A superbly detailed exploration of the Image of Edessa

imageThat is how Hugh Farey, in a comment to another posting, describes Mark Guscin’s The Tradition of the Image of Edessa, a 400+ page PhD thesis recently published on a University of London website.

The abstract of this paper begins:

The Image of Edessa was an image of Christ, which according to tradition was of miraculous origin. It was taken from Edessa (mod. Sanliurfa, Turkey) to Constantinople in 944, and disappeared from known history in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It generated, however, a vast amount of literature and hundreds of copies in churches all over the Byzantine world. This thesis is a study of the literature, paintings, icons and other aspects related to the Image of Edessa. It examines how it was used as a tool to express Christ’s humanity and for various other purposes, and how some of the related literature became completely decontextualised and was used as a magical charm, especially in the West….

The photograph of Mark is a publicity photo from ArcheBooks Publishing for his novel All the Diamonds in the World.

20 thoughts on “A superbly detailed exploration of the Image of Edessa”

  1. Wonderful resource. Very interesting to read of multiple attestations to a cloth with not only face but full body image of Christ.
    I strongly believe they are allusions to the Shroud.
    Also interesting to read of Guscin’s view on the likely latin origins of the word ‘mandylion’

    1. Attestations to the full body image are very likely to be allusions to the Shroud. But it wasn’t the Mandylion. I’ve already given you my best shot at it. You will have to find another route from Calvary to Turin, other than through Edessa.

    2. I was doing some research on the Image of Edessa last night and I typed in a phrase on a Gematria calculator. “The Magical Image Of Edessa” It equals 1128

      Right after I posted it on my own channel I saw this new Shroud Blog post in my email and it made reference to the Image of Edessa as being used as a magical charm.

      I thought, “that’s a odd coincidence, I just got through writing that”

      Shroud of Turin = 1128
      Jesus of Nazareth =1128
      Behold The Image of Edessa=1128
      The Magical Image of Edessa=1128

      Here is a few more I found, they just keep coming.

      Jesus inside a grave= 1128
      Called My Beloved Son =1128
      Holographic icon image=1128
      Cloth Image Of Jesus=1128
      The Son of Man Bleeding=1128
      Named Redeemer from God=1128
      Called Lord of Hosts=1128

      (These words/phrases are all directly and obviously related to Jesus and the Shroud of Turin/Image of Edessa)

      I challenged anyone in the world to take the name of any famous person, place or thing and find at least 12 things relating to that person, place or thing that all equal the same number.

      Not one person has been able to do it. With Jesus and the Shroud of Turin, we have over 50 phrases and words that are directly related to The Shroud of Turin and Jesus. Not vague matches. Direct association. Direct in a way that when you the type in the word or phrase on google you come to the Shroud of Turin or Jesus or both.

      Surely there is another famous person, place or thing that has a rich source of many different phrases and words to choose from that relate to that person, place or thing where one could easily get 12 things relating to it that all equal the same number on a Gematria calculator.
      So far, not one person has been able to do it.

      The only exceptions being Satan and things relating to him at 666.
      and Jesus at 888.

      Until that has been done. My evidence cannot be written off as coincidence.

      The acid test to know if 2 words or phrases are truly related, when typed in on a google search they will go directly to that person, place or thing. Not vague matches, direct matches.

      1. Dave, your comment is just another attempt to defend your belief in Gematria numerology. As such, it is a distraction to the subject at hand.

        1. Sorry Dan, did not mean for that. Daveb of Wellington already said everything that was on my mind on the subject. Carry on Shroud Researchers!

  2. Since the Mandylion (showing only the face of Christ) and the Shroud (showing a full body image of Christ) were both kept in Constantinople for centuries, it’s not strange at all to see 2 or 3 (no more than this among maybe over a hundred) ancient references that seems to indicate the Mandylion was showing a full body image. It’s most certainly an error of those writers (I’m almost sure that all of them have never saw any of these relics) who simply mixed-up both relics with their different features…

    As it is often said concerning the C14 dating of 88, if you got 99% of the data that point into one direction (in this case, it’s all the references and artworks that indicates the Mandylion was showing only the face of the living Christ without any signs of injury or bloodstains) and 1% that point in the opposite direction (in this case, it’s the very few references written by people who didn’t saw the relics of Constantinople that seems to indicates the Mandylion was showing a full body image of Christ), you simply forget this last tiny group of data and consider only the other huge group. That’s how unbiased science is suppose to work. Guscin seems to do exactly the opposite by focussing on this last tiny group of references instead of the numerous data indicating the Mandylion was only showing a face of Christ without any injury or blood and that this particular relic was NEVER considered as being a relic of the Passion, unlike many Passion relics that were all kept in Constantinople at the same time…

  3. “Guscin seems to do exactly the opposite…” No, he doesn’t. He gives all the sources a fair run for their money, but clearly does not identify the Image of Edessa with the Shroud of Turin himself. However, it is apparent that there are some accounts that suggest that the Mandylion was a relic of the passion, and that Yannick’s “NEVER” is unjustified. It must be remembered that this paper is a doctoral thesis, not a political manifesto.

    1. But Guscin is a defender of the Mandylion hypothesis and, in his writings, he emphasize more than usual the few mentions that can back-up his point of view…

  4. There are some unkind remarks about Phil Dayvault on page 276, footnote 546. It was this former FBI Special Agent who first saw the mosaic, and what is wrong if he asks for financial aid? Are all “Shroudies” loaded with moneybags?

    1. Working for the FBI is not necessarily a qualification in archaeology or art history, and Guscin’s description of Dayvault’s article as “unscholarly” is correct. Dayvault’s ‘discovery’ is without any provenance or any other confirmation, and nobody seems to have followed up his discovery. It would be strange indeed for a museum which currently boasts of holding the oldest lifesize human statue in the world did not also rejoice in holding one of the most ancient depictions of Jesus, but nothing similar appears on its website or in any reference to it. Still, as Louis says, there’s nothing wrong in asking for help, and it may have been forthcoming, as ‘The Keramion, Lost and Found: A Journey to the Face of God’ by Dayvault is due to be published early next year.

      1. Obviously I did not mean to say that being a former FBI Special Agent meant that is was a qualification in archaeology, it was a reference to seriousness in research.
        If nothing appears on the museum’s website that is because it is in a Muslim country, where the government is encouraging fundamentalism.

  5. What seems clear is there are several accounts of the Mandylion where reference is made to both a face AND body image.

    There are a number of possible explanations, including:

    – Several objects were referred to as the Mandylion, including the Shroud (hence these references)
    – There was confusion of the relics, leading to false descriptions (Yannick’s explanation)

    There seems to be an assumption from some commentators that the term “Mandylion” could only have ever been applied to a singular object. I don’t think that is necessarily the case. There may have been a number of objects masquerading as the Mandylion., with different characteristics, and hence different descriptions.

    1. You’re quite right… Throughout my research on the subject, I found out that, around the same time that the painted portrait of Christ in the Abgar legend was changed to an image of Jesus face miraculously imprinted on linen, you saw appearing a few other “miraculous” images of Christ in the Middle East! One of them was named “The image of Beirut”. Another one appeared in Constantinople before the first mention of a miraculous image in the Abgar legend… But, to me, the most probable explanation for these very few mentions of a full-body image come from the fact that, around the time of the first mention (I think it’s the 10th or 11th Century, there were both a shroud of Christ (probably the actual Shroud of Turin) and the Mandylion that were kept in Constantinople. In that context, that there could have been some confusion between the two is more than probable.

    2. The Image of Edessa became the most notable image of Christ at a very early age, and obtained the advantage of a widely accepted story believed to date from the time of Christ, even though the story went through several stages of later development. The very many diverse examples given by Guscin suggest that owners of the several copies may have been anxious to establish a veneer of authenticity for their own particular copy, and to associate it with the Image of Edessa, but possibly reluctant to admit that theirs was only a copy. Note that in a somewhat similar fashion, several ancient churches had claimed to have been founded by one of the apostles to bolster their claims of apostolic origin.

      Guscin makes a passing observation concerning the Image of Camuliana, by noting that one particular case he refers to may have been the Camuliana. In 540 AD Persian Chosroes attacked and destroyed Antioch, and then set his sights on Edessa. An imaged cloth, not made by human hands, was subsequently discovered in Camuliania and a group of orthodox priests paraded it around Anatolia in 554. In 574 Justin II brought it to Constantinople, and it became known as the Image of God Incarnate. Markwardt claims that this is the object which was actually the true Shroud, and which accounts for those stories relating a full body image.

      Guscin who was closely associated with Ian Wilson in their visit to Sanliurfa (Edessa) during their investigations does not seem to make a distinction between the face-only image of the Mandylion, and the various stories relating a full-body image, but seems prepared to allow that they may have been one and the same. He skirts around the problem of specifically associating stories of the full-body image with the Turin Shroud by claiming that this is beyond the limits of his thesis. Clearly the Camuliana was not the Mandylion, as they are two distinct objects, their arrival in Constantinople being separated by some 400 years.

      Over the next few days, I hope to make a closer study of Guscin’s wide-ranging paper, and may then be able to comment on it in more detail.

      1. Mark Guscin talks of the ‘features typical of the Image of Edessa; long hair and beard, oval shaped face and large open eyes'( pp.293-4) and he appears .e.g on p.317 to suggest that these might be original to the Image of Edessa. I am amazed that his advisers did not point out the emergence of the bearded image of Christ much earlier in Rome. It is easy to access the digital version of Paul Zanker’s The Mask fo Socrates . Zanker dates the earliest surviving depictions of a bearded Christ to AD 300 and in illustration no. 162 you can see a good example from that date . By the sixth century the bearded image has transferred to the east.e.g Zanker’s illustration no 166, St.Catherine’s ,Sinai, and it would seem that the face of Christ on the Image of Edessa derives from this.
        There is no Zanker in his Bibilography.
        I was also surprised that Guscin did not stress that tetradiplon only refers to the cloth when it did not yet have an image on it. There is no documentary evidence to show that it was folded with the image on it. Wilson has misled many here.

        As I have mentioned before, it seems strange that Guscin describes the Image as vanishing in 1204 when it was always in the un looted Pharos Chapel throughout the sack.

        I also think Guscin is being rather rigid in assuming that references to images of Chirst in Edessa always refer to what was taken to Contantinople in 944. Not only were images of Christ quite common from the fourth century but often there was a sequence of the same relic . This was inevitable when so many were lost or destroyed. Replacements either carried on the sacredness of the one they replaced ( e.g. The Volto Santo in Lucca) or were said to be the old one lost but then miraculously found again ( e.g. The rediscovery of the lost body of St Mark in a column in St.Mark’s.) One must at least consider that the Image of Edessa may have had different versions in sequence , perhaps some on wood, some on cloth.

  6. Re: Image of Edessa:
    We also have the manuscript with what the knight Robert de Clari wrote. He was present during the Fourth Crusade.
    According to Father Heirich Pfeiffer the Abgarlegend is in the liturgical books of the Eastern Church, but that the sermons changed after the image arrived in Constantinople:

  7. De Clari obviously was not looking at the Image of Edessa which is described in 944 as very faint and difficult to see. He saw a whole body which was obviously easy to see. Like many images on cloth the Image had clearly deteriorated by the time it gOt to Constantinople – all the sources agree on that. Even kept locked up in its case it would not have got any better. The sources ,that Guscin quotes,make. It clear any viewing was restricted- there is not a scrap of evidence it went anywhere else before Louis IX bought it in its box.

    Guscin has done important work in showing that the Image is not the Shroud- if some of us ever needed convincing on that point. I am surprised his examiners/ advisers did not get him to discuss the documented version that the image went to The Sainte-Chapelle, an itinerary that many distinguished Byzantine scholars support .

    1. Clarification. By ‘ documented version’ I meant the original documents e.g the one by the crusader Villehardouin that categorically states that the Chapel of the Pharos where the Image of Edessa was preserved in its box was handed over intact to the new Latin emperors in 1204( which gave them the right to sell the relics). There is no documentation that any of the many relics recorded in the Pharos Chapel had been moved from there before the Fourth Crusade. Guscin only quotes secondary sources on the Sainte- Chapelle transfer. He does not quote the many documents that Andrea Nicolotti has found that refer pretty clearly to a box with the cloth in it in Paris. Nicolotti also quoted the deed of transfer. There is not a shred of evidence that the Image went anywhere else despite the attempts by some to link it to the similar- looking Veil,of Veronica.
      If one wanted to earn anything from a relic it really had to be either in a superb reliquary or clearly visible in its own right. It is clear that the Image of Edessa had faded from its original state even by 944 and so was never exhibited in Constantinople. This probably explains why it was so low on the list of relics by the thirteenth century- the Crown of Thorns really could be shown off!

  8. It is evident that the image of Edessa-Turin Shroud link has not been established because the gap between the years 1204-1353 is being researched.
    Whatever, Father Pfeiffer’s contention about the Eastern Church’s liturgy and the change in the sermons has not been challenged.
    The link to his interview is above, on this thread.

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