According to the Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal and Estoire del Saint Graal, this biblical King of Israel learned that Galahad - the end of his lineage - would surpass all others in prowess and piety. Solomon, at the urging of his wife, decided to construct a magnificent ship in order to let Galahad know that his coming had been foretold. He bedecked the ship in all manner of splendor, placing within it a bed adorned with spindles from the Tree of Life in Eden. He also placed the sword of his father, King David, within the ship; this sword later became known as the Sword with the Strange Hangings and could only be wielded by the best knight in the world.
Upon completion of the vessel, an inscription appeared on its hull warning the unfaithful from boarding. Solomon, afraid, did not board, and the ship sailed out to sea. Mordrains and Nascien encountered it during their adventures, as did a number of other men, many of whom were punished for drawing the sword.
During the Grail Quest, Galahad, Perceval, Bors, and Percevalís sister encountered the ship and boarded it. The ship eventually took the three Grail knights, with the Grail, to the ancient city of Sarras.
Analogs to the Ship of Solomon are known in early Celtic mythology. One is also found in the non-Arthurian lay of Guigemar.
When King Solomon learned through a vision that his descendant, Galahad, would be a marvelously good and pure knight, he and his wife made a ship for this descendant to find. The wife, although called an "evil" woman, first advised making this ship and seems to have done most of the planning. The ship was fashioned of the best and most durable wood, covered with rot-proof silk, and stocked with wonderful items:
- King David's sword.
- A marvelous scabbard for the sword.
- Girdles of hemp for the sword and scabbard.
- Three spindles: one white, one red, one green (see below).
- le Lit - A great rich bed, covered with silk, to hold all the above.
- A purse containing a writ to explain the origin of everything.
The night after the ship was completed, an angel came to sprinkle it with water from a silver vessel and wrote words on the sword hilt and ship. The words written on the ship were:
Thou man that wilt enter within me, beware that thou be full within the faith, for I ne am but Faith and Belief.
Or, according to another version:
Thou man, which shall enter into this ship, beware thou be in steadfast belief, for I am Faith, and therefore beware how thou enterest, for an thou fail I shall not help thee.
Solomon beheld the angel in a dream-vision. On awakening and reading the words on the ship, he himself feared to enter it, and so the vessel was shoved into the sea to move rapidly away of itself.
Solomon's would appear to be the same ship that picks up Galahad and his two companions again three days after they leave Carbonek and takes them to Sarras. This time, when they come on board, they find the Grail, covered with red samite, standing there on its silver table.
Solomon's Three Spindles
When Adam and Eve were driven from Paradise, Eve carried along the branch on which the forbidden fruit was hung, and planted it, "for she had no coffer to keep it in".
It grew into a tree that remained white as snow as long as Eve remained a virgin, but when God bade Adam "know his wife fleshly as nature required" and they lay together begetting children under this same tree, its wood turned green.
Later Cain slew Abel under the tree's branches, and its wood became red. When Solomon's wife made a carpenter take enough wood from the tree to make the spindles, the tree bled on being cut.
Using the natural colors of the wood, the carpenter was able to fashion a white, a green, and a red spindle.