Titulus Crucis –a supplement to The idea of something being authentic is
"just too powerful" on shroudstory.com1
In a recent post on Dan’s blog, Joe Marino wrote:
The Military Channel has a new series called "Myth Hunters." I just finished watching my recording from 16 January. The 1 hour episode was called "Quest for the True Cross" and featured German author/historian Michael Hesemann [pictured]. (Hesemann gave one to two presentations at the 2001 Dallas Shroud conference.)
While historical documents, certain archaeological data and comparative paleography indicate that the titulus crucis from the Santa Croce in Rome is authentic, the C-14 dating performed in 2002 did not agree. The results came out something like AD 842-1000.
The program spent several minutes on the Shroud. Robert Wilcox was interviewed for that portion and expressed doubts about the reliability of the C-14 results in that case. (Bob, you should have alerted us you were going to be on.) But they let a C-14 scientist give the old line that C-14 is practically infallible.
Although the program did give most of the time to Hesemann, at the end they once again touted how reliable C-14 is. The narrator ended by saying that believers won’t accept the reliability of the results in the case of the titulus crucis because the idea of it being authentic is "just too powerful."
Once again we have a case of mainstream science accepting the validity of C-14 dating over a wealth of other scientific and historical information that conflicts with the dating
There are several books, and a couple of documentaries devoted to the subject of Titulus
Crucis. The most comprehensive are I think, The Quest for the True Cross, written by the late Carsten Peter Thiede and Matthew D’Ancona3, and Die stummen zeugen von Golgatha by
Hesemann.4 Some summary of their conclusions is also provided in Grzegorz Górny’s Witnesses to Mystery, pg. 81-95. Curiously, Górny seems to be unaware of 2002 carbondating, as Hesemann’s and Thiede’s works he probably used pre-date it.
The summary of the pre 2002 historical investigations can be summarized as follow. The board is made of walnut wood, 25×14 cm in size, 2.6 cm thick and has a weight of 687 g. There are fragments of Hebrew/Aramiac, as well as Greek and Latin (written mirror-style, just like the Hebrew/Aramaic, from the right to left). The Titulus was discovered by St. Helena in 326 AD, and then divided into two or three parts, one of which traveled to Rome, to the Santa Croce in Gerusalemme church. Another part remained in Jerusalem, while the third one probably traveled to Constantinople, as it is mentioned in 958 letter of Constantine VII, as well as in the list of relics from Constantinople sold to the king Louis IX –before disappearing during the French Revolution. As to the Jerusalempart, Joan Carroll-Cruz claims that the monk Anthony (living 1389-1459) reported that he had hold it in his own hands, so it was probably still there at that time.5 The existence of Titulus in Jerusalem is attested by Egeria circa 384 AD (Then is brought a silver-gilt casket, in which is the holy wood of the cross; it is opened, and the contents being taken out, the wood of the cross and also its inscription are placed on the table)6, and by Antoninus from Piacenza (for I also saw, and held in my hand and kissed, the title which was placed over the head of Jesus, upon which is written, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’)7, circa 570 AD. Thus, we can be certain that Titulus existed before 1000 AD, which is the date suggested by radiocarbon-dating. The Rome part of it, stored in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, was buried inside the walls of the church during the barbaric invasions at some time in the 5th century (Rome was sacked by Visigoths in 410, and by Vandals in 455). It was rediscovered around 1144, when Gherardo Caccianemici dal Orso, the later Pope Lucius II, was cardinal priest of Santa Croce (his seal was later found in the casket in which the Titulus was stored) –and then, for some strange reasons buried again in the walls, only to be rediscovered on 1st February 1492. Since that time, it is venerated in that basilica. The writings on the Titulus had been paleographically dated by several experts: Hannah Eshel and Gabriel Barkay, specialists in Hebrew (who gave verdict: “late period of the Second Temple”, between 1st -3rd century), by Leah di Segni from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (a specialist in Greek), and Israel Roll and Ben Isaac, as well as Thiede, who concluded that the writings date back to the 1st century. Thus it couldn’t have been a forgery made in Helena times.
At that time, it was very near to the full happiness (of the faithful). Unfortunately, the 2002 radiocarbon dating gave completely unexpected results. Hesemann in his more recent book Jesus von Nazareth. Archäologen auf den Spuren des Erloesers8, while admitting that he is not a physicist, being so surprised by the results tries to give some blatant (and erroneous) pseudo-explanation of it.
Contrary to Hesemann and many others, I believe that this dating has been accurate -it is extremely hard, if not impossible to skew wood dating to that extent. The whole radiocarbon dating is in fact, calibrated on dendrochronology! However this doesn’t mean that the Titulus is a simple forgery. No the matter is more complicated than everyone though. Because there is apparently conflict of historical, paleographical, and C-14 data. The C-14 suggest 980-1146 AD. It is in contradiction with paleography (1st century) and history (at least 4th century). However, interestingly, it coincides closely with the discovery of Titulus circa 1144.
There is only one solution to the problem, that makes sense. The current Titulus is the faithful reproduction of the original one, made circa 1144 AD. It is the only way to explain the 1st century script, unknown in medieval times, as well as historical data and C-14 results. But there is another mystery: why? For what purpose make a replica (as it was based on the original it must have been in a relatively good condition), and immediately bury it once again in the wall? This makes no sense. Unless…
From this moment on, the following is just only my idea. I suspect a crime. A dirty medieval crime, performed by one of the highest ranked person in the Church. The original Titulus was apparently stolen, and replaced with a fake one, resembling the original as much as possible. And to further cover up the crime, the replica was once again placed in the walls, and buried for centuries. Who could perfrom that. The first person that comes into the mind is cardinal Gherardo Caccianemici dal Orso, the later Pope Lucius II. As the Wiki informs us:9
Pope Lucius II (Latin: Lucius II; died 15 February 1145), born Gherardo Caccianemici dal Orso, was the head of the Catholic Church from 9 March 1144 to his death in 1145. His pontificate was notable for the unrest in Rome associated with the Commune of Rome and its attempts to wrest control of the city from the papacy.
While quelling unrest in Rome:
Lucius marched against the Senatorial positions on the Capitol with a small army. He was driven back by Giordano, and according to Godfrey of Viterbo, he was seriously injured during this battle (by a thrown stone). He did not recover from his injuries and died on 15 February 1145 at San Gregorio Magno al Celio, where he was under the protection of the neighbouring Frangipani fortress.
While his pontiff was not notable, if he had fallen to the temptation of appropriating the
Titulus for himself, he might have buried our chance to recover this priceless relic from the Christ’s Cross. Here we have to ask the question: if the current Titulus from Santa Croce is a replica, than where is the original? The most probable (and misfortunate) answer is that it was buried along with the Pope Lucius II, in the St. John Lateran’s Archbasilica. Unfortunately, as Wiki informs us:10
A dozen additional papal tombs were constructed in the basilica starting in the 10th century, but were destroyed during two fires that ravaged the basilica in 1308 and 1361. The remains of these charred tombs were gathered and reburied in a polyandrum. The popes of the destroyed tombs were: Pope John X (914 – 928), Pope Agapetus II (946 – 955), Pope John XII (955- 964), Pope Paschal II (1099–1118), Pope Callixtus II (1119–1124), Pope Honorius II
(1124–1130), Pope Celestine II (1143–1144), Pope Lucius II (1144–1145), Pope Anastasius IV (1153–1154), Pope Clement III (1187–1191), Pope Celestine III (1191–1198), Pope Innocent V (1276).
What can be said in summary? Once again we see that the reality is much more complex than most scientists believe. Although the case for Titulus apparently ended in rotten compromise between pro-authenticity and the skeptics (not an authentic piece of the Cross, but a replica of authentic relic), it was in fact important victory for those believing in the existence of authentic relics of the Passion, even despite C-14 bitter pill. Based on paleographical results, we can be almost certain that St. Helena recovered the True Cross. A deliberate forgery on her part does not take into the account –there was no comparative paleography in those times, and the alleged forger on her behalf could not even think about it. Thus it is also highly probable that other relics recovered by Helena (nails, Tunic, etc.) are also genuine. As for the original Titulus –one can only pray, and search. Maybe one day, someone will recover the Constantinople/Jerusalem/Rome parts of it to the light –again…
1 See https://shroudstory.com/2014/01/20/the–idea–of–something–being–authentic–is–just–toopowerful/One can watch this episode on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8_mspQXrvU, I don’t know for how long.
2 Francesco Bella, Carlo Azzi. 14C Dating of the Titulus Crucis, Radiocarbon 3 (44), pg. 685689, 2002. University of Arizona
3 I have the polish edition: Carsten Peter Thiede, Matthew D’Ancona, W poszukiwaniu Świętego Krzyża, Amber Sp. z.o.o. 2005. Original appeared in 2000. A TV documentary was also made based on the works of Thiede.
4 I have the polish edition: Milczący Świadkowie Golgoty, Wydawnictwo Salwator, Kraków 2006. Original appeared in 2000.
5 Joan Carrol Cruz, Relics, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing 1984, pg. 43-44. Up to a few
months ago almost entire first chapter about the relics of the Christ was available at http://books.google.pl/books?id=2NutWXeteNgC&printsec=frontcover&hl=pl#v=onepage&q &f=false , this however, has changed since that time.
8 I have the polish edition: Na Tropie Jezusa z Nazaretu: Ziemia Zbawiciela, Wydawnictwo Salwator, Kraków 2012. Original appeared in 2009.