What is the Shroud of Turin? We
are told that it is the burial cloth of Christ. When Jesus' body was taken down
from the cross on the afternoon in which he died, before evening had set in, it
was strewn hastily with funeral herbs and spices, and laid unwashed on a new
linen winding sheet in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Then a great stone was
rolled across the opening of the tomb and the body was left there, all done
quickly because it was the beginning of the Holy Sabbath of Passover and nothing
could be done again until the Feast was ended three days later. The cloth was
long and unusually woven, and was laid to the body heat to foot in length,
covering both the front and the back. The imprint of the man enclosed was
stained upon it by an unknown force, as if it had been scorched by light and
great heat, and the image appeared on the Shroud head, front and back attached,
leaving a perfect reproduction of the body on the linen.
Combined with the spices, sweat consisting of ureic acid, white
corpuscular ooze and blood the cloth reacted chemically as if it were a
photographic plate and the image impregnated itself onto the cloth, as if
exposed to a great, bright light. This light which was brighter than the sun was
the Shekinah of God. The Shroud consequently is considered to be one of the
holiest relics in all Christendom because the image on the cloth is believed to
be that of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Son of God, and it gives a perfect record
of His suffering and death for our remembrance. It reminds us of the cost of
sin, and the suffering which He endured for us because of His love.
The importance of the Shroud to both eastern and western
Christendom is obvious. To the west it emphasizes the humanity of Christ which
was raised to the level of Divinity, while to the eastern Christians it defines
Deification of the body and sanctions all images of Christ as approved for
veneration. Both of these aspects go against the Judaic Law which was changed,
as was the day of worship. But the history of the Shroud is fascinating and many
are unaware that the trail has not grown cold but goes back all the way to the
origin of the Holy Relic and the Tomb itself.
In tracing the route we can start
at either end but the most logical seems to be at beginning. The Bible tells us
that Peter saw the linen clothes lying in the tomb and the body was missing
(John 20:5). The Cloth since it was the last thing that Our Lord had touched was
taken by the apostles and placed in storage for according to Judaic Law it was
defiling to touch the body or the burial clothes of the dead. To do so made a
person unclean and required a period of purification of five days each time
these items were handled. Since the apostles then were true followers of
Judaism, they were still bound by such laws of purification in order for them to
continue to worship in the Temple and the synagogues.
No laws up until then had
been set aside by Christ's ministry. Rather He had encouraged all people to obey
the priests to the letter of the law. But He had warned them about not emulating
the priests who were as whited sepulchres. So in order to protect the faithful,
the apostles had a cloth cover made for it, which had a hole in the front panel,
so that the face of Christ could show through if the Shroud were folded up into
three or four folds. The cover then protected the relic and it could be hung on
the wall without violating Judaic Law.
This form of display came to be known as
"Veronica's Veil" because when enclosed in the cover it looked like a kerchief.
The story told in the bible was that a woman gave Him her veil to dry His face
and when it was returned to her there was a print of the face upon it. In
Hellenic Greek circles it was called the Mandylion and was considered the
Image-Made-Without-Hands, or in other words no one had painted it, but God had
caused the image to appear and therefore it was holy.
When the apostles received a letter from King Agbar the Black of
Armenia asking for them to send the famous cloth so that it could cure his
illness, the apostles sent it from Jerusalem to Armenia. It remained there, hung
in a recess of the wall in the royal palace apartment for many years before it
was sealed in the wall in order to protect it from the forces of decay and dust.
Over the compartment door was placed an exact replica of the Shroud painted as
an icon on the door of the cupboard.
When the palace was remodeled some time
later and Christianity had become legal, they removed the Mandylion from the
cupboard and it was then sent to Hagia Sophia or the Church of the Holy Wisdom
in Constantinople. Constantinople had become the treasure house of the eastern
empire and many relics and all the richness of the empire was concentrated
there.The church itself was the official basilica of the eastern empire and was
the glory of chistendom.
Doors to the church were made of thick solid gold,
nothing was spared on the richness of the decorations, and jewels were placed in
sockets in the stones to cause the facade to glitter with light. But the was
with the Moslems was soon to overtake it, and since the glory of the Hagia
Sophia was so great it was to be almost destroyed or converted into the glory of
Islam when the city fell.
Before this happened however the Knights Templars took
as many holy relics from the city as they could find, actually sacking it in
their zeal before the Moslem invaders arrived. The feast of the Mandylion is celebrated in
the byzantine church on August 16th each year.
The Templars sacked the city in 1207 and the Mandylion was taken
back to France where they were headquartered and where the order originated. It
remained in their possession entrusted to one family which would later release
it in another form as the Shroud. Housed on the premises of the Templar
preceptories, Godfrey de Charney who was a knight of noble blood, had it placed
with the other spoils. He was a prominent knight with a reputation for exemplary
and impeccable honor. But the Templars were accused of heresy by King Philip the
Fair of France, who sought revenge on the Templars by siding with the Pope
Boniface in a dispute with the Vatican.
Pope Clement V and the King conspired
together against the Templars to destroy their power and their wealth. (But we
know now that the Vatican actions also were the result of a petition received
from Ethipia against the Templar Knights over the possible theft of the Ark of
the Covenant which was in the safekeeping of that country. But this is another
story which will be related in another monograph about the Ark). Philip the Fair
had forbidden all money to be exported from France because his country was in
debt over wars waged by him which to date were unpaid.
The revenues which were
normally sent from France to the Vatican therefore were stopped, and so this
great revolt over money and power, wherein the Pope himself was kidnapped to
Avignon, France and not allowed to leave became known in Church History as the
Babylonian Captivity. This captivity resulted in a great gift to France because
the Chateauneuf du Pape (The Pope's New Chateau) wines as the region is now
called are some of the very best in France.
When the Knights were condemned, the Shroud since it was the
holiest of all relics in their possession, needed to be guarded and protected,
so de Charney took it home to his castle.However, one of the accusations made
against the Templars was that they worshiped a head called "Baphomet" which some
thought to be the devil, and others thought was a corruption of Mahomet. The
term Baphomet seems to be Greek however although the meaning has escaped all
interpretation to this day.
One of the proofs of authenticity which is used in
the Shroud argument is that the image on the Shroud and the icons of Christ was
an image of Zeus which had been in one of the pagan temples of the empire. But
all icons of Christ show a fold of cloth at the neck of the garment, which is
reproced exactly on the Shroud distorted by the connection between the face and
the neck as if the cloth held a wrinkle when it was exposed to the great light,
leaving a shadow of a fold.
From scientific knowledge obtained from the nuclear
dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki we know that such photon pictures can be made
on any substance, ....stone, cloth, skin, etc. Some victims of the bomb actually
had the pattern of the kimono burned into their skin by the light, others are
shadows on the stone walls of buildings, testament to the immense power of light
given off by the radiation.
No Zeus image has ever been found which has a neck
defect such as is evident in the Shroud or the icons of Christ which were
painted afterwards. So we believe that the Mandylion had been a tool for
artists. In holy relic multiplication in the church a copy is always touched to
the original to transfer the properties of the original to the copy. This was
quite common in church piety, so it would account for blobs of paint appearing
in the cloth of the original Shroud. When the Grand Master of the Templars,
Jacque de Molay and his subordinates were arrested at Paris, notice was given
secretly to the other Templars to prepare themselves for martyrdom.
refused to suffer this fate went underground. Many fled to England to their
brothers there, and thus we can trace the origins of freemasonry which utilizes
hand signs for communication as well as archaic French words within their
The Mandylion had been hidden away at Lissey and later when the
depredations against the Templars had ended, the family opened up the Shroud and
offered to sell it, but it eventually was given into the hands of the Church by
the buyer. Then it was taken from it's cover because there was no reason any
more to keep it folded and secure from all hands, and opened up it could no
longer be called Baphomet but had become a rare curiosity.
The curiosity of the Shroud was only increased by the observable
fact that the nails had been driven through the wrists of the victim instead of
through the hands. Common forensic investigation proved that the hands would not
support the weight of a human body without tearing out. The interstices of the
bones in the wrist was the only place which would support the weight of an average man nailed to a wooden beam. The fact that the body had
been crowned with thorns which was an unusual punishment also bodes well for
forensic proof of authenticity as does blood patterns on the cloth, leakage
systems, and rigor mortis.
Also testifying to authenticity are the fact that the
hands and wrists are elongated and misshapen due to the weight placed on them to
bear, as well as the crooked leg which was disjointedly askew as the victim died
such a horrible death, and which couldn't be straightened or relaxed even in
death. There were several copies made of the Shroud -- one was venerated at St.
Silvester's in Rome, another at St. Bartholomew-of-the-Armenians, and another at
the Mekhitarist monastery of St. Lazarus in Venice. But the telling mark of the
original remains in the poker holes which were burned in it to register the
original to the copy.
These poker holes also show us what the original looked
like before it was damaged in the fire when the lead casket in which it was
contained melted over it. Three poker holes are found in the legs of Christ at
knee level on the copies and they are not found on the original because the fire
burned that area and the nuns sewed patches into the holes to make the Shroud
whole again. The Shroud in the church was always kept folded and was never shown
full length until its later history.
When it was unfolded and displayed
for veneration a photographer asked permission to photograph it for posterity.
When he did, the negative image on the plate jumped out at him, so that we could
now see the importance of the negative image, because we can see the image much
clearer than in positive. In positive, the image is brownish yellow and the body
cannot be made out very well. Recent testing by carbon dating has been
unsuccessful because the linen was in a fire. The Russian expert Kuznetsov
explains that the linen absorbed the carbon from the smoke and therefore the
dating register was fasllsified and couldn't be relied upon.
There has also been
three dimensional scanning of the image and the results show that the
foreshortening of the image would be what would normally appear in a 3
dimensional imaging system. Actually test were made by laser cutting a styrofoam
head form, and this resulted in a 3d version not unlike a sculptors image, but the suffering of the model was so agonizingly realistic that the
face was distorted with pain.
When samples of the pollen embedded in the cloth are taken the
grains of flowers which no longer grow in the Holy Land are evident. They have
been extinct for nearly 2,000 years. Those which are found normally bloom in the
spring months around Passover or the Vernal Equinox.
The Shroud today resides in
the Church of St. John the Baptist in Turin and is only allowed to be viewed
from a glass case hanging above the altar. Recently it has been rumored that
around Easter the image itself has begun to weep tears which can be seen
coursing down the cloth and actually erasing some of the darker markings of the
The cheeks of Christ now are tear stained. Analysis of the tears show
that they are human salt tears mixed with human blood from that on the Shroud
which becomes dissolved in the flow. It is estimated that within the next ten
years the image on the Shroud will be so defaced that we will no longer
recognize the face of Christ anymore.