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Quote for Today: Hans Belting and commentary

image“Consider these words of the distinguished German art scholar, Hans Belting (pictured),” writes daveb or Wellington nz in a comment:

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.

And then Dave editorializes:

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!

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