The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain is a novel of historical fiction that was on the Bestseller's List in the '50s. It's a richly woven story that centers around the cup that was used by Christ at the Last Supper. Mr. Costain wrote his novel based on the artifact of the Chalice of Antioch which is displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Check the web for a photo of the intricately-designed chalice.)
The story is about the life of the fictional artisan of the Chalice, Basil of Antioch. From his adoption by a wealthy merchant to his unjust thrust into slavery to his conversion to Christianity, Basil's life is intermixed with a cast of Biblical characters familiar to us - Paul, Peter, John, Nero and Simon the Magician. The book gives further insight into the New Testament by sharing the customs and history of the time period. Especially interesting to me was the information given about sculpting that was explained throughout the story - the history of Greek sculpture as well as the process of capturing a likeness in clay.
If I had to sum up the book in one word, I would say, "Beauty." Beauty of descriptive paragraphs, rich and layered characters, glimpses of eternal truths, gifts and resources used for His service. I especially loved this word picture about artistry:
"He is a vile fellow, this Simon," said the middle-aged man at this point, leaning closer to Nero, who was still nursing his amusement. "He is so very ugly that he makes my flesh creep. But this must be said for him: he is an artist."
"An artist?" The Emperor's voice showed that this point of view came to him as a surprise. "Come, Petronius, you are leading up to one of your quips. A paradox, perhaps. You do not believe this fellow to be an artist. Can there be artistry in as low a trade as the making of magic?"
"There is artistry," declared Petronius, watching the thin streak of light in the green cymophane ring he was wearing, "in the the building of a dry wall, in the flexing of a bow, in the concoction of a double-faced tart to tickle the palate of a Caesar and smear the cheeks of his greedy henchman."
A fascinating read full of intrigue, romance, insight and beauty -