I hope Freeman has laid the foundation for a book-length treatment soon.
— John Farrell
Save this for your commute home or weekend reading. This month’s History Today features an in-depth essay by historian Charles Freeman who argues that the Shroud of Turin was a relic specifically designed for liturgical use in the Middle Ages.
Its subsequent ‘second life’ as the supposed actual burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth is comparatively recent, according to Freeman, author of Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe.
[. . . .]
As far back as 1390, the Catholic Church accepted that the shroud was not a deliberate forgery and allowed it to be displayed publicly. Indeed the pope at the time (actually an anti-pope, Clement VII) insisted that it be publicly announced before each exposition that the venerated linen was not in reality the burial shroud of Christ.
But why was the shroud created in the first place? Freeman makes a convincing case that the artist responsible for designing the linen intended it to be used for very special Easter liturgies. Specifically, the Quem Queritis, ‘Whom do you seek?’–a ceremonial re-enactment of the visit of the women to the tomb of Jesus on Easter Day.
The ritual went as follows: When the clergy representing the Three Marys reach the ‘tomb’, they find a man (or ‘angel’) seated, wearing a white robe, by the opened sepulchre. He asks them ‘Quem Queritis?’ ‘Whom do you seek?’ When they reply that they are seeking Christ, he tells them not to be afraid: ‘Christ is not here, He is risen.’
And the ‘proof’ revealed is when the shroud was taken out and shown to the worshipers at the liturgy.
It’s a fascinating piece of detective work. Not everyone is going to be convinced, of course, but I hope Freeman has laid the foundation for a book-length treatment soon.