imageColin Berry, by way of a comment to The Vignon markings, writes:

But wasn’t someone just the other day here saying that one has to stand back several feet from the Shroud to be able to see what the image represents, such is its faintness? What price then for a framed head to serve as a conventional portrait? That Mandylion must have come as a bitter disappointment to some, especially the short-sighted in days before spectacles were commonplace.

I suppose one could argue that the image was far more intense in centuries past, and that most has subsequently flaked off.That being the case, what price all the current marvelling at its superficiality and thinness (200nm) if all we see today is a pale shadow of its former glory.

Good point. I don’t know what we know or even what some of us think.

imageIn 944, Constantine VII, was co-emperor with Romanus who was sole regent. Thus, having been sidelined, he developed an interest in matters that had little to do with running an empire. He enjoyed painting and writing. He wrote several books about the history of the empire and the ceremonial life of the court. He was a patron of the arts and educational institutions. We might well assume, that to do all those things, he had reasonably good eyesight “in [those] days before spectacles were commonplace,” even for emperors before the 1300s.

imageNote in the picture of the solidus the two emperors on the right. But note on the left (above) how dramatically different Jesus looks than he does in the solidi minted after 944.

Just four months before Romanus was deposed by his sons thus making Constatine VII sole emperor, the Image of Edessa arrived in Constantinople. Romanus, because he was the regent emperor, is given the credit for bringing it to the Byzantine capital. The real credit should probably go to a general of the army named John Curcuas. Following successful campaigns against Arab forces operating in northern Syria, Curcuas, moved his army into northern Mesopotamia in 943 and began to plunder the cities and towns throughout the region. He successfully captured Amida, Dari and Nisibis, taking whole populations away and collecting vast amounts of booty. By the summer of 944 he reached Edessa and laid siege to the heavily fortified city. Edessa, once part of the empire, had fallen to the Persian Sassanians in 609. It had been briefly retaken by Byzantine forces, but fell to the Muslims in 638. That the Image of Edessa was in a city that was in Muslim hands during the iconoclasm that was started by Leo III around 726 and ran its course until 787 when the Second Council at Nicaea put an end to the movement, may have saved the cloth with its maybe (and this is a big maybe) “framed head to serve as a conventional portrait . . . a bitter disappointment to some” because it was maybe even back then faint or faded (if it was what we now call the Shroud of Turin – I can see Yannick exploding).

On August 15, 944, the prized relic arrived in Constantinople where it was received with great fanfare. A lengthy document, the Narratio de imagine Edessena, tells us that Constantine VII described the image as “extremely faint, more like a moist secre­tion without pigment or the painter’s art.” That is a poignant clue for us that the Image of Edessa was in this way like the Shroud of Turin. Another document, Symeon Magister’s Chronographia tells us that Constantine could see some image features but his two brothers-in-law, Romanus’ two sons, could barely see anything. Thus we have more evidence that the cloth with its image might be the Shroud of Turin perhaps even by then already “a pale shadow of its former glory.” Or it was always that way. Or we have more than one faint cloth. Or, or, or.

imageI suspect that someone was able to see it enough to extract the image directly (or that had already been done and there was a common second-generation source) for the face of Christ on this coin and the second coin pictured above (recently discussed) both issued by Constantine VII.

And did not Gregory Referendarius, the archdeacon of Constantinople’s great cathedral, Hagia Sophia, give a sermon in which he described the cloth as having an image formed through sweat and blood. Sweat? Is that what it looked like?