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The Shroud of Turin
A Case for Authenticity

A Case for Authenticity
By: Fr. Vittorio Guerrera

The Shroud of Turin. A fast-paced book that is easy to read; The Shroud of Turin is guaranteed to interest everyone and give convincing proof--despite the recent propaganda to the contrary--that the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial cloth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Filled with facts of science and history; you are guaranteed to learn a lot! Well researched and well written. This book is small and doesn't take too long to read -- makes a great gift! Impr. 150 pgs; PB
No. 1759.
ISBN: 9780895556806
Sale Price $16.95

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The Shroud of Turin

“He is the image of the invisible God.” —Colossians 1:15

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus.” —2 Corinthians 4:6

“There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him. Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed.” —Isaias 53:2-5


Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
1. History of the Shroud . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
2. Popes and the Shroud . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
3. Scripture and the Shroud . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
4. The Sudarium of Oviedo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
5. Scientific Studies: 1898-1973 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
6. The 1978 STURP Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
7. The Case Against Authenticity . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
8. The Case For Authenticity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
9. 1988 Carbon-14 Controversy . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
10. Post-1988 Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
11. Afterword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161


The author would like to thank the following individuals for their assistance with this book: Evelyn Fracasso, Ph.D., Fr. William Donovan, and Fr. William Henn, O.F.M. Cap., for proofreading the manuscript and for editorial suggestions; Fr. Thomas Buffer, Fr. Hans Hintermaier and Rachel Wisler for their proficiency with foreign languages; Fr. Joseph Marino, O.S.B. and Charles Coretto for bibliographical references; and Jack Orabona for his computer graphic skills.

Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. —John 20:3-8

From that day onward, the course of human history changed because of what those disciples saw and believed when they peered into that empty tomb. Even though the Gospels relate that only the linen cloths were present and that the body of Jesus was nowhere to be found, many believe that the disciples saw more than just the burial cloths. They also saw the imprint of the crucified body of Jesus Christ on the Shroud. Ever since that day, the story of the Shroud’s travels has been filled with intrigue and legend. Reports of the Shroud or what has been likened to the Shroud have been circulated in Turkey, Constantinople, France, and eventually Italy. The Shroud, which has been preserved in the Cathedral of Turin since 1578, is believed by many to be that very same cloth. The Shroud has been the object of devotion for many centuries. Popes, princes and peasants have traversed far and wide to pray before this mysterious image. Although the Roman Catholic Church has never officially declared the Shroud of Turin to be the authentic burial cloth of Jesus Christ, she has permitted its veneration by the faithful. The Church’s faith in the Resurrection of Christ does not rest upon the authenticity of the Shroud, but on the witness of the Apostles. As St. Paul teaches, “Faith then comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

In 1988, the Church allowed radiocarbon dating to be conducted on the Shroud to obtain an age for the cloth. This test was long awaited by believers and non-believers alike. If the Shroud dated back to the first century, that would uphold its authenticity. If not, non-believers would rejoice that it was a forgery. The test yielded a medieval date. Skeptics were pleased, while believers were dismayed. For some, this datum put to rest the story of the Shroud. However, those who were convinced of the Shroud’s authenticity remained undaunted and forged ahead with research. Although the Church has not permitted any further scientific testing of the Shroud to date, independent and interdisciplinary research continues. In this book I have attempted to unfold the drama of the Shroud. It is my conviction, based upon the evidence presented here, that the Shroud of Turin is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus Christ. While it is beyond the scope of science to identify with certitude the man on the Shroud, I am hopeful that the reader will come to weigh the evidence and decide in favor of this case for authenticity.

“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. The Lord show his face to thee, and have mercy on thee. The Lord turn his countenance to thee, and give thee peace.” —Numbers 6:24-26

History of the Shroud

The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth of ivory color measuring fourteen feet three inches long by three feet seven inches wide or eight cubits long by two cubits wide, according to first-century Jewish measurements. (A cubit is equivalent to 21.7 inches.) The cloth is made of a three-to-one herringbone weave with a “Z” twist. Parallel to one side of the cloth is sewn a six-inch-wide strip of the same weave pattern. It is generally believed that this piece was added to the Shroud in order to insert a rod to facilitate its exposition. The Shroud bears the frontal and dorsal image of a naked, crucified, bearded
man, approximately five feet eleven inches tall, between the ages of 30-35, weighing about 175 pounds. Many people believe that this Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

The history of the Shroud can be traced with assurance to the mid-fourteenth century. Prior to that period, little is known with absolute certainty concerning its whereabouts. A third century Syrian text mentions a cloth that is associated with the miraculous cure of King Abgar V, ruler of Edessa (13-59 A.D.), now called Urfa, in southeastern Turkey. This story was translated almost verbatim by Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastical History in 325 A.D.1 According to the story, Abgar suffered from an ailment, perhaps leprosy. Having heard about the healing powers of Jesus, he sent a certain Ananias around the year 31-32 A.D. with a letter to Jesus requesting that He come and heal him. Jesus replied that He was unable to go, but promised to send one of His disciples. It was not until after His death and Resurrection that one of the seventy-two disciples, Thaddeus, brought a cloth to Abgar bearing an image of the face of Jesus. Upon seeing this cloth, Abgar was cured, and the Christian Faith was established in the city. (Actually, the first Christian king of Edessa was Abgar VIII, who ruled from 177-212.) Although the Syrian text mentions a cloth, for reasons unknown, Eusebius makes no reference to it; rather, he states that Abgar saw a vision when he looked at Thaddeus. “Immediately on his entrance there appeared to Abgar a great vision on the face of the Apostle Thaddeus. When Abgar saw this, he did reverence to Thaddeus, and wonder seized all who stood about, for they themselves did not see the vision, which appeared to Abgar alone.”

While the Syrian account refers to Thaddeus as one of the seventy-two disciples of the Lord (cf. Luke 10:1), he soon came to be associated with Jude Thaddeus, the apostle who was a cousin of Jesus (cf. Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). One of the earliest Byzantine icons to depict Thaddeus holding the Image of Edessa, as the cloth was referred to there, was painted in 550 A.D. and is located at St. Catherine Monastery on Mount Sinai. In the Western tradition, St. Jude is often represented holding an image of the face of Jesus over his heart. It has been suggested by the British historian Ian Wilson that the Image of Edessa was actually the Shroud folded in such a way that only the face was visible. Early replicas of the Image were portrayed as an elongated trellis frame with a circle in the middle that depicted the face. A sixth-century text called The Acts of Thaddeus refers to such an image as a tetradiplon, a Greek word which literally means “doubled in four” or, put another way, folded in eight layers. Interestingly, this Greek word is not used for any other object. Dr. John Jackson, an Air Force physicist who was part of the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project, “found that doubling the cloth in four did indeed expose the face area. Furthermore, Jackson found an eight-fold pattern of folds. . . .” After the death of King Abgar V, his son Man’nu reverted to paganism and persecuted the Christians of Edessa. At that time the cloth disappeared. Most likely it was hidden for safekeeping, and was not seen again for five hundred years. During the centuries that followed the disappearance of the cloth, Edessa suffered intermittent floods, the most devastating one taking place in 525 A.D. when the river Daisan flooded the city. According to a contemporary writer, Procopius of Caesarea, extensive damage was done to buildings, and many were destroyed. “It levelled to the ground a large part of the outworks and of the circuit-wall and covered practically the whole city, doing irreparable damage.

For in a moment it wiped out completely the finest of the buildings and caused the death of one third of the population.” The future emperor Justinian (527-565), nephew of the aged Justinian I, quickly dispatched engineers to rebuild the city. According to popular tradition, the cloth was found in a niche above Edessa’s west gate during the reconstruction of a wall.6 The reason for the historical silence concerning this discovery could be due to the fact that “Edessa was predominantly Monophysite in A.D. 525, and it is difficult to envisage this faction welcoming the discovery of a relic that seemed to confound their beliefs.” (Monophysitism is the heretical concept that Jesus had only one nature, i.e., the divine. As such, Monophysites would be opposed to any physical representation of Christ.) The cloth was later placed in a chapel of the new Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, where it was kept in a reliquary.

When the city was threatened during the Persian siege under King Chosroes Nirhirvan in 544 A.D., the citizens of Edessa brought out the Image, and the attackers retreated. This story can be found in the writings of the Syrian historian Evagrius (527-600).8 It was he who first referred to the cloth as acheiropoietos (“not made by human hands”). The relic managed to survive during the turbulent period of the iconoclast controversy of the eighth and ninth centuries, when Emperor Leo III (714-741) issued a decree calling for the destruction of all religious icons as being idolatrous and heretical. The Catholic Church never condoned iconoclasm, but rather condemned it. Pope Stephen III spoke in favor of the use of sacred images in a Lateran synod in 769. Later, in 787, the Second Council of Nicea endorsed the veneration of images, and particular mention was made of the Image of Edessa as being one “not made by human hands.”

It was referred to as one of the main arguments by the Fathers of the Church to defend the legitimacy of the use of sacred images. The story of how the Image came to Constantinople is rather peculiar. It is said that in 943, the Byzantine Emperor Romanus Lecapenus requested that the cloth be brought to him to protect his city from enemy invasion. He sent General John Curcuas to Edessa with a proposition for the emir. In exchange for the famous relic, Lecapenus offered 12,000 pieces of silver, the release of 200 Moslem prisoners, and the promise that Edessa would be spared attack. Needless to say, it was
an offer the Moslem ruler could not refuse. When the cloth arrived in Constantinople on the Feast of the Dormition (or Assumption) of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, 944, it was received in the church at Blachernae. The cloth was referred to as the “Mandylion,” coming from an Arabic word which means “veil” or “handkerchief.” The name first appears about the year 990 in a biography of the Greek ascetic, Paul of Mt. Latros, in which it is stated that he was given a vision of the icon.

A tenth-century Byzantine writer relates that on the evening of the Mandylion’s arrival in Constantinople, Emperor Romanus Lecapenus, his two sons and future son-in-law Constantine, who was a young boy at the time, had a private showing of the Image. According to Constantine, the Image was a “moist secretion without colors or the art of a painting.”12 Another author, Symeon Magister, writing about the same time, said that the Emperor’s sons were disappointed because they were only able to distinguish a faint image of a face on the cloth. There is extant a Greek manuscript discovered by Dr. Gino Zaninotto in 1986 of a sermon given on August 16, 944 by Gregory, archdeacon and administrator of Hagia Sophia Cathedral, where the Mandylion was placed by the Ecumenical Patriarch Theophylartos for the veneration of the faithful.13 There it was crowned with the imperial crown and placed on the Emperor’s throne to show the sovereignty of Christ the Pantocrator. In his sermon, Gregory exhorts: “The splendour—and may everyone be inspired by this description—was impressed during the agony only by the drops of sweat that poured forth from the face which is the source of life, dropping down like drops of blood, as from the finger of God. These are really the beauties that have produced the colouration of the imprint of Christ, which was further embellished by the drops of blood that issued of His own side”14 [emphasis added]. This is convincing evidence that the Mandylion was not simply a cloth bearing the image of the face of Christ, but that it was the Shroud folded as a tetradiplon.

Some Orthodox Christians contend that the Shroud and the Mandylion are not one and the same. Their main objection is that the Mandylion shows the live face of Jesus, whereas the Shroud depicts a dead Jesus. One reason for this seeming discrepancy may be due to the fact that the early Christians were reluctant to portray a dead Christ. Since the Shroud was rarely displayed full-length, when artists made copies of the Holy Face from the Mandylion, they portrayed Christ with His eyes open. We do find that, as early as the sixth century, many facial features found on the Shroud are reproduced in paintings. Artists often depicted the face in a frame surrounded by an ornamental trellis. If the Mandylion were indeed the Shroud folded in such a way so that only the face was exposed, it would be natural to depict Jesus alive with His eyes open. According to Fr. Edward Wuenschel C.Ss. R., one of the pioneer historians of the Shroud, realistic representations of the crucifixion did not become common until the thirteenth century, and even then, mainly in the Western Church.16 One year after the Mandylion was brought to Hagia Sophia, in 945, Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos commissioned a hymn to be composed which recounted the history of the Mandylion. This emperor established August 16, the anniversary of the solemn exposition of the cloth, as the Feast of the Holy Mandylion in the Orthodox Church. It is said that in 1011 a replica of the Mandylion was sent to Rome, where it became known as the “Veil of Veronica,” and that Pope Sergius IV had an altar consecrated for it in the chapel of Pope John VII in St. Peter’s. The appellation of the “Veil of Veronica” to the Mandylion is itself shrouded in legend. According to pious tradition, when Jesus was making His way to Calvary, a woman of Jerusalem offered Him her veil to wipe the sweat and blood from His face. After she had pressed it against His face, she noticed that His image was imprinted on the cloth. This scene is depicted in the sixth station of the Way of the Cross. Although the New Testament does not relate this account nor make any mention of this woman’s name, tradition gives her the name “Veronica.” This name derives from two Latin/Greek words: vera, meaning “true,” and eicona, meaning “likeness” or “image.” Therefore, the Veronica is a “true image” of the Holy Face. Another copy of the Veil of Veronica is venerated in the Church of St. Bartholomew of the Armenians in Genoa. This was reportedly given to a Genoese captain, Leonardo Mantaldo, by Byzantine Emperor John V Palaelogos in 1362.

Following the solemn exposition on August 16, 944, the Mandylion was moved to the Pharos Chapel in the Boucoleon Palace and rarely displayed. Testimonies from the eleventh and twelfth centuries attest to its presence in Constantinople. In 1080, Alexis I Comnenus implored the aid of Emperor Henry IV and Robert of Flanders in defending “the linens found in the tomb after his Resurrection.”17 Other distinguished leaders who saw the Mandylion were King Louis VII of France in 1147, Bishop William of Tyre, and King Amaury of Jerusalem in 1171. Nicholas Mesarites, the custodian of the cloth kept in the Pharos Chapel, described how he had to defend the relics against a mob in a palace revolution in 1201. He writes: “In this chapel Christ rises again, and the sindon with the burial linens is the clear proof. . . . The burial sindon of Christ: this is of linen, of cheap and easily obtainable material, still smelling fragrant of myrrh, defying decay, because it wrapped the mysterious, naked, dead body after the Passion. . . .”

In 1204, Constantinople was sacked during the Fourth Crusade led by Boniface, the Marquess of Montferrat. For three days the brutish warriors, most of whom were Frenchmen, mercilessly attacked Christians in the city. They stole gold, silver and sacred relics. Robert de Clari, a knight from Picardy, took part in the capture of the city, which ultimately fell on April 12, 1204. He chronicled the events in his diary, La conquête de Constantinople. In it, he relates how he saw various holy relics, but what impressed him the most was the cloth at Blachernae: “There was another of the churches which they called My Lady St. Mary of Blachernae, where was kept the sydoine in which Our Lord had been wrapped, which stood up straight every Friday so that the figure of Our Lord could be plainly seen there.”

After the conquest of Constantinople, de Clari notes, “And no one, either Greek or French, ever knew what became of this sydoine after the city was taken.” The Mandylion disappeared for about 150 years until it reappeared in Lirey, France in the 1350s. One theory advanced to explain the silence of these missing years is that of Ian Wilson. He claims the cloth was probably in the possession of a religious order of knights known as the Knights Templars. They were founded around 1118 by two French knights, Hugh of Payens and Geoffrey of Saint-Omer, and seven of their companions. They were originally known as the Poor Knights of Christ of the Temple of Solomon, because they were headquartered near the ruins of Solomon’s Temple. These men took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Their purpose was to defend the sacred sites in the Holy Land, and they took part in all but the first of the ten Crusades between 1095 and 1291. Oftentimes, princes and nobles would entrust them with their treasures and religious artifacts for safekeeping. There is some circumstantial evidence that the Mandylion was sold by Baldwin II, the last of the Latin Byzantine Emperors, to St. Louis IX, King of France, in return for a loan.

The Templars were a somewhat mysterious group. It was alleged that they worshipped a “head” in their secret ceremonies. On October 13, 1307, they were suppressed in France by order of King Philip IV the Fair and Pope Clement V. A couple of the Grand Masters, namely Jacque de Molay of France and Geoffrey de Charny of Normandy, were burned at the stake on March 19, 1314 on the small island called Ile des Javiaux facing the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

The theory that the Templars may have possessed the Shroud is supported by the discovery in 1944 of a painting of the Holy Face (circa 1280) on a wooden panel in the village of Templecombe, England. This village was owned by the Knights Templars from about 1185. Rex Morgan, a Shroud scholar, hypothesized that the wooden panel may actually have been a lid to a wooden box which contained the Shroud when it was transferred from France to England during the suppression of the Templars. “The Templecombe panel has 125 points of congruence with the Shroud face . . . The fleur-de-lis decoration of the painting strongly suggests French influence and the quatrefoil design is recurrent in Templar . . . decorative motifs.” The theory is very plausible, except that the Templars never admitted to possessing the Shroud.

The only city to have claimed to possess the Shroud from 1208 to 1329 was the French city of Besançon. The theory is that during the Fourth Crusade, the Burgundian knight who commanded the district of Blachernae where the Shroud was kept, Othon de la Roche, Duke of Athens and Sparta, received it as part of his recompense. The claim that the Shroud was in Athens is attested to directly in a letter by Theodore of Epirus dated August 1, 1205, and indirectly by Nicholas of Otranto, abbot of the monastery of Casole. Othon, in turn, sent the cloth to his father, Ponce de la Roche, who then handed it over to the Bishop of Besançon, who placed it in the Cathedral of St. Etienne where it was exposed for veneration each year on Easter until 1349. In that year a fire burned down the Cathedral causing slight damage to the Shroud. In the midst of all the confusion, the Shroud disappeared. According to a dubious sixteenth-century account kept in the second church of Lirey, the Shroud was given to King Philip VI. He subsequently gave it to a friend whose name, coincidentally, was the same as the Templar Grand Master who was burned at the stake, Geoffrey I de Charny!

De Charny was captured by the English after the Battle of Calais in 1349 and sent to England as a prisoner of war. It is conjectured that he may have concealed the Shroud in Templecombe. He remained in England until 1351, when King John II of France paid for his release. In June 1353, King John granted de Charny permission to build a collegiate church in Lirey. In a letter dated May 28, 1356, Henri of Poitiers, Bishop of Troyes from 1353-1370, writes:
Henri, by the grace of God and of the Apostolic See, confirmed bishop elect of Troyes, to all those who will see this letter, eternal salvation in the Lord. You will learn what we ourselves learned on seeing and hearing the letters of the noble knight Geoffrey de Charny, Lord of Savoy and of Lirey, to which and for which our present letters are enclosed, after scrupulous examination of these letters and more especially of the said knight’s sentiments of devotion, which he has hitherto manifested for the divine cult and which he manifests ever more daily. And ourselves wishing to develop as much as possible a cult of this nature, we praise, ratify and approve the said letters in all their parts — a cult which is declared and reported to have been canonically and ritually prescribed, as we have been informed by legitimate documents. To all these, we give our assent, our authority and our decision, by faith of which we esteem it our duty to affix our seal to this present letter in perpetual memory. Given in our palace of Aix of our diocese in the year of Our Lord 1356, Saturday, the 28th of the month of May.

Although there is no mention of a Shroud in this letter, the bishop congratulates de Charny on his “devotion . . . for the divine cult” and his own wish to “develop as much as possible a cult of this nature.” The repeated references to this cult could only refer to the sacred object housed in the church and not the church proper, thereby suggesting that the Shroud was in Lirey by 1356. This document, which is kept in the archive of Aube, Lirey, is the only genuine act of Bishop Henri de Poitiers that can be authenticated. During this same year a painted copy bearing only the frontal image was displayed in the church of Besançon, since the faithful had become accustomed to venerating it there. The historian Dom Chamard noted that the shroud exhibited in Besançon after 1352 was merely a replica. He further noted: Dunod in his History of the Church of Besançon speaks of the Shroud preserved in the Cathedral of St. Etienne (Besançon) in the thirteenth century, and proceeds thus: “In March, 1349, the church was destroyed by fire, and the box in which the Holy Shroud was kept, seemingly without much formality, was lost. Some years afterwards the relic was found again by happy chance, and to make sure that it was the same as was formerly venerated in the church of St. Etienne, it was laid upon a dead man, who immediately revived. The fact of this miracle is established not only by the records of the church of Besançon but also by a manuscript preserved up to the present time in the church of St. James, at Rheims, where it has been placed by Richard La Pie, senior priest of Besançon, in the year 1357, who has been himself an eye-witness.”

Dunod does not state that the original Shroud was returned to Besançon. The copy kept at Besançon was eventually destroyed in 1792 during the French Revolution. Geoffrey de Charny died in the Battle of Poitiers on September 19, 1356. His widow, Jeanne de Vergy, who was the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Othon de la Roche, then acquired the cloth. Being in financial straits after the death of her husband, she began to exhibit the Shroud in 1357 to raise money for the upkeep of the church. On June 5, 1357, twelve bishops gathered to sign a grant of indulgences to pilgrims who visited the collegial church at Lirey. For reasons unknown, Jeanne de Vergy and her son, Geoffrey II de Charny, who coincidentally was married to Marguerite de Poitiers, the niece of Bishop Henri, waited some thirty years before attempting to display the cloth again. By 1389 Jeanne had remarried, and her husband Aymon of Geneva was the uncle of the anti-pope Clement VII, who reigned from 1378-1394 in Avignon during the Western schism. Jeanne and her son circumvented obtaining permission from the new Bishop of Troyes, Pierre d’Arcis, by appealing directly to the anti-pope’s legate, Cardinal Pierre de Thury.

The opening of the exhibition in April 1389 generated such a furor that the bishop had recourse to Clement VII. The anti-pope responded by confirming his permission and imposing silence on the bishop. Not satisfied, the bishop appealed to King Charles VI to revoke his permission for the exhibition, but to no avail. In exasperation, Bishop d’Arcis wrote his famous Memorandum to Clement VII. In it he charged: The case, Holy Father, stands thus. Some time since in this diocese of Troyes the Dean of a certain collegiate church, to wit, that of Lirey, falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice, and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by a clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say, the back and front, he falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Saviour Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb. . . . The Lord Henry of Poitiers, of pious memory, then Bishop of Troyes, becoming aware of this, and urged by many prudent persons to take action, as indeed was his duty in the exercise of his ordinary jurisdiction, set himself earnestly to work to fathom the truth of this matter. For many theologians and other wise persons declared that this could not be the real shroud of our Lord having the Saviour’s likeness thus imprinted upon it. . . . Eventually, after diligent inquiry and examination, he discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it, to wit, that it was a work of human skill and not miraculously wrought or bestowed.

Accordingly, after taking mature counsel with wise theologians and men of the law, seeing that he neither ought nor could allow the matter to pass, he began to institute formal proceedings against the said Dean and his accomplices in order to root out this false persuasion. They, seeing their wickedness discovered, hid away the said cloth so that the Ordinary could not find it, and they kept it hidden afterwards for thirty-four years or thereabouts down to the present year. Bishop d’Arcis’ letter accuses the clergy of Lirey with simony and alludes to the so-called investigation made by his predecessor, but he does not substantiate the charges he levels. One would think that if the artist admitted to painting the image, he would have written a confession. As it is, there is no record of any confession nor the name of the alleged artist. Also, if one were to subtract “thirty-four years” mentioned in d’Arcis’ letter from 1389, the year in which it was written, that brings us to 1355, which predates the benevolent letter of Bishop Henri of Poitiers of 1356 and the indulgences granted to pilgrims in 1357.

Yet, opponents of the Shroud’s authenticity often refer to this letter as historical proof that the Shroud is a medieval forgery. D’Arcis even admits that “although it is not publicly stated to be the true shroud of Christ, nevertheless this is given out and noised abroad in private, and so it is believed by many, the more so because, as stated above, it was on the previous occasion [i.e. in 1356/57] declared to be the true shroud of Christ. . . .” In the 1900s, Ulysee Chevalier, a French medieval scholar who denied the Shroud’s authenticity based upon this memorandum, found himself transcribing the following quote from a period text: “Extract that I have made from a Latin piece undated that appears to be a letter or request from a bishop of Troyes or another ecclesiastic to a pope.” Father Luigi Fossati, S.D.B., a sindonologist (one who studies the Shroud) and professor at the Salesian Institute in Turin, has said: “The document seemed to be only a rough draft never put in final form to be sent to the Pope. Even Chevalier defines it as a pro-memoria.”

The letter was never sent, which may account for the lack of the usual title for an official document. The title, Memorandum of Pierre d’Arcis, was appended by those who discovered this letter. Nicholas Camuzat (1575-1655), canon and archivist of the diocese of Troyes, does not even mention this Memorandum in his Promptuarium Tricassinae Diocesis, where he makes specific reference to the church of Lirey and to Bishops Henri de Poitiers and Pierre d’Arcis.33 The anti-pope Clement VII never ordered an investigation into the accusations made by Bishop d’Arcis. In a bull dated January 6, 1390, he authorized the continuation of the exposition of the Shroud, provided it was presented as an image or likeness of Christ and not as the true Shroud: “Under no circumstances should the ecclesiastics wear hooded cape, rochet, alb, or cope, nor should they perform other solemnities that are customary when exposing relics for which neither torches, flambeaux nor candles are lighted, nor should any other lamps be used.” He further ordered the bishop not to oppose its exposition.

When Geoffrey II de Charny died on May 22, 1398, his daughter Margaret de Charny became the owner of the Shroud. Two years later she married Jean de Baufremont. Their marriage ended tragically when Jean was killed at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, leaving Margaret childless. In 1418, a war broke out in the vicinity of the chapel, and the clergy asked Margaret’s second husband, Humbert de Villersexel, to protect it in his castle of Montfort near Montbard. Humbert acknowledged receiving the relic in a letter dated July 6, 1418. In it he wrote: During this period of war, and mindful of illdisposed persons, we have received from our kind chaplains, the dean and chapter of Our Lady of Lirey, the jewels and relics of the aforesaid church, namely the things which follow: first a cloth, on which is the figure or representation of the Shroud of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is in a casket emblazoned with the de Charny crest. . . . The aforesaid jewels and relics we have taken and received into our care from the said dean and chapter to be well and securely guarded in our castle at Montfort.

Humbert also stipulated in his letter that these objects would be returned to the clergy of Lirey after the war. When Humbert died in 1438, however, Margaret guarded the Shroud jealously, taking it with her wherever she traveled. After the war was over, the clergy at Lirey requested on May 8, 1443 that Margaret return the Shroud. Perhaps fearing its future fate, as the church in Lirey had fallen into disrepair, Margaret refused, even enduring threats of excommunication. On March 22, 1453, she gave it to her cousin Anna, the daughter of the King of Cyprus and wife of Duke Louis I of Savoy, who was a descendant of St. Louis IX, King of France. Margaret died seven years later on October 7, 1460. The Savoy dynasty was founded in 1003 and ruled Savoy and the Piedmont region, which extended from southeastern France across the Alps to northwestern Italy.

The family was noted for their piety and they associated with a number of Franciscan friars. The Duke built an ornate chapel in Chambery, the Savoy capital in France, a town about fifty miles east of Lyons. On February 6, 1464, Duke Louis gave fifty francs to the clerics of Lirey as recompense for their loss of the Shroud’s possession. After the death of Duke Louis, his son Amadeus IX succeeded him as duke. In 1471, at the age of sixteen, Amadeus IX began to enlarge and embellish the chapel. The newly renovated chapel was inaugurated on June 11, 1502 by Duke Philibert II. At that time the Shroud was placed in a silver reliquary above the high altar, closed by an iron grate and locked with four keys.

On Good Friday, April 14, 1503, the Shroud was displayed in the city of Bourg-en-Bresse in honor of Archduke Philip the Fair’s safe return from Spain. His sister, Margaret of Austria, was married to Duke Philibert II. Antoine de Lalaing, secretary to Philip the Fair, tells of how one of the three bishops holding the Shroud for veneration solemnly announced: “Here, my brothers, among holy things, is the most holy and contemplative on all the earth. It is the precious and noble ‘sindon’ purchased by Joseph of Arimathea for the burial of the divine Master, when, with the help of Nicodemus, he took him down from the cross.”36 Lalaing continues: “To prove if it was the true Shroud, it was boiled in oil, tossed in fire, laundered different and numerous times. But one could not efface nor remove these imprints and marks of our sweet Lord.” There is a certain degree of doubt as to whether or not this actually took place, because Lalaing does not mention that he was an eyewitness. The thought of the Shroud being subjected to such a trial is horrifying, but in medieval times such treatment was considered a legitimate truth detector test.

Tragedy struck on December 4, 1532 when fire broke out in the sacristy of the chapel and made its way to where the Shroud was kept. The intensity of the heat was such that molten silver dripped from the cover of the reliquary and penetrated the folded Shroud. Two Franciscan friars, Guglielmo Pessod and Francesco Lambert, ran into the chapel to retrieve the Shroud and doused the chest with water. The fire was extinguished, and the precious relic was saved. The parallel set of burn marks that runs down the entire length of the cloth is a reminder of that fire. From April 15 to May 2, 1534, the Poor Clare nuns of Chambery repaired the burnt parts of the Shroud by applying a number of triangular patches.

In 1537 when French troops invaded, the Shroud was taken to Vercelli and then to Nice. In 1549, the cloth was returned to Vercelli, but on November 18, 1553, the French sacked the city, and the Shroud was hidden in the house of Antoine Claude Costa, one of the canons. On June 3, 1561 the Shroud was returned to Chambery and exposed for the first time on August 15, 1561. Emmanuel Philibert, the Duke of Savoy, brought the Shroud to Turin, Italy on September 14, 1578.

One of the principal reasons for doing so was so that St. Charles Borromeo might venerate it. The saint had been the first resident archbishop of Milan in more than eighty years. During a plague that was devastating northern Italy, he vowed to make a pilgrimage to venerate the Shroud in return for Milan’s deliverance from the plague. Although only forty years old, Borromeo was sickly, and to spare him the arduous journey to Chambery, the Duke of Savoy brought the Shroud closer to him. The other reason for bringing the Shroud to Turin was that the duke had plans to move his capital there. A month after the Shroud’s arrival on October 10, Charles Borromeo made his way into the city barefoot amidst a great deal of fanfare. The saint spent eight days in Turin venerating the Shroud. He was to make two other pilgrimages to the Holy Shroud before he died in the year 1584.

The Shroud was never returned to Chambery and was exposed for veneration each year on the 4th of May in front of the Palazzo Madama. Some of the other saintly personages who made pilgrimages to the Shroud were St. Francis de Sales in 1613 and St. Jane Frances de Chantal in 1639. In writing to his mother in 1614, Francis de Sales recalls his pilgrimage to Turin:


Annecy, 4 May 1614

Whilst waiting to see you, my very dear Mother, my soul greets yours with a thousand greetings. May God fill your whole soul with the life and death of His Son Our Lord! At about this time, a year ago, I was in Turin, and, while pointing out the Holy Shroud among such a great crowd of people, a few drops of sweat fell from my face on to this Holy Shroud itself. Whereupon, our heart made this wish: May it please You, Saviour of my life, to mingle my unworthy
sweat with Yours, and let my blood, my life, my affections merge with the merits of Your sacred sweat! My very dear Mother, the Prince Cardinal was
somewhat annoyed that my sweat dripped onto the Holy Shroud of my Saviour; but it came to my heart to tell him that Our Lord was not so delicate, and that He only shed His sweat and His blood for them to be mingled with ours, in order to give us the Sale Price of eternal life. And so, may our sighs be joined with His, so that they may ascend in an odour of sweetness before the Eternal Father.

But what am I going to recall? I saw that when my brothers were ill in their childhood, my mother would make them sleep in a shirt of my father’s, saying that the sweat of fathers was salutary for children. Oh, may our heart sleep, on this holy day, in the Shroud of our divine Father, wrapped in His sweat and in His blood; and there may it be, as if at the very death of this divine Saviour, buried in the sepulchre, with a constant resolution to remain always dead to itself until it rises again to eternal glory. We are buried, says the Apostle, with Jesus Christ in death here below, so that we may no more live according to the old life, but according to the new. Amen.

Francis, Bishop of Geneva
The 4th of May 1614
On June 1, 1694, the Shroud was placed in a chapel of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist designed by the abbot, Guarino Guarini. Except for a brief period during World War II, it has been kept there ever since. In 1939, Cardinal Maurilio Fossati, Archbishop of Turin, secretly moved the Shroud for safekeeping to the Benedictine Abbey of Montevergine located at Avellino, about 140 miles south of Rome. There it remained until it was returned to Turin in 1946. That year the last Duke of Savoy, King Umberto II, was deposed. He died in Geneva on March 18, 1983. In his will he bequeathed the Shroud to the Holy See, but the Pope left the relic in the custodial care of the Archbishop of Turin. Since its transferral from Chambery to Turin, the Shroud has been on public display twenty-three times, on the following occasions.

1585: wedding of Charles Emanuel I and Catherine of Augsburg, daughter of King Philip II of Spain.
1586: birth of Philip Emanuel, first child of Charles and Catherine
1587: baptism of Vittorio Amedeo I
1613: in honor of St. Francis de Sales
1620: wedding of Vittorio Amedeo I and Maria Cristina of Bourbon-France
1639: visit of St. Jane Frances de Chantal (foundress of the Visitation sisters)
1722: visit of the Cardinal of Acunia
1736: visit of Prince Constantine and Cristina Enrica of Assia
1737: on May 4 for the feast of the Holy Shroud
1750: wedding of Vittorio Amedeo III and Maria Antonietta of Bourbon-Parma
1798: departure of Charles Emanuel IV for Sardegna
1804: visit of Pope Pius VII on November 13 on his way to France
1814: return of Vittorio Emanuel I to Turin
1815: return of Pius VII on May 21, following his release from exile by Napoleon the previous year
1822: by order of Charles Albert
1841: wedding of Vittorio Emanuel II and Maria Adelaide of Augsburg
1868: wedding of Prince Umberto and Margaret of Savoy. Repairs to the cloth were made by Princess Clotilde of Savoy while working on her knees.
1898: the Italian kingdom’s fiftieth anniversary
1931: wedding of Prince Umberto and Maria Jose of Belgium
1933: Holy Year commemorating 1900th anniversary of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
1978: on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Shroud’s transferral to Turin
1998: on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Cathedral and the centennial anniversary of the first photograph taken by Secondo Pia
2000: Holy Year commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ

It was during the exposition of 1898 that Secondo Pia, a Turin lawyer and amateur photographer, was given permission by King Umberto I to photograph the Shroud. From May 25-28, 1898, he took various exposures of the Shroud. As the wet plates were being developed, he was amazed to discover that the negative photographic image was in actuality a positive picture of a crucified man. He would later describe his experience: “Shut up in my darkroom all intent on my work, I experienced a very strong emotion when, during the development, I saw for the first time the Holy Face appear on the plate, with such clarity that I was dumbfounded by it. It was a great glory and I was seized by trepidation at what I had seen.”

Marquis Fillipo Crispolti was the first to make the discovery public. On June 13, 1898, he wrote: “The picture makes an indelible impression . . . the long and thin face of Our Lord, the tortured body and the long thin hands are evident. They are revealed to us after centuries, nobody having seen them since the Ascension into Heaven.”

From May 2-23, 1931, the Shroud was exhibited for the first time in the twentieth century on the occasion of the wedding of Prince Umberto of Piedmont. During that time it was photographed once again with better equipment by the photographer Giuseppe Enrie at the request of Cardinal Fossati. Among those present was Secondo Pia. Enrie’s photographs were clearer than those taken by Pia and soon became circulated throughout the world. From that point on, the Shroud has generated research and controversy among believers and skeptics alike.

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