So what is the problem: Ian Wilson, Freeman, Jones or this “cult” of ours?

imageDavor Aslanovski’s posting on his blog is a must read: Is sindonology a relic cult?

I will not discuss the rest of [Freeman’s] article for several reasons:

1.) It offers the only thing that (scientifically orthodox) history can, at present, offer on the topic: yet another autopsy of a joke that had already been done to death. So there’s very little to add to it.

2.) In comparison to Andrea Nicolotti‘s autopsy, Freeman’s is incomparably less exhaustive. In comparison to mine, it is much more general. In comparison to Yannick Clement’s, much more anodyne. In comparison to those of Professors Cameron, Gramaglia, or Brock, Robin Cormack or Hans Belting, it is substantiated by far less of an academic career. So, all in all, as these autopsies go, this is not even a particularly remarkable one.

3.) By Freeman’s own testimony, the article was written primarily because Thomas de Wesselow gave Wilson’s theories ‘an imprimatur of a brilliant Cambridge art historian.’ And if you go on de Wesselow’s site, you’ll find that the two gentlemen seem to be enjoying their own private little war. So it’s probably best to stay out of that.

There is this:

The leaders of this ‘cult’ do not seem to have any problem with the fact that their obsessive followers hurl personal insults on their opponents, that they dub the entire academic establishment ‘evil sycophants,’ and think that ‘there is a deeper, darker dimension’ to the academic rejection of Wilson’s theories.
Just read these few lines:

‘Freeman and his anti-Christian ilk don’t realise that in so doing they are acting out their part in Christs’ Play. In “The Parable of the Weeds” (Mt 13:24-30) He whose image is on the Shroud told us that He allows these weeds to “grow … until the harvest” at which time (if they don’t repent) He “will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds … and bind them in bundles to be burned.’

Does this sound like a Christian relic cult? Have you ever visited a Christian church where a relic was exposed for veneration and heard anything like what you hear in ‘sindonological’ circles? Are personal insults, hate talk, and disrespectful qualifications the usual signs of the veneration of relics? And are the sick that flock to them usually encouraged to obsess about the intricacies of their historical provenance?

And there is this:

. . . Today, the lifestyle that Wilson has pioneered looks more like this: you wake up in the morning (or perhaps in the middle of the night), turn your computer on and go see whether there’s anything new on Dan Porter’s blog. There is! Some academic Antichrist, whom you have been warned about both in the Gospel according to Matthew and in the Apocalypse of John, is disagreeing that quiffs of hair are crucial to portraiture. You put on your shining armour and battle this dragon. You write something short and astute . . .

And this conclusion:

But, lest this post become endless and I myself turn this madness into a lifestyle, let’s leave it at this. ‘Sindonology’ is definitely not a relic cult. It is what I have called it several months ago – a heresy. Primarily a scientific one, but not exclusively. Because it doesn’t just paint the wrong picture of what science is, it also paints the wrong picture of what Christianity is.

imagePerhaps Davor Aslanovski is right if this is a warning. But it isn’t quite time to tie us to the stakes. This blog tries to give a voice to everyone in order that ‘sindonology’ not become a cult or a heresy. Just look at everything that gets questioned and examined here. That means we have to be open to the views of a fundamentalist who makes parables of parables (a misuse of scripture, to some). That doesn’t mean we all condone the insult. Some do. I don’t. The meaning of the parable, as Luther and many have argued is about tolerance. It is used by Jones to mean the opposite. Jones has taken it on the chin, here, in this blog.

And so has Ian Wilson. But it isn’t just from Freeman or Aslanovski but also from Yannick Clement who strongly accepts the very same chemical story that Thomas de Wesselow accepts. And Yannick takes it on the chin from fellow ‘sindonologists.’

If one could limit the shroud to academia only, it won’t be studied much at all. I’m pleased that the amateurs – who are not heretics – are pulling in some people from academia.

And now some of us will put on our shining armor.

42 thoughts on “So what is the problem: Ian Wilson, Freeman, Jones or this “cult” of ours?”

  1. I have read Davor Aslanovski’s “Is Sindonology a relic cult?” with great interest, as it provides some fascinating insights into the obsessive mind of a specialist, a specialist in matters Byzantine. I have been a specialist myself during my working life, and I have also been a generalist. So I think I know and understand the strengths and weaknesses of both callings.

    Without wishing to bore you with personal details, my first specialty was in the design and construction of certain major civil engineering structures, subject to heavy dynamic loads, significant seismic effects and prone to foundation scour, of a kind unique to NZ. I spent some 13 years in this specialty. I have been in other specialties, such as the design of certain auditing and sampling systems. Some of my generalist work involved investment risk assessments across a full breadth of engineering projects, civil, structural, architectural, mechanical, electric traction, communications and information technology, and other such trivia including the management of major capital investment programmes. I feel I had a most satisfying and fascinating engineering career. Now to the point!

    The strength of the specialist is that a narrow focus can be brought to bear on highly technical matters, in a way that cannot be done by a generalist. Conversely the weakness of the specialist is that he is not fit for much else, without a major retraining programme. His particular specialty is the entire world for the committed specialist, his particular strength is also his weakness. He becomes too narrowly focussed, and he is prone to obsess about it.

    Thus in the case of the specialist in Byzantine history for instance, he will generally be entirely ignorant about matters scientific. The world of blood stains, blood types, recognition of pollen grains, textile weaves, carbon dating, imaging processes, chemistry, finer points of geometry are a closed book to him. While others might manage at least a superficial grasp of the significance of such matters, the Byzantine historian specialist will not have time for any of this. And what is true for one kind of specialist, is also true for other specialists, Your specialist in chemistry for instance may be found wanting in the matter of Byzantine history, general forensics, an inability to see the logical connections among evidential sources and be unable to draw a logical synthesised conclusion. Certainly your chemist will, most of the time, be able to provide you with sound advice and factual conclusions providing that he stays within the limits of his discipline.

    I mentioned the susceptibility to obsession of the specialist. Thus what he accuses in others he will fail to see in himself. Just read Davor’s primary posting above. He accuses those involved in discussing the Shroud with various kinds of bad faith. Does he deal with the various arguments brought to bear on the subject? No! He likens them to pornophiles! He accuses them of Ad hominem arguments, which may be fair comment for some of what appears here from time to time. But then he himsef brings contempt to bear on various named bloggers. I say “Physician, Heal thyself!”

    Davor sees sindonology as some kind of heresy. The truth of the matter is that the great majority of sympathetic bloggers on this site consider this relic important, because for various reasons they believe it may well be the burial cloth of their Lord and Saviour. As such it is potentially the most important relic in all of Christendom. However its authenticity is by no means so clear to others. There is such a thing as constructive conflict in coming to the truth of such matters which hopefully might be fruitful within our own lifetimes if we are lucky. Such conflict should be confined to the weight of argument, and not to persons. However bad faith can at times be only too apparent, and can be a challenge even to Christian patience.

    When the formerly agnostic Yves Delage, Sorbonne’s professor of comparative anatomy, presented his objective findings on the Shroud before the French Academy of Science, he encountered downright hostility, purely it would seem on the basis of the subject-matter. The Academy was dominated by so-called rationalists and free-thinkers, anti-religious to a man, a survival perhaps of the “French Enlightenment”. There remains a a distrust of Academia among those devoted to what they consider to be this most precious relic, a distrust which Academia itself has done little to dissipate, including I must say, what I have so far read from Byzantine historians.

    The great British chronicler of the Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill was once reported to have said, “History is Bunk!” I sometimes wonder if he was right!

  2. Dear Mr Belz,

    What in the world gave you the idea that I was a single discipline specialist?
    And what would that have to do with the question whether the image reverently transferred to Constantinople in 944 can be identified with the Turin Shroud?

    1. 1) You have yet to demonstrate any understanding of any scientific matter concerning the Shroud, which is vastly more relevant to its authenticity than its whereabouts at any given time. That is unless you wish to include pathetic attempts at psychoanalysing those with whom you are entirely unacquainted.
      2) Your blog gives the impression that you were addressing the question of ‘Sindonology as a “scientific” heresy’, rather than the Shroud’s transfer to Constantinople in 944, which was not addressed at all. That is, unless you wish to include the throwaway line that attempts to refute it are already “an autopsy of a joke that has been done to death ”

  3. 1) I will form my views on ‘scientific matters concerning the Shroud’ if the object is examined by scientists, lege artis, and if the results are published in peer-reviewed journals. In the meantime, I believe the only thing we CAN discuss is the object’s history. Which, based on what we know at the moment, doesn’t seem to stretch any further than the late 1300’s.
    And I wasn’t pathetically psychoanalysing anyone. Recognizing that people are psychologically unwell, feeling sorry for them, and asking yourself ‘Aren’t relics supposed to bring healing?’ is no psychoanalysis.
    2) Wilson’s theory is a scientific heresy in relation to the kind of history we do in the academic world today. Once again, I have restricted myself to the subject of history because it is the only subject where we possess enough information to form any opinion. And I think I have both addressed this question myself and pointed to others who have dealt with different aspects of it. So, QUOD erat demonstrandum? You are not making any sense.

  4. Davor, There is already more than adequate science on the Shroud to point to its likely authenticity. Some of this is peer-reviewed; some is not. Much of it has been carried out on a voluntary basis, some perhaps with the assistance of grants. It seems that peer-review is not necessarily the guarantee of rigour that it once might have been.

    If one were to wait for academe to take an interest in it, I think we should wait a very long time indeed. There does appear in my view to be an academic conspiracy against the Shroud, based perhaps on faulty received wisdom. It commenced with the reaction of the French Academy of Science to Delage and Vignon. Sadly I have recently learned of the apparent intent to deceive by two notable cleric historians, Chevalier & Thurston. If you are not already aware of it, I would refer you to Markwardt’s paper “THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE SHROUD” 2001. It would seem that these two notable historians set about with a deliberate intent to deceive. Markwardt is an attorney at law and understands these matters very well. Chevalier & Thurston seem to have set an unfortunate precedent followed by some of their successors. I am sure that you would not willingly want to be such a participant yourself, but perhaps “caution” might be a good watchword.

    You refer to neglect of any potential healing power of the Shroud. That might well be true, but perhaps indicates that pro-authenticists are more cautious than you have assumed. Albert Dreisbach has written extensively on its historic association with healing, most of them fairly ancient. I found the last paper he wrote, shortly before his death in 2006 quite moving. Although this paper does not specifically refer to healing, it certainly has a strong religious appeal which I hope you might be able to relate to.
    “THE ECUMENICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE SHROUD OF TURIN”; (Perugia: Revised 2006) by The Rev. Albert R. Dreisbach: .
    He was on his way to deliver the paper at two conferences in Italy when he died. According to many, this is his finest work, completing a theme he had written about frequently.

  5. Discussing here how scientific research should be conducted and where and how the results of it should be presented would be a waste of time.

    The idea that academic historians today could be ‘conspiring’ against the Shroud shows how little Markwardt understands what the academic world is and what historians do – despite the fact that he calls himself a historian.
    And the case that he mentions dates from a hundred years ago and has to do with nothing but the d’Arcis memorandum. And Wilson’s theory has not been rejected on the basis of the d’Arcis memorandum. (In case it still isn’t clear, it was rejected because there is no evidence for it. It is a piece of historical fiction. And if it’s historical fiction you want, give me five pounds and I’ll tell you a dozen more amusing stories to ‘explain’ the ‘provenance’ of the Shroud. And for a tenner, I’ll let you see where the aliens probed my spine.)

    And as for Dreisbach, these few lines will exemplify why I don’t hold his writings in very high regard:

    ‘On that first Easter morning the Magdalene “saw two angels …in the place where Jesus had lain…one at the head and one at the feet.” (John 20:2l). Could this be the very first description of the ventral and dorsal images of the Man of the Shroud?’

    1. I’d really like to hear your reasoning for not taking Rev. Dreisbach’s writings seriously, and moreso why you do so because of that specific quote? I’d also like to hear your interpretation of that specific line from scripture.



    2. I would concur that discussing matters of scientific research with you would be a waste of time as you have yet to demonstrate even a moderate understanding of a single scientific discipline.

      Chevalier and Thurston’s assertion that the Shroud was a fraud based on their presentation of the D’Arcis memorandum was extremely influential, and continued throughout the 20th century. Their own presentation was itself fraudulent. How pervasive it was is demonstrated by the frequency with which the D’Arcis memorandum continues to be quoted by hostile Shroud sceptics even today.

      Your curt dismissal of the Dreisbach paper demonstrates your failure to distinguish a paper with an honest religious intent from a paper intended for other papers, specifically history. It also shows your inability to grasp the sub-text that may have been intended by writers of scripture.

      I have attempted the retort courteous, the retort brutal, the retort rational, the retort religious. There only remains the retort humorous, but I doubt that this would be any more effective with you either. I also doubt that there is any further point in engaging in further dialogue with you on the matter. I shall continue to pray for you.

      1. Correction 3rd para: “Your curt dismissal of the Dreisbach paper demonstrates your failure to distinguish a paper with an honest religious intent from a paper intended for other purposes, specifically history.”

  6. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ – could this be a prefiguration of the ventral and dorsal images that His Son would one day leave on the burial Shroud? The heavens foreshadowing the wound in Jesus’ side, because water comes down from heaven just like it came out of this wound? And the earth symbolising His back, because His back would one day be laid on the ground, when He is taken down from the cross?

  7. As a professional archaeocryptologist, I cannot help thinking that Byzantine historians and art historians reading all the Image of Edessa related legends TOTALLY MISSED those three very simple facts:

    – In 944, Abramos was handed over three clothes kept as relics in the Edessan Melkite, Monophysite and Nestorian churches: two more or less ingeniously painted copies along with their original model.

    – The designation “Image of Edessa” does not refer to one and only one but two distinct relics namely a small face cloth (later known as Holy Mandylion/Holy Veronica) and a full-length body cloth (later known as Tetradiplon/Himation/Sindon).

    – A third relic known as the Holy Keramion/Keramidion currently interfered with ‘the Image of Edessa’s depictions in the 6th-13th c. CE Byzantine mural paintings; manuscript illuminations and mosaics.

  8. As far as the Image of Edessa depictive typology is concerned,

    I personally do think there are two-three possible constant formulae, based on relatively accurate observations of:

    – two-three distinct relics (an ingenuously painted small face cloth, a facial copy in a tile and the facial imprint original model on a full-length body cloth)

    – and their respective reliquaries/vessels.

    Now the real problem with Byzantine or Non Byzantine historians and art historians is they think they NATURALLY cannot make any errors

    See Davor Aslanovski who wrote in reply to one of my comments on his own blog (22 June 2012 16:16):

    “I, naturally, don’t think that there is anything erroneous in this/[my] article [on the Edessa Image].”

  9. Max wrote (as he often wrote): “The designation “Image of Edessa” does not refer to one and only one but two distinct relics namely a small face cloth (later known as Holy Mandylion/Holy Veronica) and a full-length body cloth (later known as Tetradiplon/Himation/Sindon).”

    Each time I read this my friend Max, it makes me laugh ! If your fantasy was true, how can you explain that we know only ONE type of artistic copie of the Image of Edessa, which CLEARLY and ALWAYS depict ONLY the face of the LIVING Christ on a SMALL towel WITHOUT any traces of BLOODSTAINS and/or INJURIES ???

    You, Wilson, Scavone and anyone who have a good imagination can make say anything you want to a legendary kind of text BUT… You will never be able to change the known and SIMILAR aspect of these artistic copies which NEVER presents any great resemblance with the Shroud of Turin or any other kind of artistic depiction related to the Passion of the Christ.

    If you’re right, where can I found the artistic copies of the second cloth (Tetradiplon/Himation/Sindon) you always mention ???

    The only way real Byzantine scholars could start looking at Wilson’s hypothesis with some interest is if one day a new discovery would be made in an ancient text which would make a clear description of the Image of Edessa as being a long burial cloth showing bloodstains (idealy mentioning that these bloodstains refers to the stigmata of Christ), along with a full-size body image (idealy mentioning the presence of a ventral and a dorsal image).

    In all the ancient legendary text of the Abgar legend, in all the theological kind of text mentioning the Image of Edessa (like the discourse of Gregory Referendarius) and also in all the ancient list of relics coming from Edessa, there’s absolutely no single reference that can be clearly understood as being the kind of reference I just mentioned. And until a discovery like that could be made (that will most probably never happen folks !), the way to do good history is to consider this hypothesis of Wilson as being HIGHLY UNLIKELY because it rest mainly on speculation, extrapolations and special assumptions. And the truth is this : Science (and the Occam’s razor principle) REALLY HATES hypothesis that rest on that kind of imaginative stuff.

    I ask you the question : Using Occam’s razor and taking account of all the known data coming from historical and artistic sources concerning both the Shroud and the Mandylion, which one of these 2 hypothesis MUST be considered the most probable :

    1- The one of Wilson which goes against ALL the known artistic copies of the Mandylion.
    2- The one which pretend that the Mandylion was exactly what all these artistic copies are showing (i.e. a small cloth showing only the face of the living Christ without any injuries and/or bloodstains), what the totality of the known list of relics from Constantinople are saying and what the vast majority of the legendary text concerning the Abgar legend are also saying ?

    If someone here dare to answer #1, then I don’t know why I am wasting my time here !!! If you really dare to answer #1, that would be the best proof of your Pro-Shroud complete bias, which is, by the way, as ugly as the ones who get an anti-Shroud bias. Bias for Bias, they’re all as ugly in my book.

    Can we start talking seriously and honestly while leaving our preconceived ideas at the door please ? For all the good reasons I brought to you over and over again and one more time here in this comment, I’ll repeat it: The Mandylion hypothesis of Wilson MUST be considered as being HIGHLY UNLIKELY. PERIOD. It’s not that I like it or not, it has to do with rational thinking in face of all the known data, particularly facing all the known artistic copies of the Mandylion.

    I’ll repeat it : Max or Wilson or anyone else cannot change the fact that there is only one general kind of depiction associated with the Image of Edessa and it fits perfectly well with the vast majority of the known ancient sources, i.e. that this relic was an image of Christ resting on a small cloth and showing only his living face without any signs of injuries and/or bloodstains.

    Last note : Unlike what Max is saying, the Veronica is another relic that was created AFTER the Image of Edessa and it’s fair to describe it as the Western version of the Abgar legend. In other words, the Veronica IS NOT the Mandylion. The vast majority of the Byzantine scholars agree to say that these 2 “relics” of Christ are most probably painted relics made by and/or for the Church.

  10. Yannick;

    MOST OBVIOUSLY you’d better stick to Geography as you are TOTALLY IGNORANT of the Image of Edessa Bizantine iconography. Better do your homework before commenting on me.

    Beside, shall I endlessly repeat, I don’t buy into Wilson’s hypothesis (The Holy Mandylion is The Turin Shroud)? I totally disagree with him. CANNOT YOU READ my English? Shall I write it in French, Hebrew, or Aramaic?

    Most obviously too, it does seem you just cannot discriminate between a relic and its successive designations and most naively think “one relic designation = one and only relic as an item”. This is most untrue. One and the same relic can be given different designations through time, space and cultures and even one designation can refer to two different items through legends’ variants & distortions.

    The designations Holy Mandylion/Holy Veronica in all likelihood refer to an ingeniously painted relic now kept in Manoppello (not to be confused with the substituted the Veronica now kept in Rome).

    BTW you have NO IMAGINATION enough (see Einstein) to be a genuine scientist (or archaeologist).

    Last but not least, PLEASE re-read what I REALLY wrote as it does seem you read TOO FAST and missed a few things… and PLEASE again do your homework!

    Feel free to laugh out loud out of your THICK ignorance, my friend!

    1. Correction: a sole designation can even refer to two different copies/relics through legends variations & distortions.

    2. Max, it’s incredible how you take your desire for the reality. But if you’re happy that way, keep on my friend ! The Holy Mandylion being the Holy Veronica and both are the same as the Manoppello vail ! Wow… That’s the greatest joke I’ve read here on the blog since a very long time.

      Just a question for you Max : Have you noticed that the Manoppello vail show a bloody, injured and suffering Christ ? Where do you see all these signs of the Passion in all the known artistic copies of the Mandylion we know today ???

      All we know for sure about the Manoppello vail is that it appeared WELL AFTER the first public showing of the Shroud in Lirey, France at a time when the suffering Christ icons were a trend. Some have suggest that this is the same relic as the Veronica but this case is pretty weak in fact. In the end, the most important thing to remember is the fact that the suffering Christ depicted on the Manoppello vail has nothing to do with all the known copies of the Mandylion. NOW, THAT’S WHAT I CALL : A FACT !!!

      1. YC, Are JUST reading ABOUT the Veil of Manoppello?

        Most obviously you haven’t done much research. E;g. had you ever made a comparative study between the Holy Veronica and the Veil of Manopello, you would have known what I am REALLY talking about.

        Do your home work before passing comments!

        You’ve NEVER studied the veil of Manoppello nor even SEEN it but you KNOW FOR SURE the Holy of Veronica IS NOT/CANNOT be the Holy Veronica.That’s THE REAL JOKE!

        YC you wrote: “the Manoppello vail has nothing to do with all the known copies of the Mandylion. NOW, THAT’S WHAT I CALL : A FACT !!!””

        This is not FAR from proven fact AT ALL (actually this is totally wrong!). YOU’RE TOTALLY OFF TRACK! DO YOU COMPARATIVE ART STUDY HOME WORK (if you can)!

      2. Mistyping: You’ve NEVER studied the veil of Manoppello nor even SEEN it but you KNOW FOR SURE the VEiL of Manoppello IS NOT/CANNOT be the Holy Veronica and “has nothing to do with all the known copies of the Mandylion”. That’s THE REAL JOKE!

      3. Mistyping:

        YC you wrote: “the Manoppello vail has nothing to do with all the known copies of the Mandylion. NOW, THAT’S WHAT I CALL : A FACT !!!””

        This is FAR from a proven fact (actually this is totally wrong!). YOU’RE TOTALLY OFF TRACK! DO YOU COMPARATIVE ART STUDY HOME WORK (if you can)!

      4. YC cannot you read my English? I ALSO wrote: “In THE ALTERNATIVE HYPOTHESIS, the Rome Holy Veronica now kept in Manoppello was not one of the “three Images of Edessa” handed over to Abramos in 944, then the scenario we are left with is two (or at least one) of the three alleged Edessan relics having been INGENIOUSLY PAINTED COPIES IN PORTRAIT MODE on cloth of the said Holy Veronica (as original template) while the “third Image of Edessa” could only be the “four times longer than wide” stained/soiled himation/sindon with symmetric sets of small holes and framed into a reliquary-table so that the facial imprint only appeared through a circular central opening.”

      5. YC, BTW can you understand my English when I write:

        The Holy Face of the Holy Mandylion (then in Constantinople) and the Holy Face of the Holy Veil (now in Manoppello) are EITHER two distinct material objects yet essentially identical as two ingenuous copies of an original template i.e. the Holy Face of the Turin Sindon OR one and the same object OR the Holy Mandylion (then in Constantinople) was a painted copy of the Holy Face of the Holy Veil (now in Manoppello)?

      6. Just too bad you ignore the Late Antique LATIN ‘sindon’ can specifically refer BOTH to a very fine Byssus veil AND Yeshua’s burial cloth

      7. It does seem you cannot discriminate between the Uronica and the Veronica of Rome. Once again do your homework!

      8. All the Vignon markings (of “the suffering Christ”) DO appear on dozens and dozens of NON BLOODY portraits. Do your homework, my young student.

      9. YC, in 1997, I spent more than an hour studying “face to face” the Holy Face of the Veil of Manoppello (both in naturally transmitted light.outside the church and at macrographic level). What about you?

      10. By the ninth century CE the Uronica’s procession had become a focus of the Feast of the Assumption. In the Middle Ages the Pope and the SEVEN cardinal-bishops would celebrate masses in the small sanctuary where it was housed in the Lateran, and at times would KISS ITS FEET. Ring some other bell?

    3. The Uronica (known in Italy as the Acheropita) first appeared in Rome at the end of the 7th c. CE while the Veronica seem to have become popular in 1208 when Innocent III chose to have the Veronica processed in a reliquary of gold, silver and gems through the streets of Rome

      1. The Uronica/Acheropita icon/relic is closely associated with another image; that of the Virgin of S. Maria Nova). Ring some bell?

      2. Through his “extensive readings” YC, without even having himself taken the trouble to do some comparative studies & research on the Veil of Mannopello, Veronica and Uronica, does think himself (as usual) much smarter than all the specialists who really did.

        Can he exactly tell us e.g. the reason why the Uricona became popular as early as mid-ninth c. CE and the Veronica not before the 13th c. CE? Can he tell us about their whereabouts before they respectively appear in Latran at the end of the 7th c. CE and the Vatican at the turn of the 13th c.CE?

  11. Consider these words of the distinguished German art scholar, Hans Belting:
    “Art historians dislike the Shroud, as the latter is either an orignal (thus antedating Christian imagery), or it is a late medieval fake (thus postdating the history of intelligent and beautiful images)” : Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art 1998, p.9.

    So we know that the Byzantine Art historians, are uncomfortable with it. From the various contributions they have made recently, it would seem that they are quite prepared even to deny that such a cloth was ever in Constantinople. Not for them the evidence of Robert de Clari, the Hungarian Pray Manuscript, the complaint of the Patriarch to the Pope that the French Crusaders had made off with it, nor any other such clues. That is their affair, and it may very well come back to haunt them. Now for those who deem it credible that such a cloth was indeed in Constantinople before the year 1204, and was the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, consider the following:

    So the Shroud must have arrived in Constantinople some time during the period 30 AD and 1204 AD. By the year 328, Helena had apparently ensured that Contantinople was apparently swamped with relics of the crucifixion, the early martyrs, and indeed according to Charles Freeman and his mentor John Calvin there was a whole shipload of True Crosses there. Curiously, the Shroud is not included in any of the inventories of this largesse, so presumably it arrived there after 328 AD,

    Let us fast-forward to the year 943 AD. The great Armenian general of the Byzantines John Curcuas with an army of 80,000, had turned the course of history by his military conquest of the Turks. The Arabs had been weakened and here he is at the gates of Edessa which lie at his mercy together with a potentially utter defeat of the Muslims. What would you do as a general? Would you not press on and make the defeat complete? What does Curcuas do? Why, he camps at the gate and negotiates over several months for some old icon, a piece of rag with a picture on it, or so we are told. The Arabs are perplexed; the Caliph in Baghdad has to be consulted, and eventually the icon is surrendered.

    Now there are two possible scenarios to consider. Either the Byzantines already have the purported burial cloth, and this must be known by the Emperor and the Patriarch, or else they do not. If they already have such a relic, together with Helena’s largesse, why would they ever send such a prestigious general with his army merely to capture some picture, when there was a much more lucrative prize on offer, the utter rout of the Arabs? Very likely then, the burial cloth would have arrived in Constantinople some time after 943.

    The Mandylion, as it is called, is brought to the Emperor, together with whatever else had been captured, with great ceremony, it is seen so prestigious that a special feast day on August 16 is declared for its arrival, still celebrated throughout Eastern Orthodoxy even today. The Mandylion is made part of the Orthodox liturgy, and the legend of Abgar is recited.

    Let us now surmise that the Mandylion is not the Shroud, and therefore it arrives in Constantinople at some later date. Surprisingly, I cannot tell you the feast day for the arrival of the burial cloths of Jesus Christ in Constantinople. The Orthodox do not celebrate the arrival of such a prestigious relic. Robert de Clari saw something very like it in 1204, and the Patriarch complained to the Pope that the Crusaders made off with it. But of the arrival of teh burial cloths there is no mention.

    But of course I shall be told that all of this is my over-wrought imagnation working overtime. It couldn’t happen that way at all. We have it on the best authority from Byzantine scholars who work so hard to affirm with each other in their closed circle that they are right and they are the specialists, even although Hans Belting knows that they are uncomfortable with the very idea of burial cloths.

    Perhaps it is just my imagination. You be the judge!

  12. Dave,

    In the light of the sermon pronounced by Gregory Referendarius, Archdeacon of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople on the occasion of the Image of Edessa’s arrival in the city, no true philologists e.g. can totally rule out the Archdeacon could have been referring to TWO DISTINCT RELICS (here…there) either.

    I can only advise you to plunge into a comparative study of the Holy Face iconography and in particular that of the Holy Faces as shown on the Veil of Mannoppello, Holy Shroud of Saint Veronica (early 15th c. CE Flamish painter), Holy Mandylion (Laon, Novgorod etc) and Holy Shroud of Turin to really get my point (The Holy Mandylion kept in Constantinople and the Holy Veronica kept in Rome till the 16-th c. CE are one and the same relic).

  13. THE TRUE FACT is the Greek words ‘rakos tetradiplon’, ‘tetradiplon’, ‘sindon’ and ‘himation’ are much more appropriate than the Byzantine Greek word ‘mandylion’ to REALLY describe the Turin Sindon as a “four time longer than wide stained/soiled sindon with small holes”.

  14. “Folding in four” the Turin Sindon and framing it (with its facial imprint in landscape mode) into a reliquary table (twice wider than high) won’t work either to transform the relic into a NEARLY SQUARE mandylion (see e.g. the Holy Faces of Laon & Novgorod).

  15. One must be reminded here that In Edessa there were not only one but THREE candidates to be the Acheiropoietos (i..e. not made by hand image). Each of them was kept as a relic in the Edessan Melkite, Monophysite/Jacobite and Nestorian churches. Hence, both theoritically and pratically, each of the three images (the original model and its two painted copies) could have been known as ‘THE’ Image of Edessa.

  16. This would also account for the Abgar legends variations and distortions whether you were a Melkite, a Monophysite/Jacobite or a Nestorian.

  17. Max: I concur with much of what you have written here. The legend associated with the Veil of Manoppello suggests that it may very well be the Veronica after its disappearance from Rome ~1608. Whether it was in Edessa or not might be argued. One version I read (Heinrich Pfeiffer) has it going from Jerusalem to Camelia in Capadocia, and thence to Constantinople in the VI c. whence it disappeared in 705. The VI c. is suggestive I think, and may point to an Edessa provenance as many copies of Edessa image seem to have radiated from there at that time (Belting).

    The three alleged originals (Melkite, Nestorian, Monophysite) make it further confusing, as do the various names used at different times for a single object. Byzantine chronicle says that Bishop Abraham only took the one object in 944 and returned the others, but that I suppose could be questioned.

    For me a compelling argument is the 15 Vignon markings. Whatever the original template (and perhaps its copies) that artists worked from happened to be, then the facial image on the Shroud must have been the model for those template(s). As the copies radiated out from Edessa in the 6th century, I find it hard to dismiss the inevitable conclusion that the Shroud was in Edessa at that time. It could no longer have been there when Edessa was destroyed in 1146.

    Around 1130, Normandy-based Orderic Vitalis reports that western visitors to Constantinople are shown the emperor’s relic collection and that the Jesus-imprinted Edessa cloth, besides Jesus’ facial imprint displays ‘the form and size of the Lord’s body to all who look upon it’. BUT It might of course be a report second-hand. And then again, it may be an authentic report!

  18. To Dave,

    Mostly agreed.

    In all likelihood the Veil of Manoppello and the Holy Veronica (kept in Rome till the 1537 CE sack of the city) are one and the same relic (a small transparent face cloth most probably placed on top of the TS during the TSM’s burial along with a skull-cap (“buttoned up” on top of the VM so that to fasten a “Jaw box” made of three wooden pieces) to both counteract head and lower jaw rigor mortis and thus honor the deceased.

    Later, faint markings left on the small burial face veil by the TSM’s face were ingenuously enhanced and completed in an attempt to reconstruct and preserve the memory of the deceased via a funeray painted portrait featuring the dead as living, hence the Abgar LEGEND of Yeshua’s painted portrait when he was alive.

    In the alternative hypothesis, the Rome Holy Veronica now kept in Manoppello was not one of the “three Images of Edessa” handed over to Abramos in 944, then the scenario we are left with is two (or at least one) of the three alleged Edessan relics having been ingenuously painted copies in portrait mode on cloth of the said Holy Veronica (as original template) while the “third Image of Edessa” could only be the “four times longer than wide” stained/soiled himation/sindon with symmetric sets of small holes and framed into a reliquary-table so that the facial imprint only appeared through a circular central opening.

  19. Correction: ), the “third Image of Edessa” could only have been the “four times longer than wide” stained/soiled himation/sindon with symmetric sets of small holes and framed into a reliquary-table so that the facial imprint only appeared through a circular central opening.

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