History of the Shroud

Back to the Shroud

People have tried to trace the shroud as far back in time as they can to prove that it was the material wrapped around Jesus when he was taken down from the cross.       

The shroud now preserved at Turin, is claimed to be the actual “clean linen cloth” in which Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of Jesus (Matthew 27:59). This relic, though blackened by age, bears the faint but distinct impress of a human form both back and front. The cloth is about 13 1/2 feet long and 4 1/4 feet wide. If the marks we see were caused by human body, it is clear that the body (supine) was laid lengthwise along one half of the shroud while the other half was doubled back over the head to cover the whole front of the body from the face to the feet. The arrangement is well illustrated in the  miniature of Giulio Clovio, which also gives a good representation of what was seen upon the shroud about the year 1540.

The cloth now at Turin can be traced back to the Lirey in the Diocese of Troyes in France, this is when we first hear of it about in 1360. In 1453 it was at Chambéry in Savoy, and there in 1532 it narrowly escaped being lost in a fire which charred the corners of the folds and left a uniform series of marks on either side of the image. Since 1578 it has remained at Turin Cathedral.

The authenticity of the Shroud of Turin was taken for granted, through various pronouncements of the Pope. An Office and Mass “de Sancta Sindone” was formerly approved by Julius II in the Bull “Romanus Pontifex” of 25 April, 1506, in whih the Pope speaks of “that most famous Shroud (proeclarissima sindone) in which our Savior was wrapped when he lay in the tomb and which is now honorably and devoutly preserved in a silver casket.”  Julius also spoke of the treaties upon the precious blood. Composed by his predecessor, Sixtus IV, in which Sixtus states that in the Shroud “men may look upon the true blood and portrait of Jesus Christ himself.” A certain difficulty was caused by the existence elsewhere of other Shrouds similarly impressed with the figure of Jesus      Christ and some of these cloths, notably those of Besançon, Cadouin, Champiègne, Xabregas,  also claimed to be the authentic linen provided by Joseph of Arimathea, but until the close of the last century no great attack was made upon the genuineness of the Turin relic. In 1898 when the Shroud was solemnly exposed, permission was given to photograph it and a sensation was caused by the discovery that the image upon the linen was apparently a negative — in other words that the photographic negative taken from this offered a more recognisable picture of a human face than the cloth itself or any positive print. In the photographic negative, the lights and the shadows were natural, in the linen or the print, they were inverted. Three years afterwards, Dr. Paul Vignon read a remarkable paper before the Académie des Sciences in which he maintained that the impression upon the Shroud was a “vaporigraph” caused by the ammoniacal emanations radiating from the surface of Christ’s body after so violent a death. Such vapours, as he professed to have proved      experimentally, were capable of producing a deep reddish brown stain, varying in intensity with the distance, upon a cloth impregnated with oil and aloes. The image upon the Shroud was therefore a natural negative and as such completely beyond the comprehension or the skill of any medieval forger.

Yet others have tried to show that the shroud can be traced further back in history, what do you think?…………………

The supposed early History of the Shroud  

In the city of Edessa in northwestern Mesopotamia, about 350 miles north of Galilee, King Abgar had been stricken by a dread disease, probably leprosy. He had heard of Jesus and His healing miracles. He sent a message to Jesus, begging for a cure.

When the message arrived, Jesus had already been crucified and ascended into heaven.  So the apostles decided to send instead the      apostle Jude with the Holy Shroud. The cloth seems to have been folded and decorated so that it showed only the portrait-like image of the Holy Face of Jesus.

Jude brought the Shroud to Edessa. King Abgar was cured and baptized, and Jude established Christianity in Edessa. The Shroud remained there. But in 57 A.D. a persecution of Christians broke out. The Shroud was hidden away for safekeeping in a hollow place in one of the city gates, so well hidden that its whereabouts were soon lost. It was not rediscovered until the sixth century, when an earthquake damaged the walls and revealed the hiding place. By this time Edessa was once again Christian, and the Shroud was enshrined in its main church.

Edessa was in the territory conquered by the Moslems, but the Arabs had not harmed the Shroud since they honored Jesus as one of their prophets. The Shroud was still regarded as a miraculous portrait and not known to be the burial cloth of Christ.

In the year A.D. 943, the Byzantine Emperor Romanus Lecapenus wanted to bring the miraculous portrait to Constantinople. He persuaded the Moslem emir to release it to him by promising Edessa perpetual immunity from attack. This event was most providential. Two centuries later, Edessa was sacked by the Turks who would surely have destroyed the Shroud if it had remained there.

The portrait was installed in the royal chapel in Constantinople but never shown to the general public. At some point someone finally unfolded the cloth and realized that it was a shroud and not just a portrait. We know this because there was dramatic change in representations of Jesus’ burial, showing the Shroud.

During the sack of Constantinople in 1204 the Holy Shroud disappeared from public view and reappeared around 1356 in the possession of the DeCharney family in Lirey, France where it remained until 1453 when it came into possession of the House of Savoy in 1453.

In 1532 a fire engulfed the chapel of Sainte Chapelle in Chambrey, France, where the Shroud was kept, and it came dangerously close to being destroyed. The fire was so intense that part of the silver on the reliquary holding the Shroud melted, and a drop of molten silver fell on a corner of the folded linen. This set one of the Shroud’s edges on fire, burning through all of the folds before it was doused with water. When the Shroud was opened up, the characteristic geometric set of scorch marks visible today were seen, and yet the part of      the Shroud containing the image was scarcely touched by the fire. The      burned material was later repaired by sewing linen patches over it. In 1578 it was taken to its current location in Turin, Italy.

Until April of this year, the Shroud was wrapped in red silk and kept in a special silver chest in the Chapel of the Holy Shroud in Turin’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. On April 11, 1997 the chapel was destroyed by a fire. By the heroic efforts of firefighters the Shroud of Turin was saved from destruction in the blaze.

Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini of Turin, is personally convinced that the Shroud is the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ– that it is, as one scientist put it, “a fifth Gospel,” telling the story of the Lord’s passion.

So which story do you believe……is it the true burial cloth of Jesus or the masterpiece of a very clever medieval forger?