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Is the Shroud the Inspiration for the Holy Grail Legends?

July 31, 2015 6 comments

Today, Stephen Jones is back to working on his dictionary of the shroud. He posts. He is working on G:

Grail, Holy. The "Holy Grail" is a dish, plate, stone, or cup and is part of the Arthurian (King Arthur and the knights of the round table) legendary literature. But historian Daniel Scavone, professor Emeritus of history at the University of Southern Indiana, has shown that the Shroud of Turin is the real object that inspired the Holy Grail legend….

It is an interesting idea.  I’ve heard Dan talk about the idea a couple of times. A more recent paper on the subject, Edessan sources for the legend of the Holy Grail is from the Frascati conference in 2010. And here is an interview that Russ Breault conducted with Dan Scavone back in 1999.

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Dan Scavone Responds to an Earlier Charles Freeman’s Article

October 28, 2014 64 comments

Yesterday, Dan wrote to me about an earlier Charles Freeman’s article. In something perhaps of a senior moment, I confused it with another criticism of the latest article, The Origins of the Shroud of Turin.  The mistake was completely mine.

He sent me a copy of the article with his thoughts ‘penned’ in here and there.  While an annotated article makes for easy study, I unfortunately should not reproduce so much of the article without permission from Charles. Besides, it would make for too long a posting. What I have done is limit myself to a number of fair use quotations. Where the gaps exist in the article, I used bracketed ellipses. Charles’ text is indented with a quotation mark.  Dan’s comments are not indented and prefixed with his first name. In a couple of instances I have edited the Dan’s comments, mostly for formatting purposes or to remove extra comments directed to me. 

I apologize for the mistake.


Charles writes in his earlier article:

When I was researching my book on medieval relics, Holy Bones, Holy Dust, How Relics Shaped the History of the Medieval World, Yale University Press, 2011, I decided to leave out the Shroud of Turin. Relic cults come and go and the Turin Shroud is very much a cult of the past fifty years, not a medieval one. The debates over its authenticity have been acrimonious and inconclusive. However, having been sent a copy of Thomas de Wesselow’s The Sign, the Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection, Viking, 2012, I had strong reservations about much of the historical evidence presented to provide an narrative history of the Shroud before 1350. Despite many years of research de Wesselow uncritically accepts much of the work of the veteran Shroud researcher Ian Wilson whose latest volume, The Shroud, Fresh Light on the 2000-year-old Mystery, Bantam Books, 2011, is used here. So much has been written about the Shroud that I am unlikely to provide much new material but I hope to clarify some issues by placing the Shroud within the wider context of medieval relics.

Now let us consider how many relics of the true cross there are in the world. An account of those merely with which I am acquainted would fill a whole volume, for there is not a church, from a cathedral to the most miserable abbey or parish church that does not contain a piece. Large splinters of it are preserved in various places, as for instance in the Holy Chapel at Paris, whilst at Rome they show a crucifix of considerable size made entirely, they say, from this wood. In short, if we were to collect all these pieces of the true cross exhibited in various parts, they would form a whole ship’s cargo.

A third part of the crown [of Thorns] is preserved at the Holy Chapel at Paris, three thorns at the Church of the Holy Cross, and a number of them at St Eustache in the same city; there are a good many of the thorns at Sienna, one at Yicenza, four at Bourges, three at Besangon, three at Port Royal, and I do not know how many at Salvatierra in Spain, two at St James of Compostella, three at Albi, and one at least in the following places: — Toulouse, Macon, Charroux in Poitiers; at Cleri, St Flour, St Maximira in Provence, in the abbey of La Salle at St Martin of Noyon, etc.’ (John Calvin, 1543)

Dan: This is precisely the WRONG approach to the Shroud. It is NOT a run-of-the-mill medieval relic. If Freeman wishes take this approach, he must first show us the numerous other shrouds claimed throughout ancient or medieval Christian history. He must then compare their realism to the Shroud. The Shroud is NOT one of a million claimed Jesus-shrouds. It stands alone and never was another made like it, whether in the middle ages or even today at the apex of technical science and artistic media.

[ . . . ]

Those trying to assess the authenticity of the Sudarium of Oviedo have to contend with a radiocarbon-14 dating apparently of c. 700 AD. The blood on it has been analysed and is of the rare AB group. This is the newest blood-group in evolutionary terms and results from the mingling of Caucasian blood-group A and Mongoloid blood-group B. At first such a mutation would have been very rare and is virtually unknown before AD 900.

Dan: Virtually??? . . . I hesitate to speak definitively or to claim perfect accuracy on matters of science, but I can recall something about AB blood-type given out by University Hematologist (and Jewish) Al Adler, He has stated EITHER that AB is most common among Jews OR that all or most denatured ancient blood alters to AB over time. Perhaps somebody can confirm Adler’s learned assertions about the blood on the Shroud.

[ . . . ]

Let us start with Edessa, the modern Sanliurfa in south-eastern Turkey, where a image of Christ was first reported by the historian Evragius Scholasticus in the 590s.

Dan: Try 2nd-4th c. Doctrine of Addai, attested by its author as derived from Edessa’s ancient, unfortunately lost, archives..

Edessa may have been Christian as early as the beginning of the third century but its legends took Christianity back further. (This was quite common. In the fourth and fifth centuries many cities ‘discovered’ a first century founding bishop, usually one who had been consecrated as such by one of the apostles.)

Dan: Many? Name 2 or 3. Can he document these last remarks? 

The Edessa legend told the story of King Abgar who had received a letter from Christ that was preserved within the city. As late as the 540s this was recorded as giving protection to Edessa but by the end of the century a new relic, an image of Christ, took its place as the ‘top’ protector relic of the city.

Dan: Try 2nd-4th c. Doctrine of Addai.

[ . . . ]

For reasons that completely escape me, Wilson claims that the Image of Edessa is none other than the Shroud of Turin.

Dan: He has simply ignored Ian’s great arguments.

[. . . ]

. . . There was a taboo in the Byzantine world about showing Christ, no less than God, of course, dead.

Dan: ???? I’ve never heard of this.

[ . . . ]

An even more bizarre explanation comes when Wilson tackles Byzantine art. Seventy years ago a Frenchman, Paul Vignon, noted that the bearded face on the Turin Shroud has some of the characteristics of Byzantine art. All kinds of measuring was done and some enthusiasts found as many as sixty resemblances. This is all interesting but Wilson goes on to make the absurd suggestion that this was because Byzantine art was born from the Image of Edessa, also known to Wilson as the Turin Shroud! Wilson makes some vague points about a new period in art at this time and finds a reference to two wandering Georgian monks with contacts with Edessa in the 530s who may have painted images. His key argument is the appearance in iconography of Christ with a beard happens just at this time. Yet, even if Wilson claims, against Belting who prefers a date fifty years later, that the Image of Edessa was known from the 540s, Byzantine art was well under way by then. So we have the earliest bearded Christ in the catacomb of Commodilla in Rome in about 390 and then a fine central image of a bearded Christ in the church of San Pudenziana of c. 405 (below). Even a brief glance at a standard history of early Christian art would have shown Wilson the emergence of these fully fronted bearded portraits in the fifth century.

Dan:  I have no comments about Freeman’s last paragraphs.  They are so "not applicable" to the information that we really have about the Shroud. 

A particularly impressive example comes from the Church of San Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna which is securely dated to 500 (illustrated below). So Byzantine images of a fully frontal bearded Christ are known from long before the date Wilson gives for his copying of the image of the Turin Shroud. So if the face on the Turin Shroud does have so many resemblances to Byzantine art then, it seems to me, that it may well be an excellent example of . . . Byzantine art!

Dan: He has confused which was the original (the Shroud) and which was the copy (Byzantine art)!!!  Also he has not paid attention to the "tetradiplon" reference to the image in the Acts of Thaddaeus. And [seems to be uninformed] of Ian’s "claims."

[ . . . ]

It is not known what happened to the Blachernae Shroud. The Chapel was very vulnerable as it was exposed on the shoreline. The Hodegetria was saved from the rapacious crusaders but the shroud seems to have disappeared. There is a hint in one source . . .

Dan: Much more than a hint.

. . . that it may have gone to Athens and some argue . . .

Dan: NO!!! I have proved with documents

. . . that it was the shroud found at Besancon which is first recorded in 1205, a year after the Crusade.

Dan: Yes!!! And it is firmly documented as coming from Constantinople to Besancon to Geoffroy de Charny. From there on the TS is documented through it possession by Geoffroy de Charny.

Most accounts suggest that this was then lost in a fire in 1350.

Dan: NOT True. In the first place, Freeman’s “most accounts” needs some names. And “suggest” (???) is so “escapist” as a wannabe “fact” that it may be discarded without further comment.

[ . . . ]

If Wilson’s thesis that this linen cloth was the Mandylion was not already in enough trouble, he still has a major issue to tackle, the history of the Shroud from AD 30 to the second half of the sixth century when the Edessa Image aka to Wilson the Turin Shroud is first recorded in Edessa. It is a long period, much more challenging than filling in a mere 150 years. 560 years from today would take us back to the Middle Ages! Of course, Wilson is up to the challenge. He has dug up a document called The Doctrine of Addai. This may date from the early fifth century

Dan: Freeman [seems to be] inventing dates hoping that uninformed readers will go along

[ . . . ]

When Hannan, the keeper of the archives, saw that Jesus spake thus to him, by virtue of being the king’s painter, he took and painted a likeness of Jesus with choice paints, and brought with him to Abgar the king, his master. And when Abgar the king saw the likeness, he received it with great joy, and placed it with great honour in one of his palatial houses.’

Dan: And he was healed. Unless this is a lie, it was not a human “painting done with “choice paints” that healed him but the strange–looking, misunderstood, faint face on the Shroud of Jesus.

[ . . . ]

So where did the Mandylion end up? I would suggest that it lies, folded tetradiplon, in the casket below.

Dan: “Suggest” ??? He has not proved anything that might empower Freeman to“suggest” some opinion or other – of his own.

Anticipating the Conference: Dan Scavone on Evidence of the Shroud in Edessa

June 11, 2014 36 comments

Daniel Scavone  | 12-Oct-2014  |  10:00-10:30 am

imageCONSTANTINOPLE DOCUMENTS AS EVIDENCE OF THE SHROUD IN EDESSA

In 944 Edessa’s cloth-image of Jesus arrived in Constantinople.  It remained there until the 13th century.  Of the Edessan sources, the most important was the 6th c. Acts of Thaddaeus, which attests to a faint image of Jesus’ face on a cloth imposed during His ministry.  Importantly, the cloth was referred to as a sindon tetradiplon, literallya “burial cloth folded in eight layers.”

In Constantinople, the Edessa cloth-image was named, described, and/or depicted in art in at least 17 documents.  Some writers saw only the face of Jesus visible on the folded cloth (Mandylion).  Other eyewitnesses describe blood and full body on the cloth.  My study of these texts provides strong evidence that the imaged cloth from Edessa to Constantinople was the cloth known today as the Shroud of Turin.

Click on the title to read the full abstract. Click here for the conference home page.

Picture: (Click to Enlarge) Surrender of the Mandylion of Image of Edessa by the inhabitants of Edessa to the Byzantine parakoimomenos Theophanes, unknown 13th century author – Chronography of John Skylitzes, cod. Vitr. 26-2, folio 131a, Madrid National Library.

From Wikimedia:  The official position taken by the Wikimedia Foundation is that "faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works of art are public domain". This photographic reproduction is therefore also considered to be in the public domain.

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