The Shroud of Turin's Earlier History: Part Three: The Shroud of Constantinople

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Excerpt Part 1 of this survey began an admittedly sympathetic summary of Ian Wilson’s theory (updated) that Jesus’ NT burial shroud was quietly preserved from antiquity, but only gradually introduced into Christian traditions as The Holy Image of Edessa. This was a famous cloth on which Jesus supposedly imprinted his face and sent to 1st century King Abgar V in Edessa (modern Urfa in Turkey. Continue reading

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The Shroud of Turin is an old piece of linen about 14’ 3” long and 3’ 7” wide. Believed by many to be the actual sindon used to wrap Jesus in the tomb, its authenticity suffered from having no historical documentation before the mid-14th cen. Researcher Ian Wilson’s historical reconstruction has the Shroud folded, prior to the 6th century, so only the face was visible. It was hidden by its guardians’ in Edessa (modern Urfa, Turkey) so that its true nature leaked out only slowly.  Wilson postulates that sometime after its transfer to Constantinople in the 10th century the Byzantines quietly accepted it as the NT shroud, and this was reflected in new art motifs beginning in the 11th century.  An almost nude Christ laid on a long cloth with hands folded over his loins and missing thumbs were some of the unusual features in this art, features not depicted this way before the arrival of the Edessa Image. Occasionally some of this artwork displays a zigzag pattern resembling the Shroud’s herringbone weave. Additionally, the white arrow above points to three holes with an fourth offset hole in an “L” shaped pattern that is repeated in one 12th century picture, and helping to convince many observers that the SOT must have been the model for this new post-10th century art. If true, then the Shroud does date at least two hundred years before the 1988 C14 results of 1260-1390. Wikimedia Commons

Before Wilson proposed this surprising reconstruction in the 1970’s no modern historian made the connection, and for good reasons.  As Wilson observed, the Edessa Icon is remembered as only the face of Christ on a small cloth, whereas the Shroud of Turin is large linen depicting all of Jesus’ body. The former’s recognized history occurred before the 14th century (then disappeared), the latter after that date.  But Wilson noticed a number of coincidences linking the two, and since the ‘70’s that number has grown.  From the 6th century the Icon usually was regarded as “not made with hands,” not a painting but an imprint.  Most scientists performing the 1970’s and ‘80’s investigations could not find any way human artistry could make the Shroud’s images (Heller 1983: 214 –15); it was determined not to be a painting, but remarkably like an imprint from a crucified, battered body.  And a legion of medical specialists were confident a beaten, bloodied body had been wrapped in it (Antonacci 2000: 14-16). The Icon was described as a linen, folded tetradiplon – in four doubled layers; three simple widthwise foldings will convert the Shroud, also a linen, into four doubled layers looking very similar to the earliest depictions of the Edessa Icon.  The Edessa Image was described as faint, moist-like, and sweaty in appearance, again similar to the indistinct, blurry texture on the Shroud.  While a superficial view of the literature might suggest the Image was a “mandylion,” a small handkerchief, there were other descriptions such as himation (outer garment) and peplos (robe), approximating the Turin Shroud’s large size.  Almost all casual references to the Image mention only a face, but while still in Edessa one text reported a full-body image and vaguely hinted at a connection with Christ’s Passion. Eyewitness examinations in the 10th century recognized blood and possibly a bleeding side wound on the Image, also to be seen on the Shroud.  And if the Icon were not publicized as Christ’s burial sindon earlier, new examinations by the Byzantine authorities in the 10th century may well account for a shroud soon documented in their relic treasury.  These coincidences in the historical texts are supported by a new artistic representation of Jesus’ face, very similar to the Shroud’s face, and beginning no later than the 6th century at the very time and place, the East, where the Edessa Icon was growing in fame.  Even crease lines seen on the Shroud during the 1978 scientific investigations suggest a relationship to the Holy Image of Edessa.  So, how has modern academia received this theory?

It should come as no surprise to the ABR fellowship that much of academia ignores or is in open opposition to Wilson’s reconstruction.  Major historians like America’s Kurt Weitzmann and England’s John Beckwith were consulted by Wilson but offered no support (Wilson 1979: 113).  Eminent scholar Sir Steven Runciman had written an important article in the 1930’s chiding fellow academics for not taking the Mandylion more seriously, not as an authentic relic of Christ’s time, but as an art historical document exerting considerable influence in the Middle Ages (Runciman, 1931: 238).  His principal objection to Wilson’s reconstruction was the most obvious: 

…the Image of Edessa was always described by the Byzantines as a “mandelion”, a kerchief, which is quite different from a “sindon”. Besides, as we know from the list of Byzantine relics, they believed that they possessed the Holy Shroud, which is listed separately by them (Sox 1978: 55).

Rising historian Averil Cameron recognized that if the Shroud’s early history could be identified with that of the Edessa Image, “the case for its credibility as an authentic relic is greatly strengthened,” but quickly decided “This cannot be true” (Cameron 1981: 4):

The story of the Image of Edessa, then, is the fascinating record of the evolution of a religious token, through several distinct stages each more complex than the one before… there must have been a moment when a physical picture – and later a cloth with an imprinted face – must actually have been produced in response to the desire to validate  the growing story (Cameron 1981: 9).

In her view a painted picture (late 4th century) is manufactured to help the Edessan church establish its prestige among the other great Christian centers. Then (late 6th cen.) the icon is inflated to miraculously made (“not made by human hands”) to enhance the standing of the orthodox faction who possessed it. It “evolves” into a cloth on which Jesus imprints his face and achieves regional fame as an important witness in the iconophile argument during iconoclasm (8th and 9th century).  The later 1988 radiocarbon dating placing the Shroud’s origins in the 14th century is, of course, the trump card supposedly denying any chance for Wilson’s theory. To her credit Professor Cameron attended a meeting of the British Society of the Turin Shroud and defended her position. Wilson addressed Cameron’s arguments in considerable detail (Wilson 1986), but almost all top tier historians ascribe to some form of her view.  A complicating factor is that the academic discipline of early Syraic Christian enjoys less preserved historical documentation, information which might have shed more light on the Icon. This is especially true for the Image-possessing Orthodox faction in Edessa, who were marginalized and whose records disappeared. Later texts from the West (especially Constantinople) are in greater abundance and, as will be seen, often more helpful. Additionally, Byzantine civilization enjoyed one other decisive cultural advantage over backwater Edessa: abundant, exquisite world class art revealing secrets at which text would only hint.

A few academics have been more sympathetic to Wilson.  Professor Gino Zaninotto is a Latin and Greek classics teacher at the University of Rome whose contributions to the Edessa theory include the discoveries of Vossianus Latinus’ full-body description and Archdeacon Gregory’s 944 Sermon observing on the icon the bloody signs of Christ’s Passion (both discussed in Part 2). Other European academics supporting some form of the theory include Karlheinz Dietz, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Wurzburg. U.S. academics include Vanderbilt historian Robert Drews who, although believing the Shroud’s earliest origins different from a resurrection event, strongly agreed with Wilson’s “Edessa Icon equals Shroud” in his book In Search of the Shroud of Turin (1984).  Ian Wilson describes University of Indiana historian Professor Emeritus Daniel Scavone as the “Foremost historian of the Shroud in the United States”  (Wilson and Schwortz 2000: 150).  Professor Scavone has written numerous papers and an introductory book, The Shroud of Turin, Great Mysteries Series: Opposing Viewpoints (1990). Not only has he found good reasons to endorse Wilson’s thesis, but has made other contributions to the Shroud’s earlier history (to be discussed later).  In a 48 page paper delivered at a conference in 2000 he addressed the complaints of many mainline historians. To Camerons’s evolving “made by human hands” Edessa Icon, Scavone wondered why “do all these changes in a well-known and much-told venerable legend [a painting or Christ imprint sent to 1st cen King Abgar V] always move towards an ever more precise description of the Turin Shroud?” (Scavone 2001: 13 -14). A careful scholar, Scavone acknowledges the “absence of clear proof” in historical texts, but concludes

If one accepts the premise that there are subtle clues – not of any shroud, but precisely of the Shroud of Turin – in the literature surrounding the Edessa Image, then the evidence in its favor seems to make good sense and approaches the level of proof  (Scavone 2001: 2-3).

Constantinople was, without doubt, the relic depository of medieval Christendom. With a relic acquisition program dating to Constantine I, by the 10th century the church of the Virgin of the Pharos (“lighthouse”) housed almost all of the most important:

… the Mandylion of Christ, the Holy Keramion [a tile supposedly covering the Edessa Icon for hundreds of years], the Crown of Thorns, the Holy Nail … the linen sheets in which his body was wrapped in the tomb, the linen towel with which he dried the apostle’s feet, the Holy Lance, Christ’s purple robe, the reed which he held in his right hand … (Klein 2004: 92).

The Pharos Church was one of many within the grounds of the main imperial residence, the Boucoleon Palace located in the city’s southern district near the Bosphorus Shore. Some of these relics would be paraded through the city during times of danger or stress. When in 1037 a severe drought threatened the city “Emperor Michael IV personally carried the Image of Edessa in procession to the Church of the Virgin at Blachernae to plead for rain” (Wilson 2010: 178 – 9).  The Blachernae Church was located uptown in the north and was a rallying point for the citizenry during times of trouble.  Foreign visitors and pilgrims in the 11th and 12th centuries left several reports of the “linen cloth with the Lord’s face on it,” but noted that the relic was kept hidden and available only to the emperor (Wilson 2010: 181).  Although Byzantine authorities continued the “face only” PR, rumors and a growing literary corpus continued to hint that a full body cloth was somewhere in the Pharos Church.  In 1130 an English monk, Ordericus Vitalis, authored "History of the Church" in which the Edessa Icon, now better known as the Mandylion, was described as “displaying the form and size of the Lord’s body” (Wilson 2010: 177).

During this time burial linens also are occasionally reported.  Scavone believes they first appear in a 958 list of Passion relics in the imperial treasury (Scavone, 1989: 316 – 18), and next in a letter purportedly from Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (1081 – 1118), the latter naming “the linen cloths found in the sepulcher after his resurrection” (Scavone 1989: 318 – 19). An English pilgrim to the Great City in 1125 recorded the cloth sent to King Abgar containing “the face of the Savior without painting,” and also numerous relics from the Christ’s Passion including “the linen cloth and sudarium of the entombment.” Icelandic Bishop Nicholas Soemunundarson was an 1157 visitor and likewise reported both a mantle (mandylion) and sudarium, presumably a burial linen (Wilson 2010: 184).  But both cloths were considered so sacrosanct only top level nobility and clergy were likely to be able to peer into the golden vessels where they were hidden.  In 1171 Emperor Manuel I Comnenus welcomed the visiting King of Jerusalem, Amaury I, to the inner most sanctuaries of his Passion relics and was shown “the cloth which is called sisne in which he [Jesus] was wrapped” (Wilson 1979:165-166).  Admittedly, none of these texts confess an image on Constantinople’s new shroud, but with so much traffic of all kinds flowing through the city rumors were bound to spring up.  Englishman Gervase of Tilbury, a world traveler and author of the 12th cen. encyclopedic Otia Imperialia, reported a doubtful tale current in city lore.  Joseph of Arimeathea supposedly rebuked the holy women at the cross for allowing Jesus to hang naked in death so they

… quickly bought a spotless linen so large and long that it covered the whole body of the crucified Christ.  And when the body hanging on the cross was taken down, there appeared imprinted on the linen an effigy of the whole body (Drews 1984: 49).

Although fanciful it’s not difficult to imagine the story’s origins, especially when new developments in Byzantine art are examined. 

11th century ivory - within a hundred years of the arrival of the Edessa Icon Byzantine art suddenly produces Lamentation art forms showing Jesus laid out on a large shroud in a manner resembling the Turin Shroud. Why? Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. 2 (Passion), lower  panel of no. 595

When doing his original research into the “Edessa Icon is Shroud of Constantinople is Shroud of Turin” reconstruction, Wilson’s strong art-historical interests allowed him to make an observation that top academics had ignored or disregarded.  Experts knew that sometime in the 11th century Byzantine art produced three new Passion motifs.  Threnos (Lamentation) scenes depicted Mary, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, John, and angels grieving over a near naked Christ laid out on a long burial linen at the foot of the cross.  This motif grew out of earlier Entombment art (Weitzmann 1961: 476) showing a completely covered, mummy-wrapped Christ being carried into the tomb.  However, several striking Turin Shroud characteristics sometimes accompanied these new scenes.  A second similar motif, epitaphios (“on the tomb”), occurring about this time or later in the 12th century, had an unclothed dead Christ pictured on a liturgical cloth used by the Orthodox on Good Friday.  Closely resembling the threnos depictions and again often with Turin Shroud characteristics, no early examples survive but will be discussed in Part 4 using excellent 14th and 15th centuries examples.  The third type shows the dead Christ, often only from the waist up, standing in a box.  Some of these boxes are obviously meant to represent a sarcophagus, but others are much too small and narrow for that purpose. Also dating from the 11th or 12th  century they are known by a number of names as Basileus tes doxes (“King of Glory”) in the East and later Christ of Pity in the West (Wilson, 1979: 161).  Unlike the threnos or epitaphois this third innovation was more difficult to associate with any particular Gospel narrative and may have had an origin much closer to the Edessan Icon’s entry into Constantinople.

One of three new Byzantine art forms originating in the 11th century, it shows the dead Christ strangely standing in what is often a small box but difficult to relate to any NT narrative. Wilson surmised its origin was in a very exclusive ceremony wherein the Shroud was raised in stages from its reliquary. This example is from the 17th century. Wilson & Schwortz 2000: 113.

The Christ figure depicted on threnoi and epitaphioi sometimes included special, unusual characteristics unmistakably specific to the Turin Shroud.  Wilson noticed an ivory in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, a Byzantine Lamentation depiction from the early 12th century, that showed Jesus with his hands crossed over the wrists and lying on a shroud resembling a mattress (Wilson 1991: 151), all details also to be seen on the Turin Shroud but not seen anywhere else before the middle of the 10th century.  Additionally, the observer will note that the shroud’s length continues above Christ’s head, obviously meant to envelop the front as well as back of the body.  While the other figures have thumbs, Jesus’ hands have only four fingers. Finally, the diagonal lines giving the burial cloth a mattress-like appearance might be better understood as the artist’s naïve attempt to capture a zigzag, herringbone weave, a strong Turin Shroud feature.  There is good reason to believe that the naivete often shown in these arts is likely due to the artist not being privileged to see the actual shroud in the Emperor’s relic trove, but instead working from descriptions from those who did.

Some on the new Lamentation artwork like this early 12th century ivory carving shows numerous similarities to the Shroud of Turin – how many characteristics can you find? 5-1872 from Victoria and Albert Museum online (off site link).

No single work of art has done more to convince Turin Shroud researchers of its pre-13th century existence (and thus contradicting the 1988 C14 dating results) than an obscure Hungarian document.  Known as the Pray Codex it is presently kept in the National Szechenyi Library of Budapest, Hungary. It has been dated to between 1192 and 1195 but possibly copied from documents originating a hundred years earlier (Wilson 1991:150–51). The upper picture shows Christ being prepared for burial and laid out on a large cloth totally unclothed, a rare representation for this time. Like the Victoria and Albert threnos, his hands are crossed over his loins in an awkwardly wrist-over-wrist manner. Although Joseph, Nicodemus, and John are shown with thumbs, Jesus’ hands have just four fingers. Additionally, there is a blood mark on Christ’s forehead. Adding to these Turin Shroud characteristics are more to be seen on the bottom drawing of an angel showing the three Marys an empty burial shroud.  What appears to be a sarcophagus lid is decorated with red crosses, and on it is a large cloth with zigzag lines strongly suggesting the Shroud’s herringbone weave.  A smaller cloth, perhaps representing the sudarium in John’s Gospel, is rolled up on top of the larger cloth. Near the angel’s front foot are red lines on the burial cloth, resembling the blood flows to be seen running down the arms of the Turin Shroud figure (Scavone 2001: 32). All of these characteristics are to be seen today on the Shroud kept in Turin, but one in particular is especially noteworthy.

No other single picture has done more to convince Shroud researchers that the SOT was the inspiration for some Middle Byzantine artwork than this drawing in the 12th century Hungarian Pray Codex. How many Shroud characteristics does the artist reveal in these two depictions? Wikimedia Commons

The bottom drawing of the Pray Codex shows a strange “L” shaped line of three holes with an offset, adjacent fourth hole. This odd feature occurs three times and has been considered a firm bridge linking the Shroud with the manuscript. If the Shroud were folded once lengthwise and then once widthwise leaving the quarter panel next to the left dorsal leg face up (on top), something like burns from a hot poker, perhaps an early medieval “trial by fire,” might account for this damage seen today on the cloth (Wilson 2010: 146 – 48).  Alternately, it has been proposed that if in this configuration the Shroud were used as an altar cloth, then hot coals accidentally spilling from a liturgical censor might also be the cause (Jackson, Jackson, Propp 2000b: 170 – 72). Whatever reason for the damage, three holes in a line were burned down through each layer of cloth, but the fourth offset hole (and possibly a fifth hole on the top panel) made more minor damage, gradually disappearing on the way to the bottom layer. The manuscript’s lower picture has this unusual feature first on the sarcophagus (below the middle Mary), then again on the burial cloth (below the left-hand Mary), and repeated a third time on what is most likely the sudarium (below the “A” - the holes here are blurred and difficult to see on the accompanying photo).  A number of arguments can be made against this identification (e.g., why in the drawing would the holes be placed on the sarcophagus and sudaruim, too?), but it is important again to consider that, most likely, the artist worked from partial, confused descriptions and not actual visual knowledge of his subject.  Interestingly, Wilson has noticed that this “three hole motif” seems inexplicably to appear in a variety of Christ or Entombment art after the arrival of the Edessa Image in Constantinople (Wilson 2000).  Finally, how strong is the Pray Codex’s visual evidence according to the foremost Shroud historian in the U.S.?  “The Pray Codex is simply and unarguably too precise to be questioned. The Shrouds of Constantinople and Turin are one and the same” (Scavone 2001: 32).

Although Byzantine authorities never announced that their burial shroud relic contained an image of Christ, there were indications in text and art that it did. Finally, Robert de Clari, a common knight of the Fourth Crusade and visitor to Constantinople in 1203, wrote that an imaged shroud was to be seen in the Blachernae Church every Friday “raising up”-probably from a box, and inspiration of the new “King of Glory” art form. Adaptation by author

As the 13th century dawned there still was no clear claim that anyone had seen Christ’s body image on the burial cloth in the emperor’s relic collection, but that was soon to change.  By this time Byzantine military and political fortunes were seriously waning.  In 1201 a mob was rampaging through the Boucoleon Palace grounds when confronted by Nicholas Mesarites, the skeuophlax (overseer) of the relic collection in the Pharos Chapel, who successfully deterred them from plundering the many sacred objects kept there.  According to Mesarites these included the

burial sindons of Christ” [which were] of linen … of cheap and easy-to-find material, still smelling of myrrh, and defying destruction, since they wrapped the uncircumscribed, fragrant with myrrh, naked body after the Passion.

He went on to declare enigmatically “In this place [relic collection chapel] He [Jesus] rises again, and the sudarium and the burial sindons are the proof” (Wilson 1998: 272).  Shroud researchers have wondered what was there about the linens that suggested to Mesarites that Christ was buried naked, and what activity in the chapel would allow the linens to demonstrate Christ “rising again.”  Finally, these questions obtained considerable resolution from the historical memoirs of a French knight of the Fourth Crusade.  In 1203 a large western force diverted from its original mission to campaign in the Holy Land and instead camped outside the walls of Constantinople.  Having successfully intervened in the local Byzantine politics by restoring a previously deposed emperor, they attacked and conquered the city in April the next year when not paid for their services.  A terrible sack and pillage then occurred. For the next 56 years Crusade leaders ruled a “Latin Empire of Constantinople” over much of the Byzantium’s western remnants until driven out by eastern Greek forces.  At a later date Robert de Clari, an ordinary knight in the western army, wrote about the many wonders to be seen in Constantinople as the visiting soldiers toured the city in 1203, including

… another church called My Lady St Mary of Blachernae, where there was the shroud [sydoines] in which Our Lord had been wrapped, which every Friday raised itself upright, so that one could see the figure of Our Lord on it … (Wilson 1991: 156).

Wilson notes that the Blachernae Church was a rallying point for the city (as two centuries before during Emperor Michael IV’s reign) and surmises that this mega-relic was again brought forth from the Boucoleon Place to reassure the frightened population.  De Clari went on to write that no one knew what happened to this shroud after the City’s sack, but obviously it found its way into the baggage train of some soldier, probably someone of high standing, and a subject for Part 4 of our history. But before we leave this era three additional observations, from art, literature, and scholarly academia, are in order.

Physicist John Jackson identified a number of crease lines on the Shroud (lettered A-G above) during the 1978 scientific investigations. He then built a “jack-in-the-box” mechanism winding the Shroud around wooden supports that would raise it from a box consistent with Wilson’s proposed “King of Glory” ceremony in Constantinople. Adaptation from Wilson 1998: 157

The revelations coming from the Edessa Image’s Easter ritual (in Part 2), Nicholas Mesarites’ claim of the burial linens proving Christ rising in the Pharos Chapel, and Robert de Clari’s observation of an imaged shroud “raising itself upright” have led some investigators to a strong conclusion about the origins of the King of Glory/Christ of Pity art form.  Wilson first surmised in the 1970’s that the Byzantines may have

… devised a super-Mass for special private showings, in which the figure of Christ was made to rise in a series of stages from the casket, each stage being regarded as symbolic of part of Jesus’ earthly life (Wilson 1979: 162–63).

Wilson understood that the mechanical gadgetry required for such a presentation was well within Byzantine competence. More recently researchers at the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado have found physical evidence on the Shroud strongly supporting this reconstruction. Numerous old wrinkles dating to many hundreds of years ago are consistent with a folding arrangement wherein the cloth was wound around various wooden supports.

This folding configuration allows the Shroud to be raised from its storage situation to where [only] the upper part of the frontal image can be seen … by simply pulling vertically upwards on the two boards that support the Shroud (Jackson, Jackson, Propp 2000a: 190).

These researchers even have found tack holes pinning the cloth to those supports still visible in 1978 scientific photographs. Their conclusion is that

We can now be certain that when we reconstruct the history of the Byzantine Shroud of Christ, we are also reconstructing the early history of the Shroud of Turin as well (Jackson, Jackson, Propp 2000a: 194).

Wilson’s landmark 1978 book also reached into medieval romance literature recognizing a link between Byzantine rituals and Holy Grail legends.  These stories  began in the late 12th century right at the time when many western soldiers and fellow travelers were returning home after being exposed to the traditions and wonders of the Orthodox East. Grail stories were “…essentially about a dish or chalice of extreme holiness that forms the goal of a knightly quest.” The central point of some is “a very special secret vision of Christ” wherein a transformation of the vision occurs:

… the wafer of the host first changing into Christ as a child, then Christ as an adult, with, of course, the bleeding wounds (Wilson 1979: 162).

Other Grail readers, even some with no interest in the Turin Shroud, have endorsed thinly veiled Byzantine connections.  Professor Daniel Scavone has delved more deeply into this Eastern Christian/Byzantine link. In a major paper he opines:

Specific documents and rituals surrounding the Mandylion resonate closely with and provide precise sources for the chief attributes of the Holy Grail. Like the legendary Holy Grail, this cloth was linked to Joseph of Arimathea, resided in a place known as Britium [another name for Abgar’s residence in Edessa], was thought to have contained Jesus’s body, captured Jesus’s dripping blood on Golgotha, and was displayed only rarely and in a gradual series of manifestations from Christ-child to crucified Jesus (Scavone 1999: 1).

Scavone has traced the sources of early western Grail literature back to apocryphal NT books like the Gospel of Nicodemus (about 4th cen.), the book known as I, Joseph (5th cen.) and various “Latin Abgar” descriptions of a polymorphic (changing) Jesus strongly associated with the Edessa Image.  These were supplemented by elements from the newly learned Byzantine Greek Eucharist to provide the imagery and themes used in Holy Grail legends.  Although tempting to equate the Holy Grail with the Shroud, Scavone does not do so, seeing the Grail stories as confused derivatives of the latter.

So, if modern top tier academia saw no value in Wilson’s reconstruction for the Edessa Image, how do they feel about his “Shroud of Constantinople is Shroud of Turin”?  Is it possible to miss the numerous textual clues and especially so much post-10th century Byzantine art seemingly modeled on the Turin Shroud? In 1979 sindonologist Gilbert Lavoie, M.D. visited retiring Harvard University Dr. Ernst Kitzinger, one of the giants in Byzantine art history, who made this surprising admission:

The Shroud of Turin is unique in art.  It doesn’t fall into any artistic category. For us, a very small group of experts around the world, we believe the Shroud of Turin is the Shroud of Constantinople. You know that the crusaders took many treasures back to Europe during the 13th century, we believe that the shroud was one of them (Lavoie 2000: 73 – 74).

Kitzinger’s opinion probably was not formed from anything by Wilson he might have read. As promising as it appears, it is difficult to find any published works where he elaborates on this issue.  One of Kitzinger’s most successful students (and another giant in Byzantine art history), Hans Belting, did notice Wilson’s thesis and expressed some agreement that the Constantinople and Turin shrouds were the same (Belting 1979: 6), but has made little effort to continue this development.  Before 1988 historian Robert Drews recognized the reluctance of the scholarly world to take an interest in the Shroud, as it considered the “preposterous” claims of medieval Christian relics, the “insidious presupposition” of Christ’s resurrection, and the Shroud’s inaccessibility to academic investigation (Drews 1984: 2). Since the 1970’s much has been learned about the Shroud, but today almost all main line historians, fortified by the 1988 C14 dating results, apparently believe the pre-14th century historical issue is closed. However, Wilson sees reasons to be hopeful:

For although it is now more than twenty years since scientists announced that the Shroud dated between 1260 and 1390, not a single serious historian has come forward to buttress this with some sound, readily cogent elucidation of how someone in the Middle Ages could have come up with such an extraordinary object (Wilson 2010: 3).

Additionally he notices younger academics like philologist Mark Guscin, author the recent Image of Edessa, making contributions consistent with his reconstruction. For more than three decades Wilson has waited for a professional art historian to conclude what has been obvious to him (and other Shroud researchers), that the Shroud cannot be medieval artistry. Recently professionally trained art historian Thomas de Wesselow concluded “Technically, conceptually and stylistically the shroud makes no sense as a mediaeval artwork.” Although he is a self-acknowledged agnostic with a different view of the Resurrection, he admitted to being profoundly effected as “no other image I have ever seen” when viewing the Shroud during a 2010 exposition. More art historical evaluation is promised in a book de Wesselow is researching (Wilson, 2012: 1-3).

References 

Antonacci, Mark

2000 The Resurrection of the Shroud. New York: M. Evans and Company

Belting, Hans

1979 An Image and Its Function in the Liturgy: The Man of Sorrows in Byzantium. Pp. 1-16 in Dumbarton Oaks Papers Vol. 34/35 (1980/1981).

Cameron, Averil

1981 Continuity and Change in Sixth-Century Byzantium (The Sceptic and the Shroud). Variorum Reprints (1981): 1–27.      

Drews, Robert

1984 In Search of the Shroud of Turin. New Jersey: Roman and Allanheld.

Heller, John

1983 Report on the Shroud of Turin. Boston:Houghton Mifflin.  

Jackson, John; Jackson, Rebecca; Propp, Keith

2000a On the Late Byzantine History of the Turin Shroud. Pp.185–195 in Proceedings of the 1999 Shroud of Turin International Research Conference. Ed. Bryan Walsh. Richmond VA: Magisterium Press.

Jackson, Rebecca; Jackson, John; Propp, Keith

2000b Is the Shroud of Turin both Burial Cloth of Jesus and Tablecloth of the Last Supper? Pp.165–184 in Proceedings of the 1999 Shroud of Turin International Research Conference. Ed. Bryan Walsh, Richmond VA Magisterium Press.

Klein, Holger

2006 Sacred Relics and Imperial Ceremonies at the Great Palace of Constantinople (off site link).

Lavoie, Gilbert

2000 Resurrected. Allen, Texas: Thomas More.

Runciman, Steven

1931 Some Remarks on the Image of Edessa. Cambridge Historical Journal, 3 (1929-1931): 238 – 52.

Sox, David

1978 File on the Shroud. London: Coronet Books/Hodder and Stoughton.

Scavone, Daniel C.

1989 The Shroud of Turin in Constantinople: The Documentary Evidence. Daidalikon; Studies in Memory of Raymond V. Schroder, S. J. ed. Raymond F. Sutton, Jr. Wauconda (Ill.): Bolchazy-Carducci.

1999  Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail, and the Edessa Icon.  Arthuriana, 9.4 (Winter, 1999): 3-31.

2001  A Review of Recent Scholarly Literature on the Historical Documents  Pertaining to the Turin Shroud and the Edessa Icon.  Proceedings of the Worldwide Congress “Sindone 2000.”  Orvieto Italy (issued in CD-Rom format).      

Weitzmann, Kurt

1961 The Origin of the Threnos. Pp.476-490 In De Artibus Opuscula XL Essays in Honor of Erwin Panofsky. Ed. Millard Meiss. New York University Press.

Wilson, Ian

1979 The Shroud of Turin: Burial Cloth of Jesus? (Rev. ed.). Garden City NY: Image Books.

1986 The Shroud and the Mandylion – A Reply to Professor Averil Cameron. Pp. 19-28 in Turin Shroud – Image of Christ, Proceedings of a Symposium held in Hong Kong March 1986. Ed. William Meacham. Hong Kong: Turin Shroud Photographic Exhibition Organising Committee.

1991 Holy Faces, Secret Places. London: Doubleday.

1998 The Blood and the Shroud. New York: The Free Press.

2000 Questions on the Shroud’s Early History that New Conservation-Minded Digital Imaging Spectroscopy Technology May Help Us Answer. Pp. 431– 438 in The Turin Shroud Past, Present, and Future. Eds. Silvan Scannerini and Piero Savarino. Torino: Effata Editrice.

2010 The Shroud. London: Bantam Press.

2012 Book Review of The Sign, The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection (off site link)

Wilson, Ian and Barrie Schwortz

2000 The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence. New York: Barnes and Noble.

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