Home > History > What am I missing?

What am I missing?

November 8, 2015

clip_image001Maybe it is because I haven’t had coffee yet today. Or maybe I’m just growing old. Stephen Jones wrote this baffling piece during  the past week:

… there is a 13th century wooden chest which according to de la Roche family tradition, was used to transport the Shroud from Athens to France, and indeed a label on it in modern writing states the family tradition that it was used by Otho de Ray to bring the "the Shroud of Christ … from Constantinople [in] 1206":

However, the style of the carving is late 14th century, although the bottom of the chest may be original[53]. The inner dimensions of the chest in centimetres are ~37.5 long x 16.5 wide x 25 deep[54]. This would neatly fit the 437 x 111 cms Shroud[55], if it were folded twelve times long and eight times wide, i.e. 437/12 = 36.4 cms x 111/8 cms = 13.9 cms[56]. This twelve by eight folds is a simple and economical folding arrangement of the Shroud, and since Othon’s family would be unlikely to know the true dimensions of the Shroud if they had never owned it, this ~37.5 cms long x 16.5 cms wide `floor plan’ of the bottom of the Ray-sur-Saône chateau chest, which is claimed to have once held the Shroud, is strong evidence that Othon de la Roche really did bring the Shroud with him from Athens (and before that from Constantinople) to his Ray-sur-Saône chateau in Burgundian, France in 1225!

Family tradition as evidence?

The bottom is maybe original?  What does that mean?  That the bottom is older than the rest of the chest? Did someone build this chest around an older bottom piece of wood?  Why?

Folded twelve times one way and eight times the other way? This is economical?  Can you really do so and have any semblance to the dimensions Stephen suggests? Try it with a bed sheet; just make the first fold widthwise and pretend you made it lengthwise. It will be close enough. Actually, I think Stephen meant fold it into twelfths and then eighths. Still, try it.

Thinking that the Othon de la Roche family would not have known the size of the shroud if they didn’t own it and hence would not perhaps have (or there wouldn’t be) a chest with a bottom that was 37.5 cm by 16.5 cm, which is only approximate to a speculated folding pattern does not seem to me strong evidence that Othon de la Roche really did bring the shroud from Athens.

What am I missing?

Categories: History
  1. ekmcmahon
    November 8, 2015 at 3:02 am

    Who had a nightmare one night and dreamed this story up ? Is this in celebration of the Trump guy hosting SNL ? It makes as much sense.

  2. daveb of wellington nz
    November 8, 2015 at 5:22 am

    Perhaps the present descendant of the Ray family who sometimes writes on this site promoting the Othon tale might be able to explain it better, but I would suspect the mystery will remain as enigmatic as ever, an interesting assertion but seemingly with little evidence that anybody else can agree might support it. But if it’s authentic, someone had to bring it back, who better? Suggestions, anyone?

    • November 8, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      Hello Daveb,

      “Perhaps the present descendant of the Ray family who sometimes writes on this site promoting the Othon tale might be able to explain it better”.

      I think it would be more appropriate to ask the countess Diane Régina de Salverte, who lives in the Ray castle now and even better the librarian at the castle responsible of the archive (the « chartrier ») at the castle. I am in contact with the librarian, Jean Richardot, and I repeat what I already wrote on this blog. He confirmed to me that the word « suaire » does not even appear anywhere in the archive and that he does know any family tradition about the Shroud being at the castle. Absolutely no document at the castle or any oral tradition in the family confirms the presence of the Shroud at the castle according to him who knows very well the countess. The countess herself has actually no idea where this suppose tradition comes from.

      The story of Othon de la Roche is made up. It all comes from the story made up by Pierre Joseph Dunod in his 1714 manuscript kept in the archive at the Bibliothèque Municipale de Besançon. Then that story was published (in part) by François Ignace Dunod de Charnage (first publication) in 1750. Then Chamard, in 1902, repeats it. But all the references to support the claim of Othon de la Roche are distorted statements and false references. There is no true evidence of that story in the manuscript.

      Anybody who claims that the Othon de la Roche story is a possible scenario for the Shroud must first get acquainted with that manuscript of 1714.

      You wrote: “But if it’s authentic, someone had to bring it back, who better? Suggestions, anyone?”

      “It” refers to the Shroud?

      I suggest that the route of the Shroud from the East to the West is much simpler and documents that support it are still with us. The Shroud made its way during the translation of the relics from Constantinople to the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris. See http://www.sindonology.org/sainte-chapelle.shtml. I want to emphasize that this text concentrates on the Mandylion: it arrives at the Sainte-Chapelle but then disappears well before the French Revolution.

      • Hugh Farey
        November 8, 2015 at 12:41 pm

        Anybody interested can find Dunod de Charnage’s 1750 publication, ‘Histoire de l’église, ville et diocèse de Besançon’, at: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k2985022. Page 401 et seq.

      • November 8, 2015 at 12:44 pm

        For a balance, I will repeat the main points from discussion with Mario in this thread: https://shroudstory.com/2015/10/27/its-the-curmudgeon-in-me/

        Regarding Otto, you have at least three testimonies, each spurious on its own, but they back up each other:

        T1) The 18th century MS826 mentioning Otto as an owner of some Shroud (no matter which)
        T2) The coffer from Ray Castle allegedly used to transport some Shroud (again no matter whether original or a copy, or whatever).
        T3) The letter of Theodore Angelus to Innocent III (allegedly 1205), mentioning: “the most sacred of all, the linen in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death and before the resurrection […] in Athens.” Some (for example Nicolotti) maintain its 18th century forgery. The letter comes from Palermo, Sicily, almost 1000 miles away from Besancon.


        (Document XV).

        The document was rediscovered in 1981, but is much older. It was once a part of so called Chartularium Culisanense codex from Palermo, a codex of document of Saint Sophia Order, associated with Sicilian de Angelis family. The Chartularium itself was lost during WWII, but there was a 18th century transcript of some documents (including the letter to Innocent III), testified in 1859 by Benedetto d’Acquisto, arcibishop of Montreal, and former abbot at Monte Casino, considered distinguished humanist. The document is spurious, and as a copy, it is likely interpolated. But that’s not so important, as the info it contains about sacred linen in Athens in 1205. This is consistent with Otto theory.

        Anyway, the mention of the linen in Athens (ruled by Otto at that time) is complementary to T1 and T2.

        Those are (although each spurious on its own) three seemingly independent witnesses about Otto possessing the Shroud.</B.

        Three testimonies are more than one -and need serious consideration.

        Now you need to use those “unreliable” sources wisely.

        1.) The MS826. You claim that the author made up fanciful stories about other historical facts. Ok. But he claimed that Otto, Duke of Athens once was in possesion of the Shroud. There are two possibilities:

        A1) He invented the whole story
        B1) He heard the story from some seemingly unreliable source (rumors), and tried to back it with some documents in a clumsy way.

        Then the questions arise:

        If A1, then where the stories about T2 and T3 originated?

        Question 1: Where and when the tradition of Ray Castle coffer originated?

        Question 2: What are the links between obscure MS826, obscure coffer in Ray’s castle and the equally obscure letter of Theodore Angelus from Sicily?

        In short, there are two possible options:

        A) Either Othon did not have the Shroud, and then all T1, T2, and T3 are fakes. This is the case if the Shroud was still in Constantinople up to 1241, as Mario’s Sainte Chapelle theory assumes.
        B) Or he had the Shroud in possession. Then all T1, T2, and T3 essentially say the truth about that, even if they have several issues with other things.

        What if A)? This means that all (very obscure to general public, and at least T3 is distanced from the two others) T1, T2 and T3 must have been simultaneously faked -in order to create false impression (about 200 years after alleged fabrication in case of T1 and T3 at least) that Othon once had the Shroud. Sounds credible? Not to me. Sounds rather like a big conspiracy theory.

        One coincidence -likely an accident. Two coincidences -perhaps still an accident. But three? -something must be afoot.

        • Mario Latendresse
          November 8, 2015 at 9:17 pm


          You wrote “Regarding Otto, you have at least three testimonies, each spurious on its own, but they back up each other”.

          Are you sure you mean “spurious”? The word “spurious” is synonym with “bogus, fake, false, counterfeit, forged, fraudulent, sham, artificial, imitation, simulated, feigned, deceptive, misleading”.

          Each would be fake but you would still believe that they back up each other? This is obviously contradictory. How can false claims back up each other?

          Indeed, the manuscript Ms 826 contains fraudulent claims about Othon de la Roche. So, how can it back up anything?

          And again, the coffer is not an independent claim, it is based on the story in the Ms 826 manuscript. If you find one statement that back ups the coffer independently of the manuscript, please state what it is.

        • November 9, 2015 at 2:17 am


          Change “spurious” for “dubious” or something synonymous.

      • daveb of wellington nz
        November 8, 2015 at 4:59 pm

        Thank you Mario and O.K. for your contributions to this discussion. I’ve saved Mario’s draft opus, read through it very quickly but will peruse it in more detail with considerable interest. One might explain away a lost family tradition, but the absence of any reference in the castle’s archives might be thought indicative.

        For reasons I’ve stated previously, I no longer am persuaded by Ian Wilson’s Mandylion hypothesis, although Mario’s work and O.K. seem to accept it. Nevertheless, even if the Shroud and Mandylion were separate objects, I think it possible that the Shroud may have been acquired by Geoffrey de Charnay for services rendered to the king as asserted by Geoffrey’s descendants.

        It seems to me that there are several credible hypotheses for the missing years, any one of which might be true or miss the target completely. In arriving at the truth, any proposal has necessarily to be presented in a robust manner, but it also has to be debated no less vigorously. However even policemen do not succeed in resolving every important matter brought to their notice, the more so when the evidence remains elusive.

  3. John Klotz
    November 8, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Dan, one thing you are missing is the “ancient document” rule of evidence that gives some, but limited credence to statements in ancient documents that lack the normal proof of authenticity (such as certification by a county clerk).

    Also, in the brief synopsis you don’t make some obvious connections. One of the things as a youngster I found confusing is how we label a century a year after its calendar dates. The “eighteenth century” is circa 1700-1799. The twentieth century was 1900 to 1999 and the 21st century is our current epoch.

    I make this aside because the date of the decorative panels of the chest means that the whole chest can be traced to 1300-1399, encompassing the precise period of the first public exposition of the Shroud in 1355 and its “vagabond travels” in the 14th-15th centuries including a stop at the de la Roche castle.

    In Quantum Christ on page 37 I have the following footnote:

    “5 The best evidence is that the Shroud was a part of the booty that was seized by French knights who participated in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the abortive Fourth Crusade. Ian Wilson has postulated that it became the property of the Knights Templar. Others postulate that it became the property of Othon de la Roche, a French knight who became Duke of Athens as a reward for outstanding services during the Constantinople sack. De La Roche was the great grandfather of Jeanne de Vergy, Geoffrey’s wife. See the note by Cesar Barta,” Orthon de la Roche” BSTS News Letter, October 5, 2008 (http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/n67part6.pdf). If true, when Geoffrey I’s (and Jeanne de Vergy’s) daughter married Ortho de la Roche’s great grandson (reinforcing the blood-line ownership of the Shroud) and then moved the Shroud to the de la Roche castle, the Shroud was returned to a previous home.”
    [These facts were brought to my attention by Annette Cloutier]

    It definitely appears that the Shroud was in the De la Roche castle and it is no surprise that they would have made a suitable chest for its storage. Because of the fact that the Shroud was in constant motion during this period of time it makes sense that the original chest which brought the Shroud from Constantinople to France would have become a bit shop worn and needed replacement. But the bottom was preserved.

    Is this proof of anything? Not conclusive perhaps, but the claims of the De La Roche heirs as represented in the pedigree of the Chest are consistent with known facts.

    • John Klotz
      November 8, 2015 at 6:29 am

      Our knowledge of the Shroud’s vagabond ways before it became the property of the House of Savoy comes from the meticulous research of Ian Wilson.

      I cited him for the the following:

      “The Vagabond Shroud

      “After the death of Geoffrey II, on May 22, 1398, the ownership of the Shroud passed to his daughter Margaret. The Shroud became somewhat of a vagabond. On July 6 1418, the continuing wars with England caused the Shroud to be moved to the Castle of Montfort, owned by Margaret’s second husband, Humbert, Count de la Roche. A few years later, it moved again to St. Hippolyte sur Doubs, in Alsace-Lorraine. At Doubs, an exposition of the Shroud was held annually on Easter Sunday.11”

  4. Hugh Farey
    November 8, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Fortunately for his hypothesis, Stephen is misleading when he says the Shroud needs to be folded 20 times. It only needs to be folded in half three times lengthways in order to produce the eight layers necessary to reduce the width to 14cm, and in half widthways twice (32 layers now, length 109cm) and then in thirds once (96 layers) to reduce the length to 39cm. That’s 7 folds altogether, and it is not difficult to achieve, although it does crumple the shroud to the very limits of foldability, and leave it looking more like a flattened tube than a neatly folded cloth. For that reason the casket is not a very good box for storing the Shroud in, although, if the shroud needed a box, and that were the only box available, it would have done.

    A few posts ago, OK and Mario Latendresse had an interesting discussion about the sources of the story that Othon de la Roche had something to do with the Shroud, which I am not qualified to judge, but I do note that regarding “family tradition”, all Allesandro Piana had to say about it was this: “As far as the label put on the coffer, according to which the Shroud was in Ray-sur-Saône castle in 1206, it refers to an hypothesis guessed years ago from local historians, Dunod de Charnage and Perreciot. They stated that Othon, after appropriating of the Shroud, would have gifted it to the Besançon cathedral just in that year.” I’m not a great believer in “family tradition” at the best of times, and this isn’t even one of those!

  5. Louis
    November 8, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    There are gaps in the story of the chest.
    There is some connection between the de Brienne and the de la Roche families. Daniel Raffard de Brienne, a descendant of Gauthier V de Brienne, Duke of Athens, dismissed the Templar hypothesis and believed that although Otho da la Roche possessed the Shroud in Athens the relic remained there till the fourteenth century:
    On the other hand, Dr Barbara Frale, who believes the Knights Templar possessed the relic, and expressed her views in several publications, particularly after she discovered the Chinon parchment in the Vatican Secret Archives, thought that the image of Christ referred to by Bishop Epihanius might have been the Shroud. The description says that the image was on a curtain: https://www.academia.edu/7447446/Was_there_a_link_between_the_Knights_Templar_and_the_Turin_Shroud_An_interview_with_Dr._Barbara_Frale

    • piero
      November 10, 2015 at 11:46 am

      the Orient Forest and the Holy Shroud.

      On this blog we can find the following
      words by Eugene Ray
      (May 29, 2015 at 5:23 pm):

      >…our ancestor inherited the Shroud
      of Turin from Othon de la Roche and
      married the great French knight de
      Charney bringing it to the Orient Forest
      where it was deposited in the le Ray
      (lirey) chapel they built for this preservation…

      Here other words by Eugene Ray
      (June 5, 2015 at 11:02 am):
      >I have published my blog on the
      history of The Shroud Of Turin in
      the Orient Forest of France.
      >At the le Ray (Lirey) Chapel with
      the Troyes Fraternity (Templars,
      Priory de Sion) Bernard de Clairvaux
      led families …of which our deGruy(ere)
      Chateau Magny Fouchard was the ancient
      Center until it was destroyed in the
      First World War …study carefully the blog…
      … etc. …

      in the intervention by
      daveb of wellington nz
      (June 5, 2015 at 3:26 pm),
      we can read:
      >… I remain open to any evidence
      that Eugene Ray can present here
      to support his claims.

      But Eugene Ray didn’t sent
      an answer for that specific request…!

      — —
      Here other vague informations:
      >… After the Fourth Crusade, three
      military orders returned from the
      Holy Land to settle in the region.
      >Foret du Temple is named for the
      Knights Templar, one of the most
      wealthy and powerful of these orders,
      and the Knights Hospitaler and
      Teutonic Knights also came
      to reside in the park area.


      To my knowledge there is any
      tradition or story about Knights Templar
      who were walking over the water,
      like instead Jesus did…
      and also this fact is a different kind of problem…

  6. Donn
    November 8, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    How about some forensic detective work? Might be there some shroud fibers inside the chest? Imbedded in the wood grains?

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