Home > History > The Shroud of Turin is not the Image of Edessa?

The Shroud of Turin is not the Image of Edessa?

December 3, 2014

the sixth-century Image of Edessa “probably never actually looked like a cloth at all.”

If you weren’t in St. Louis on Sunday morning of the conference for Jack Markwardt’s special presentation, then Modern Scholarship and the History of the Shroud of Turin is a MUST READ:

clip_image002In 1997, Professor Robin Cormack, an art historian, concluded that Wilson’s identification of the Turin Shroud with the Mandylion was “an impossible guess”, pointing to a depiction of that icon in a St. Catherine Monastery panel painting that is datable to 945-959 (Figure 1).

In 2010, Wilson acknowledged that “a fringe runs along the bottom edge where we would expect the Shroud’s fold line to be,” but he then proceeded to argue that varying portrayals of the Mandylion cancelled out one another as reliable representations of that icon and made it improbable that Byzantine artists “had actually viewed at first hand the original Image they were copying”; however, this stance constituted a rather dramatic about-face from that which he had assumed in 1998 when, in support his folded-relic hypothesis, he had contended that copies of the Mandylion, such as the now-lost image of Spas Nereditsa (Figure 2), “convey other recurring possible clues to the original’s clip_image004appearance”, such as a lattice-type decoration possibly denoting the presence of an overlay grille and an image which had been set upon a landscape-aspect cloth. If, as Wilson presently asserts, Byzantine artists did not actually view the original Mandylion in producing copies of it, then depictions that feature lattice-type decorations and landscape-aspect cloths would not necessarily be evidential of that icon having been the hypothetically folded and framed Turin Shroud.

Other unfavorable academic commentary would quickly ensue. In 1998, Professor Cameron flatly pronounced that “the Edessan image has nothing to do with the Shroud of Turin.” In 2003, Andrew Palmer, a professor of Byzantine history, in dating the Acts of Thaddeus, which alludes to an image of Jesus on cloth, to the period of 609-726 CE,undermined Wilson’s claim that it had been written in the sixth century and coincidental with the alleged historical appearance of the Edessa icon. In 2004, Professor Sebastian Brock, perhaps the world’s foremost authority on Syriac texts, declared that the Mandylion’s history provided “a very unsatisfactory ancestry for those who would like to identify the famous Turin Shroud with the Edessan Mandylion.”

In 2007, Mark Guscin, a well-known authenticist, concluded that the Sermon of Gregorius Referendarius recites “that the sweat of agony (like drops of blood) adorned the Image (of Edessa), just like blood from its side adorned the body from which the sweat had dripped, i.e. two different events at two different times,” refuting Wilson’s assertion that it referenced blood flowing from Jesus’ side wound, thereby proving that the Edessa icon had borne a full-length image of his crucified body. In that same year, Professor Irma Karaulashvili, a Georgian scholar and specialist in Syriac texts, observed that the Image of Edessa “seems to have been painted, most plausibly on wood”, citing several Syriac sources which had variously described the early Edessa icon as a quadrangle wooden tablet, a dappa (tablet), and a piece of wood.In doing so, Karaulashvili concurred with Cameron that the sixth-century Image of Edessa “probably never actually looked like a cloth at all.”

But, read on:

clip_image003Not only does the cloth of the Image of Edessa, as so depicted, strongly resemble an imaged Byzantine labarum (see Figure 19), but also the image of Jesus presented on that cloth mirrors the facial image of the Turin Shroud, absent its wounds and bloodstains, particularly with regard to their respective mouths, beards, and uneven lengths of hair (see Figure 20),and if the tenth-century Image of Edessa was, in fact, a late sixth-century Byzantine labarum, an object which modern scholars “nearly universally believe” to have been modeled upon Constantinople’s Image of God Incarnate,then that archetypal acheiropoietos image of Jesus was almost certainly the Shroud of Turin.


  1. December 3, 2014 at 7:30 am

    I haven’t read Jack Markwardt’s paper yet, but I would like to ask a provocative questions:

    Was the Image of Edessa the ONLY one material object?

    Or perhaps the role of The Image of Edessa was played by MORE THAN one object through history.

    I leave it aside for now. I will explain later. But there is one thing Shroud scholarship largely overlooked…

    • December 3, 2014 at 8:55 am

      All right, I have read Markwardt’s paper.

      I would rate it as both excellent -and foolish. He while going in bad direction he goes in a good direction at the same time, and having a key element at hand, he overlooks it.

      The Shroud was Mandylion! The question is: whether only the Shroud?

      And as to the idiots from Academia – Irecommend reading this thread:

  2. December 3, 2014 at 10:58 am

    If you want to watch and listen to Jack Markwardt, go to: http://www.shrouduniversity.com/stlouis14.php All the audio problems have been resolved. Jack has gave two papers.

  3. Thomas
    December 4, 2014 at 3:12 am

    Seeing this reminded me of the abrasion we see on Christ’s right cheek on the shroud. What chance of this on a bas relief?
    It’s a level of detail one would really not expect to see in a 14th century “fake”

    • December 4, 2014 at 3:40 am

      How can you describe what you see (yellow pointer?) as an “abrasion” Thomas, when it’s indistinguishable in character from surrounding body image?

      All one can say surely is that it’s an asymmetry in the facial features, one that cannot be readily explained without knowing the precise mechanism of image imprinting (which was definitely not photography).

      • Thibault HEIMBURGER
        December 4, 2014 at 4:34 pm

        But this is THE problem, Colin.
        We agree that there is an asymmetry in the facial features.
        But is is not any kind of asymmetry.
        This is an asymmetry which is perfectly consistent with an imprint (whatever the mechanism) of a man who had severe injuries.
        And those injuries are truly realistic from a forensic point of view.

        If the TS image is the result of an imprint from a medieval template, I can see only 2 possibilities:
        1) There was no asymmetry in the template but the final image asymmetry is the accidental result of the imprinting mechanism. And this asymmetry perfectly matches the imprint of an injured face….
        2) The medieval “face” model/template “contained” this injury-like asymmetry. Does it exist a single example of medieval bas-relief or statue with this kind of feature?

        • December 4, 2014 at 5:01 pm

          Thibault: first, one cannot attribute an asymmetry in facial features to injury unless one is absolutely certain the face is that of a real man.

          Templates never produce irregularities? They can, if one uses treated linen to make it more sensitive to scorching. I have been experimenting with different additives. One is white flour – but it has to be spread very evenly. Surplus flour tends to cake and produce image distortion, giving the appearance of a bad template.

          Compared with a photograph, the TS imprint contains little in the way of real information, due to paucity of detail, low image resolution, general fuzziness, lack of colour differences, absence of texture, lack of light directionality that precludes the kind of hints one gets from 2D images as to 3D relief. One can’t even differentiate between hair and skin of the TS, except by location, such is the uniformity of image characteristics. If you can see bruises, why can’t you see details like nipples, navel, fingernails, wounds (as distinct from their blood flows)?

  4. daveb of wellington nz
    December 4, 2014 at 5:13 am

    Doubtless it is indistinguishable to the inexpert eye. Thomas is correct!

    Summarising Barbet: Right-side deformed below eye-socket; nose deformed by fracture of cartilage; suggested cause – stick wielded by assailant; Abrasions on left-side, tip of nose, lower lip.

    In more detail: Excoriations found almost everywhere on face, especially right side, which is also deformed, as if haemotomes beneath bleeding surface; two superciliary arches show contused wounds being caused by a blow with a fist or a stick, the bony arch cleaving the skin on its deep surface below the brow.

    Most noticeable lesion – broad triangular excoriation below right eye socket. base 3/4 inch long, point directed upwards and inwards, joining another excoriated area on nose, about two-thirds of the way up. Here, nose is deformed by fracture of the cartilage, near join with nasal bone, which is intact. All these lesions seem to have been caused by a stick dia of 1 3/4 inches, vigorously handled by assailant on the right. Also excoriations on left cheek and lower lip.

    Given this level of detail by an experienced forensic pathologist whose everyday work involved examination and reports on such injuries, and would not be easily fooled by any false artifice, the non-authenticist narrative can hold little interest for those informed and seems nothing more than a bizarre distraction from the truth.

    • December 4, 2014 at 7:54 am

      “Given this level of detail by an experienced forensic pathologist whose everyday work involved examination and reports on such injuries, and would not be easily fooled by any false artifice, the non-authenticist narrative can hold little interest for those informed and seems nothing more than a bizarre distraction from the truth.”

      You have overlooked one tiny detail, daveb. Dr.Barbet was not examining a real corpse. He was looking at the same faint 2D negative image as you, me and Thomas, none of us (least of all Barbet) having any certain knowledge as to how it was formed., except for one thing. It is not a photograph, so cannot be interpreted as if a photograph.

      Oh, and one other thing daveb. Kindly spare me your hoity toity signings off. They do you no credit whatsoever.

      • Nabber
        December 4, 2014 at 8:55 am

        Just goes to show: one person’s hoity-toity is another’s blazing truth….

      • daveb of wellington nz
        December 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm

        Comment in my last paragraph above was not intended to be directed at any one particular individual at all. After reading Barbet and a succession of various other forensic pathologists, who are in substantial agreement, that is my own personal perspective on ANY non-authenticist narrative. Whatever value they might have in coming to any understanding of the image formation process, I consider them for the most part to be trite and superficial by comparison. Barbet not only had the opportunity to inspect the cloth itself during the 1931 exposition, but the additional advantage of also seeing it in daylight conditions, and also the 1931 Enrie negatives. Delage, Vignon, Willis, Bucklin, Zugibe, Adler and various other such experts in forensics, while sometimes disputing incidental details, all had no doubt that they were viewing the image of a real crucified person, and no artifice.

        • December 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm

          “…that is my own personal perspective on ANY non-authenticist narrative. Whatever value they might have in coming to any understanding of the image formation process, I consider them for the most part to be trite and superficial by comparison.”

          Someone is missing the point here. There is no ‘non-authenticist narrative’ where the TS is concerned, for the simple reason that non-authenticists do not regard the TS image as a photograph. Their interest is in knowing what it might be if not a photograph. Until they know what it is, then no detailed interpretation is possible of this or that detail, least of all a medical one, given that none of knows whether it was a real person or an effigy thereof that was imprinted.

          The Bucklin/Barbet autopsy reports on a faint 2D image of unknown origin are frankly an expression, indeed assertion of religious faith, wrapped up in the language of pathology and science. The full title of Barbet’s 1953 book, the one daveb chides me for not having read, was hardly calculated to appeal to the scientifically-inclined reader. There was no call for Barbet to advertise his religious affiliation in the title of his book.

      • daveb of wellington nz
        December 4, 2014 at 7:05 pm

        Barbet, as have others like him, brought his specialist knowledge to bear onto the particular topic of this web-site. How it may have affected his faith thereby is reflected in the title of his work. The substance is in its content.

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