Memories from the diary of Isabel Goodwin from the World’s Fair
A sixteen -year old girl visiting the great Chicago’s World Fair in 1933 took a few moments to write down her impressions of this adventure. In her small diary are descriptions of several exhibits at the fair; the daughter of a Methodist minister, the Hall of Religions was a main attraction for the family, and garnered more than one visit. The Chalice of Antioch, billed as a possible candidate for the Holy Grail, left an indelible memory with this visitor.
Unearthed near the city of Antioch, Syria in 1910, a city as important to the early Christians as Rome and Alexandria; museum curators and historians from all over turned their eyes toward the cups, hoping perhaps, the greatest treasure of them all has been found. For a brief moment, it is believed that the inner cup might be that most fabulous of all treasures –the Holy Grail. Experts argued, examined and tested, and the age of the Antioch Chalice is placed at the fourth or fifth century, very early Christian work certainly; but over time, the authenticity has been challenged; now considered a sixth century chalice resembling a standing lamp, the decorations possibly inspired by the words of Christ, “I am the light of the world.”
The intricate, fruited grapevine that forms the rinceau pattern of the gilded shell contains various fauna; birds, a rabbit, lamb and twelve human figures holding scrolls, seated in high-back chairs. Two of the figures may be images of Christ, the other figures identified as ten of the twelve apostles, or philosophers of the classical age, like the prophets of the old- testament who foretold the coming of Christ. The sixth-century chronicler Malalas of Antioch was among those who sought to make such links between Christianity and classical philosophy.
The chalice currently resides in the Cloisters Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.