By the Castle of the Holy Grail
Knights who guard the Holy Grail (the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper) prepare a bath for their King, Amfortas. Amfortas is sick – he suffers from an incurable wound. Kundry, a mysterious woman, appears with medicine to alleviate his pain.
Old knight Gurnemanz tells of how this all came about: long ago, both the Grail and the Holy Spear (that pierced Jesus’ side on the cross) were entrusted to Titurel, Amfortas’ father, who assembled knights to guard these relics. Klingsor wished to join this brotherhood, but was rejected. In revenge, he built a fortress with a magic garden full of beautiful women to ensnare the knights. Amfortas tried to defeat Klingsor, but was himself seduced, whereupon Klingsor stole the Spear and stabbed Amfortas with it. The wound can only be healed by a ‘pure fool made wise by compassion’.
Speaking of whom… suddenly, a swan is shot down, and knights drag in a remorseful youth, whom Kundry identifies as ‘Parsifal’. Gurnemanz leads the boy back to the Grail Castle, wondering if he might be the one.
Back in the Castle, Titurel urges his son to uncover the Grail, a ritual which produces nourishment for the knights. Amfortas is reluctant, as this causes his wound to reopen, but submits. At the end of the ceremony, Parsifal is baffled by what he has witnessed, and Gurnemanz drives him away in disappointment.