Titulus Crucis: A Fascinating Guest Posting by O.K.

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While historical documents, certain archaeological data and comparative paleography indicate that the titulus crucis from the Santa Croce in Rome is authentic, the C-14 dating performed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

I think I would like to add some of my thoughts on that. First: the results of 2002 carbondating of the Titulus can be found there.2 It was dated to 980-1146 AD at 95 % confidence level.

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/theideaofsomethingbeingauthenticisjusttoopowerful/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.

6 See http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/egeria/pilgrimage/pilgrimage.html

7 See https://archive.org/details/cu31924028534232

8 I have the polish edition: Na Tropie Jezusa z Nazaretu: Ziemia Zbawiciela, Wydawnictwo Salwator, Kraków 2012. Original appeared in 2009.

9 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucius_II

10 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_John_Lateran#Papal_tombs

25 thoughts on “Titulus Crucis: A Fascinating Guest Posting by O.K.”

  1. Fun article to read. And it does point to what makes the Shroud such a unique relic. Whereas it’s reasonably easy to copy the Titulus, the nails, a bloody cloak — it’s proven to be quite another matter to copy the Shroud. Therein lies the double-edged sword of ever proving the Shroud was a crafted scorch — someone could then logically suggest that it may be a copy of the original. Indeed, if that linen-cotton cloth is ever proven medieval the scorch hypothesis might suddenly find it has some very unexpected champions.

    1. Sorry I should amend that to say “ever proven without a shadow of doubt”. One could argue it has already been proven medieval by the C-14 dating. And here’s a can opener to go with your worms.

      1. The evidence of the bloodstains alone is enough to reject the idea that the Shroud could be a forgery David… I know I said it many times, but everytime I see someone talking about this, I have to say something…

  2. Perhaps the result from the 14C test
    by Bella and Azzi is right and then
    this “Titulus” is only a replica of authentic relic.
    Instead other researchers claim that … the entire area was irradiated !
    See the presumed sources for that natural radiations :
    from the piezonuclear reactions and the inherent neutron irradiations
    or … from the powerful thunderbolts, etc. (and then the obvious claim is :
    “there was an alteration into the matter due these interactions”).

    In any case, in the past, prof. Luigi Campanella indicated
    the interesting systems to work with wood samples.
    Do you remember ?
    It was interesting to read these methods.
    But I believe we have to avoid all the destructive analyses.
    In my opinion, if you work with the proper SPMs controls you
    can obtain the interesting data avoiding the big destructions.

    In any case I am curious … but not fanatic … about that old wood.
    — —
    B.T.W. :
    Where is the blood on that presumed false relic ?
    I see nothing around the researches about that precious liquid …
    There is no dry spot (blood) on that wood.
    Are we sure for that absence ?
    Where is the proof ?

  3. I first came across Thiede & D’Ancona’s book during 2003, an edition which predated the 2002 C14 testing. I was impressed with the case they made for the titulus and wrote a review for my parish magazine at the time. With so many reliable eye-witnesses attesting to it there can be no doubt that the original relic existed and survived as late as 980AD, the earliest date given by the C14.

    The sequence of the lettering is Hebrew/Aramaic, Greek and Latin at variance with the sequence in Luke and John, although the first line is damaged. The Greek and Latin reads from right to left, either because of the inscriber’s ignorance or as a parody of the Hebrew.

    The O.K. story on Pope Lucius II is fascinating and one I had not been aware of. An alternative explanation for the present relic being a replica might that the original was destroyed in one of the many medieval fires in Rome, as were the papal tombs mentioned. However the caligraphic commentary suggests that the original still existed when the replica (if that’s what it is) was made.

    In early 2010 I also wrote a fanciful piece “Just a simple block of wood” with a reference to the True Cross and the Titulus, with some commentary on those relics. It can be found here:
    http://tawacatholic.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/TCN-Mar-10.pdf see pp 20-21 of the magazine.

  4. Personally, I have a great difficulty to believe that, after the Resurrection of Jesus, the disciples could have been tempted to keep anything related to him other than the burial cloths and maybe some other cloths he was wearing during his lifetime (which could include maybe some he was wearing during his Passion).

    The idea that things like the cross, the nails, the sponge, the lance, the titulus crucis, etc., could have been kept by the disciples after Jesus’ Resurrection or, like the cross, could have survived for nearly 300 years in order to be found by Helena seems as ludicrous to me as the idea that the Mandylion could have been the Shroud of Turin folded in 8.

    All those things just doesn’t sound true to me…

    1. I’m inclined to agree. The burial cloths they had access to. But the cross, nails, sponge, lance etc would have been in Roman hands to be used again. There is the possibility of a believing Roman soldier – the centurion perhaps – obtaining them.

      But here’s thought experiment: if Jesus’ execution happened today would anyone think to make a relic of the noose that was around his neck, or the electric chair he sat on, the syringe that injected him with poison? Our customs are not 1st century ones, but if you had the risen Lord appearing to you, if you could reach out and touch his side — why would you bother with the instruments that killed him?

      On the other hand, if you believed that His blood was a lifeforce like no other, then maybe you would be obsessed with retaining anything that blood stained.

      There’s a lot of mystery in His history.

      1. Very good question from David: “if Jesus’ execution happened today would anyone think to make a relic of the noose that was around his neck, or the electric chair he sat on, the syringe that injected him with poison?”

        OF COURSE NOT! That’s why it is highly doubtful that, beside Jesus’ cloths (including his burial cloths), his disciples or family could have even thought of keeping any objects related to his Passion and death.

        David also said: “On the other hand, if you believed that His blood was a lifeforce like no other, then maybe you would be obsessed with retaining anything that blood stained.”

        My answer: I think David that your assumption here is out of context completely! A theological concept such as the “life’s giving blood of Christ” was surely not in the disciple’s mind right after the death and Resurrection of Jesus! Such theological concepts and dogmas took many centuries and a lot of debates (some of those being very violent and mean) during a lot of councils in order to become accepted by a majority of Christians. So, I think we can forget this kind of wild assumption concerning the immediate disciples of Jesus…

    2. Existence of the titulus was attested by the pilgrim Egeria in 383, by the 6th century pilgrim Antoninus, as well as by Saints Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose of Milan and John Chrysostom. Your credal problems when faced with such evidence are no-one else’s problem!

      1. I completely disagree… Those references came more than 300 years after the events, during a time in which the market of Holy relics was booming! This happened after the conversion of Constantine and the “paganisation” of Christianity (cult of the Saints, a lot of magical thinking, etc.) and this “paganisation” surely had something to do also with the high rising of the cult of relics. In such a context, it was very tempting to forge all the reported objects associated with Jesus’ Passion… That doesn’t mean that every relics of the Passion must be false (I believe the Shroud is authentic), but that’s surely enough to make us very prudent when we talk about the authenticity of other relics supposedly related to the Passion.

      2. Your disbelief merely comes from a state of mind, and a refusal to consider what evidence there might be, which is NOT a case of prudence at all.

  5. “Those references came more than xxx years after the events, during a time in which the market of Holy relics was booming!”, isn’t this the same argument used against the shroud?
    Why is it so easy to dismiss relics even when historic and palaeographic evidence support authenticity.

    1. The difference with the Shroud is the high number of pieces of evidence in favor of its authenticity. It is much higher than any other relics supposedly associated with Christ. And we must add the fact that it is much more probable that a disciple or a family member of Jesus decided to keep his Shroud instead of any other object associated with his Passion, for the simple and good reason that the Shroud was the last thing that touched his body before the Resurrection… I think this was a good reason for them to decide to keep such a thing. This is not the case for all the other relics of the Passion, except maybe for the Sudarium of Oviedo, which was possibly in the empty tomb also on Easter morning. Nevertheless, for this relic, I’m still not so sure about that.

  6. I would like to add that, concerning the Shroud, if it is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus (which I firmly think it is), I really don’t think that it was kept because of the “sacred blood” that covered parts of the cloth, but only because it was the last material object that had been in contact with his body before it disappeared from the tomb.

    So, because of this, I don’t think the “sacred blood” hypothesis has anything to do with the fact that Jesus’ disciple or family have or have not kept some objects related to the last moment of his life. So, personally, I have the strong feeling that beside the burial cloth(s) that was (or were) in contact with his body at the time of his Resurrection, not much (and maybe nothing else) was kept and preserved after this great event. You can understand why I seriously doubt the authenticity of many relics of the Passion like the true cross, the sponge, the lance, the titulus crucis, the nails, and even the tunic of Argenteuil and many more cloths supposedly related to the Passion of Christ (but that were certainly not present inside the tomb at the time of Jesus’ Resurrection).

    1. But in Jewish belief of that time blood was the life essence (still is to this day). The first followers of Jesus formed eucharistic communities – this is not a later development – it’s from the beginning. Receiving the flesh and blood of Christ (in bread and wine) is central to their understanding of who He was and who they are to be. Again this is from the beginning. If Jews think blood is important enough to collect and bury with a corpse, why wouldn’t they put even more importance to the blood spilled from a resurrected Messiah?

      However, I still feel it would have been a great challenge to find all these relics with blood on them, apart from the ones the disciples had access too — the burial items and possibly the crown of thorns if it was kept with the body. The only way they would have gotten that Roman lance is if a Roman soldier procured it. Which is a possibility.

      In the end neither of us was there. We likely will never know the answer and our theories will have to wait until the next life to be proven or disproven.

      1. I should add that I agree that the disciples themselves are unlikely to have collected these relics. They had the experience of the risen Lord, who needs a relic after such a thing. What is a nail when one has seen the nailed!

      2. I’m highly skeptical David about the idea that the disciples of Jesus could have considered his blood as being “sacred” right after the Resurrection… It just doesn’t sound rational at all. Such a concept surely took many decades to emmerge in the mind of some disciples (like John for example). Such a concept was surely not what they had in mind right after the event… As I said, if they ever kept the Shroud or other cloths that were present inside the empty tomb, it’s most probably because those things were still inside the empty tomb when they discovered it (and because they were the last material objects to have touched his body before it disappeared from the tomb). I don’t see any other rational reason for them to have possibly kept this cloth (or cloths) related to Jesus after his death and Resurrection.

      3. I must add that I like the last reflection of David… Very rational, except for the burial cloths (for the reason I gave in my previous comments).

  7. The birth of Christianity can be traced to the Resurrection, not to any relics. Even if we have these relics they will not tell us the full story and Christians at least depart from this world with a big amount of faith.

    1. Faith and hope is much more important for any Christian than any relics supposedly associated with Christ, I agree 100%.

    1. Louis :
      That’s right. What if there was no Turin Shroud?

      The world would all of a sudden become a less interesting sort of place, and David Rolfe, John Klotz and Yannick Clement would need to find some other issue on which to dig in and engage in trench warfare (and/or mudslinging) against those terrible agnostics and atheists.

  8. I think everyone is missing a huge giveaway that the titulus is a fake; and that is the Latin words themselves are wrong: “IESVS NAZERENVS” as it is carved into the wood. Nazerenus is totally the wrong declension of what is should be. It should be Nazereni. The inscribed words say exactly: Jesus Nazareth. Not Jesus OF Nazareth. I find it really hard to believe that if this event was so important for the area, not just to Jesus’s followers, but also Pilate’s status of governor in that territory, that the inscriber would make that great of a grammatical error. It would be like making the mistake of changing George Washington to George OF Washington.

    It’s not a simple “faith versus science” issue. it’s a “wake up and look at the facts because it’s a fake” issue. The science doesn’t lie… people trying to control mass amounts of people by making up myths do.

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