Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade is one of my favorite movies of all time and my favorite in the Indiana Jones series. Naturally a movie that deals greatly with mystery and the supernatural there would be many questions that are raised throughout the movies but there has been one very simple one that I have always wondered about. The Holy Grail is protected by the bravest of the three crusade knight brothers for more than 800 years with the help of the life extending powers of the Holy Grail but we never get see what happens to this immortal knight after Indiana Jones recovers the Grail. Oh also major spoilers for the movie to come. So, on this edition of Dumb Movie Questions we ask:
What happened to the Grail Knight at the end of The Last Crusade?
For some background, at the end of the movie we see Indiana Jones triumphantly recover the correct Holy Grail to save his father however Elsa gets greedy and tries to take the Holy Grail from the temple even though the Knight explicitly told them not to take the Grail past the Great Seal on the ground of the main entrance. As a result of Elsa's attempts to take the grail, the temple begins to crumble in order to trap everyone inside. The ground begins crumble and split, the grail falls into the crack and lands on a ledge below. After almost falling into the abyss trying to save the Grail Indi is saved by his father and on their way out he looks up to see the Grail Knight watching and waving goodbye as they escape just in time.
We never explicitly see what actually happens to the Holy Grail or the Knight. I have so many questions about this one part of the entire Indiana Jones series and there is some pretty crazy stuff happening in all the movies! Is the Knight still immortal as long he doesn’t cross where the Great Seal was? Now that the grail has fallen into the abyss does he lose his immortality? Is the grail lost forever?
Grail Power – What can it do according to legend?
So let’s establish in the legends and the context of the movie what powers does the Holy Grail have. So here is what I have found researching as to what the Holy Grail can do in the legends: Interestingly enough the Holy Grail is never mentioned in the Bible instead it’s a fictional artifact made popular by the King Arthur stories. In those stories it is said that King Arthur and his knights journeyed far and wide, searching for the Holy Grail. Only the purest souls were able to grasp it, and Sir Galahad was said to have gained immortality by virtue of being the only man able to touch it.
In the context of the movie a man or woman who drank water from the true Grail would be granted eternal life. However, their eternal life would last as long as they did not cross the Great Seal of the Temple. Passing the Great Seal would cause the drinker to regain his or her mortality, although that would not destroy the Temple. According to the grail inscription on the tablet that Donovan shows Indi at the beginning of the movie it also confirms that the grail gives eternal life.
Inconsistencies in the Movies
We know the Grail does in fact give immortal life since the Knight is still there 800 years later when Indi and co. find him. However, towards the beginning of the movie Indi and Donovan talk of the story of how the legend was chronicled after the other two Knight Brothers left the temple after 150 years before dying of extreme old age.
Indi: “I’ve heard this one as well. Two of these brothers walked out of the desert one hundred and fifty years. After having found the Grail and began the long journey back to France. But only one of them made it. And before dying of extreme old age, he supposedly imparted his tale to a -- to a Franciscan friar, I think”
Also when we see the Grail Knight in the movie he looks extremely old so he’s been aging for some reason even though he’s supposed to be granted eternal life and presumably youth. As well as in the fourth film Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls (Sigh…) we learn that Henry Jones Sr. has passed away so clearly drinking from the Holy Grail saved his life from the bullet wound but he eventually lost his immortality just like the two Knight Brothers once he left the temple.
So How Does the Grail Actually Work?
In the movie the Knight tells us: “...But the Grail cannot pass beyond the Great Seal. That is the boundary and the price of immortality” I originally took this to mean that A) it’s a security measure to prevent the Grail itself from being stolen and B) that the immortality powers only last while in the temple. It turns out A is true but B really isn’t, the seal is only to prevent the Grail from being taken but has nothing to do with its powers. According to the official movie companion novelization of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade by Rob MacGregor, the Grail gives eternal life but it must be drank from each day or else you begin to age again as evidence by this line on P.209 of the book:
The Knight: “Many times my spirit faltered, and I could not bear to drink from the cup, so I aged, a year for every day I did not drink...”
This one line answers so many questions I’m actually really surprised they left it out of the movie! It now makes sense why the two brothers who left the temple and Henry Sr. died eventually. It also explains why the Grail Knight was so old. He stopped drinking for a little while because he started to lose faith and focus, which after 800 years of being isolated and not having Netflix or something would make anyone want to just say “Fuck it! I’m done!”
In the end, my theory is that with the Grail gone, unable to drink from it the Knight lost his immortality and was finally able to pass on now that his responsibility of protecting the Holy Grail is completed. So even if he survived being crushed by the collapsing temple he probably died shortly thereafter of old age. I do have one really silly question though if you couldn’t cross the Great Seal could you theoretically start digging through the canyon the other way and eventually make it out with the grail? We’ll never know but I’m nerdy and think about stupid things like that. Whew! That was long and took a pretty a good amount of research. I hope you found that as imformative and as enjoyable as I did putting it together!