets. Chalices have been used since the early church. Because of Jesus' command to his disciples to "Do this in remembrance of me." (] Among the Eastern Churches there are varying practices regarding blessing. In some traditions the very act of celebrating the Sacred Mysteries (Sacrament) is the only blessing necessary; in others, there is a special rite of blessing. In some Eastern traditions this blessing may be done only by a bishop, in some it may be done by a priest. In any case, in both the East and the West, once a chalice has been blessed, it may only be touched by an ordained member of the higher clergy (bishop, priest or deacon). In the Russian Orthodox Church a subdeacon is permitted to touch the holy vessels, but only if they are wrapped in cloth.

The Holy Chalice

In Christian tradition the 'Holy Chalice is the vessel which Jesus used at the Last Supper to serve the wine. New Testament texts make no mention of the cup except within the context of the Last Supper and give no significance whatever to the object itself. Herbert Thurston in the "Catholic Encyclopedia" 1908 concluded that "No reliable tradition has been preserved to us regarding the vessel used by Christ at the Last Supper. In the sixth and seventh centuries pilgrims to Jerusalem were led to believe that the actual chalice was still venerated in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, having within it the sponge which was presented to Our Saviour on Calvary." Several surviving standing cups of precious materials are identified in local traditions as the Chalice.

Holy Grail

An entirely different and pervasive tradition concerns the cup of the "Last Supper". In this highly muddled though better-known version, the vessel is known as Holy Grail. In this legend, the cup was used to collect and store the blood of Christ at the Crucifixion. This conflicts with the notion that Peter might have used the cup of the "Last Supper" to celebrate the Mass.

"The Da Vinci Code", a modern fiction by Dan Brown, suggested that a chalice represents the womb of a woman, and that the term "Holy Grail" ("san gral") means the "holy blood" rather than a drinking vessel.

Unitarian Universalism

At the opening of Unitarian Universalist worship services, many congregations light a flame inside a chalice. [Citation | last =Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations | title =Our Symbol: the Flaming Chalice | date =March 1 | year =2007 | url = | accessdate =2007-07-19] A flaming chalice is the most widely used symbol of Unitarianism and Unitarian Universalism (UU), and the official logo of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and other Unitarian and UU churches and societies. [Unitarian Universalist Association, [ "The History of the Flaming Chalice"] ] The design was originated by the artist Hans Deutsch, who took his inspiration from the chalices of oil burned on ancient Greek and Roman altars. It became an underground symbol in occupied Europe during World War II for assistance to help Unitarians, Jews, and other people escape Nazi persecution. [Citation | last—liberal religion and life | title =Wartime origins of the flaming chalice | url = | accessdate =2007-07-19] The chalice is often shown surrounded by two linked rings The two linked rings were used as an early symbol for the Unitarian Universalist Association, signifying the joining of Unitarianism and Universalism. There is no standardized interpretation of the flaming chalice symbol. In one interpretation, the chalice is a symbol of religion freedom from the impositions of doctrine by a hierarchy and openness to participation by all; the flame is interpreted as a memorial to those throughout history who sacrificed their lives for the cause of religious liberty. In another interpretation, the flaming chalice resembles a cross, symbolic of the Christian roots of Unitarian Universalism. [Citation | last =Unitarian Universalist Association | title =The History of the Flaming Chalice | year =2007 | url = | accessdate =]


In Wicca a chalice, as a feminine principle, is often used in combination with the Athame (ceremonial black-handled knife), as male principle. Combining the two evokes the act of procreation, as a symbol of universal creativity. This is a symbol of the Great Rite in Wiccan rituals. A chalice is also used in the Small Rite.


Some forms of Neo-Paganism make use of chalices in their rituals as well. A chalice may be placed on an altar or on the ground. The chalice may contain wine, whiskey, water, or other liquids.

Poisoned Chalice

The term "poisoned chalice" is applied to a thing or situation which appears to be good when it is received or experienced by someone, but then becomes or is found to be bad. The idea was referred to by Benedict of Nursia in one of his exorcisms, found on the Saint Benedict Medal: "Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!" (Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!).

William Shakespeare uses the expression in Act I Scene VII of Macbeth. It occurs in the opening soliloquy of the scene when Macbeth is considering the ramifications of the murder he is plotting.

But in these cases
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips.


The use of chalices as heraldic devices is not unusual, especially in ecclesiastical heraldry. A number of cities and regions also make use of the chalice. For instance, the coat of arms of the municipality of Fanas in the district of Prättigau/Davos in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, bears a gold chalice on a solid blue background.


Ceramic_goblet_from_Navdatoli,_Malwa, 1300 BCE.
Etruscan bucchero chalice, early 6th century BC
Treasure of Gourdon, 6th century AD
Tassilo Chalice, c. 780 (reproduction)
Ardagh Chalice, 9th century
Palais du Tau, treasure of the Cathedral of Reims, 12th century
Porvoo Cathedral), c. 1250
Trondheim, Norway
Baroque chalice with a paten
Lumijoki, Finland, 1751

Evangelical_Communion_Cup,_1831Image:Kelch1-Ludorff-IMG_2455.jpg|Marienkirche Dortmund Chalice, Münster, 1894
Felix Granda
Felix Granda

Alternate Usage

In French-Canadian culture, particularly in and around Quebec, the use of the names of holy objects such as "chalice" can be an alternate form of cursing. Somewhat equivalent to the American word "goddam" or the phrase "God damn it", the use of "chalice" or "tabernacle" as an interjection is not uncommon in Quebec. For example: "Chalice! I forgot to lock the front door" or muttering "tabernacle" under your breath after you get a flat tire. Presumably a derivation of "taking the Lord's name in vain" in the context of "Jesus Christ! Now What?" or similar outbursts. [Quebec swears by its English curses: But church-related expletives spoken in French not accepted on TV by Sean Gordon Toronto Red Star December 12 2006]


ee also

*Corporal (liturgy)
*Communion under both kinds
*Ablution in Christianity
*Ardagh Chalice
*Tassilo Chalice
*Derrynaflan Chalice
*Treasure of Gourdon
*The Oxburgh Chalice

External links

* [ "Chalice"] article from the "Catholic Encyclopedia"
* [ Stem glass classification]

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  • Chalice (disambiguation) — Not to be confused with cilice. A chalice can refer to; Chalice (cup), a goblet or footed cup intended to hold a drink Holy Chalice, the vessel which Jesus used at the Last Supper to serve the wine Chalice (pipe), a type of smoking pipe Chalice… …   Wikipedia

  • Chalice — • Occupies the first place among sacred vessels, and by a figure of speech the material cup is often used as if it were synonymous with the Precious Blood itself Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Chalice     Chalice …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Chalice (novel) — Chalice   …   Wikipedia

  • chalice — (n.) early 14c., from Anglo Fr. chalice, from O.Fr. chalice, collateral form of calice (Mod.Fr. calice), from L. calicem (nom. calix) cup, cognate with Gk. kylix cup, drinking cup, from PIE root *kal cup. Ousted Old English cognate cælic, an… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Chalice — Chal ice, n. [OR. chalis, calice, OF. chalice, calice, F. calice, fr. L. calix, akin to Gr. ? and E. helmet. Cf. {Calice}, {Calyx}.] A cup or bowl; especially, the cup used in the sacrament of the Lord s Supper. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • chalice — [chal′is] n. [ME & OFr < L calix, cup: see CALIX] 1. a cup; goblet 2. the cup for the wine of Holy Communion 3. a cup shaped flower …   English World dictionary

  • chalice — ► NOUN 1) historical a goblet. 2) the wine cup used in the Christian Eucharist. ORIGIN Latin calix cup …   English terms dictionary

  • cup — [kup] n. [ME & OE cuppe < LL cuppa, altered < L cupa, tub < IE * keup , a hollow < base * keu , to bend, arch > COOMB, HUMP] 1. a small, open container for beverages, usually bowl shaped and with a handle 2. the bowl part of a… …   English World dictionary

  • cup — [n] container for drinking beaker, bowl, cannikin, chalice, cupful, demitasse, draught, drink, goblet, grail, mug, potion, stein, taster, teacup, tumbler, vessel; concept 494 …   New thesaurus

  • Chalice — For other uses, see Chalice (disambiguation) Derrynaflan Chalice, an 8th or 9th Century chalice, found in County Tipperary, Ireland A chalice (from Latin calix, cup, borrowed from Greek kalyx, shell, husk) is a goblet or footed cup intended to… …   Wikipedia

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