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Shroud Tour: Probable History Before the 1350's

If the Carbon Dating results are incorrect, and the Shroud is much older and dates back to the time of Christ, then the question remains, where was it? The earliest known historical record we have of the Shroud is in the 1350's, but where was it before then? Ian Wilson gives the most probable theory of what happened to the Shroud after Jesus’ Resurrection, of his work, I would like to summarize with the following:

According to the account in John’s Gospel, on Easter Sunday Mary Magdalene told the disciples that she had found the empty tomb. Upon hearing her words, John and Peter raced to the tomb. John arrived there first and waited outside. Gazing in the tomb he saw the linen cloths. When Peter arrived at the tomb he went right in and looked around, John then followed. When Peter was in the tomb he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled in a separate place by itself (John 20:6-7). John then went in and he saw and believed (John 20:8). What did he see? It could not have been the empty tomb that made him believe, because Mary Magdalene already told them it was empty. Furthermore, the next line in John’s Gospel states, they did not yet understand the scripture that He had to rise from the dead (John 20:9). It was not the Resurrection that John believed, if it was, than they would understand the scripture saying that He had to rise from the dead. Could he have seen the shroud with Christ’s image on it? Would he have known that the blood marks visible on the hair were actually on Christ’s face since he was there at the Crucifixion? Knowing this would he have known that the image was made by miraculous means? As a First-Century Jew, John would know well the meanings of the scripture passages, There you will serve other gods made by human hands, objects of wood and stone that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell (Deuteronomy 4:28), and, ...then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) (Hebrews 9:11). Namely, that which is made by human hands comes from mankind, that which is not made by human hands comes from God. If John saw the shroud and the image ‘not made by human hands’ why didn’t he share it or write it in his Gospel? As a First-Century Jew, John would have also known what is written of the first commandment. He knew that if he reported the shroud it would be destroyed and he would be tried as an idolater, therefore, it was in his best interest (and in the interest of the preservation of the cloth) to move the shroud away from Jerusalem.
 
Gervase of Tilbury told a story that has been circulated since the time of Jesus. It was about King Abgar of Edessa who wanted Jesus to visit him and cure him. Jesus is reported to have said, “If indeed you desire to see my physical appearance, I send you a cloth on which the image not only of my face but of my entire body has been preserved.” Other accounts claim that Jesus declined the visit but sent someone in place of him, for it was close to the hour of his death. After Jesus died, the disciple Thaddaeus, following the order of the Apostle Thomas, is believed to have taken the shroud, folded so that just the face is shown, to Edessa and showed it to the king, curing him of his ills. At his recovery, he made the city a Christian city. Historical evidence shows that Edessa converted to Christianity in 57 AD. 
 
Shroud of Turin "Folded in Four" as seen in Mandylion
Shroud seen as if it was folded in four.
(burn marks & patches have been removed to show how it would have looked at that time).


This cloth was also called the Mandylion or the tetradiplon which means “doubled in four.” When the Shroud of Turin is folded in four along fold marks seen by raking light photographs, the image of the head is seen somewhat slightly off-center on the now landscape cloth with no trace of the neck. In Edessa, the cloth was displayed with a designed cover (probably to prevent people from seeing that it was a burial shroud). 
 
Rendition of an Artistic Frame over the Shroud of Turin "folded in four"
Artistic rendition of the Mandylion in a designed cover/frame.

Many paintings of the Cloth of Edessa or Mandylion look like the Shroud of Turin’s facial image, some even matching the Shroud's straw-yellow color. Some also believe that the Veronica’s veil legend emerged from the Mandylion story as a way to explain why there is blood on the face image (Veronica means "vera icon" or "true likeness/image"). The Veronica story is a Christian tradition which, surprising to many Christians, is not recorded in the Gospels yet told throughout many devotions including the Stations of the Cross.

Before the Sixth Century Pictures of Christ were often seen either as a youth or in His glory. There was no distinction of what Christ looked like, which matches the Bible since it also does not give a physical description of Christ (Some apocryphal writings do offer a glimpse of His figure). After the Sixth Century, all portrayals of Christ seemed to have a common appearance. They were always in a profile view with either the suffering Christ or the Christ enthroned depicted. All of these faces had striking similarities to something very familiar: The Shroud of Turin. A Frenchman, Paul Vignon, pointed out several “Vignon” marks which are visible when looking at the Shroud as it appears normally. They are many strange marks which would not normally be depicted of a human being. However, artist after artist depicts the marks in their work. Not all the marks are found on one painting, however, on the shroud they are either oddities of the weave, a misconception of what image is portrayed, or a misconception of the negative image of the shroud. This gives strong evidence of the shroud’s existence before 1350 in Edessa, but where was it after the Sixth Century?

The Mandylion is believed to have been traded to Constantinople, along with other relics, for immunity and protection. After Constantinople was sacked it is believed that the Knights Templar became the owners of the shroud. The Knights Templar was a secret order of Knights dedicated to Christ and they had a special interest in relics especially anything related to the Passion. They were said to worship a mysterious wooden image of a head. In 1945, at an old Templar Commandery site, a wooden panel with the image of Christ was discovered. It had an incredible likeness to the face on the shroud. Furthermore, a keyhole and hinges on the panel lead people to believe this was the cover of a reliquary for the shroud once owned by the Knights Templar. This stirred up a legend of the Holy Grail, “That which holds the precious blood of our Lord.” Since that which holds the precious blood is acclaimed to be the shroud, the reliquary was the Holy Grail. Later, this emerged as the Holy Grail legend today with the story of the chalice Jesus used at the Last Supper. Crusader Robert de Clari gave an account in 1204 who saw the image “not made by human hands,” and “every Friday it would raise itself up [to show the figure of our Lord].” Byzantines were fascinated and delighted by gadgetry, and using materials common at that time, scientist Dr. John Jackson developed a way that the shroud could be raised based on the fold marks seen on the shroud by raking light photographs taken in 1978. The Knights Templar now exist today all throughout the world as a Masonic Order but have no connection other than the name with the old Crusader order.

In 1210 the Knights Templar were disbanded by the Vatican, one of the last known members of the order, Geoffery DeCharney, is believed to be the uncle or close relative of the first “known” shroud owner, Geoffery DeCharny. The slight difference in spelling can be a simple historical error, but the matching names are to close of a coincidence to go unnoticed. It would seem probable that Geoffery DeCharney took the Shroud from the Knights Templar when they were dissolved, and kept it in his family to keep it safe.

For a more detailed account of this theory, please consult Ian Wilson’s, The Blood and the Shroud (New York: Touchstone ©1998).

 
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