Friday, April 6, 2012

The Shroud of Turin

Easter is upon us, and for many that means special services and Stations of the Cross.  Christians have many of these special services but I would like to speak of something not exactly a tradition.  However, I have found this to be an amazing part of building a faith.

You may have heard of the Shroud of Turin.  Some will know exactly what I am speaking of while others will not.  No matter; I will take this opportunity to try and relay some key points about the Shroud.
The Shroud is a fine linen cloth measuring 14 feet three inches long and three feet seven inches wide.  This historical cloth is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.  Initially, the cloth was probably meant for Joseph of Arimathea.  Joseph was a high ranking member of the Jewish faith at the time of Jesus, but held his beliefs in his heart.  Nevertheless, he had the courage to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus upon His death.

Many believe the cloth used was to be Joseph’s burial shroud; instead he used his own tomb and cloth for Jesus’ burial.
As the story goes, on Easter Sunday, Christ was raised from the dead.  At which time the image of a tortured and crucified man was imprinted upon the cloth. Years of research have shown that it was formed by a burst of complex radiation coming from a dematerializing body about 30 to 36 hours after death.

For many years scientist have been trying to prove or disprove this “miracle”.  Some will believe, while others will not, and still others will find that the Shroud does not bring them to a Christian faith; because their faith was already rock solid.
I would like to give you some history on the Shroud of Turin.  I hope this is of interest to you, as I have explored the topic with two very well know researchers with the Council for the Study of the Shroud of Turin.  These two wonderful people are Dr. Alan Whanger and his delightful wife Mary.

King Abgar the V of Edessa was suffering from leprosy and wrote to Jesus asking that He come and cure him of his horrible disease.  Jesus responding saying He was unable at that time; but would soon send someone.  It was at this point Jesus was going to Jerusalem to bring about His passion and death. Copies of these letters are still in existence.
Historical records show that Thaddeus, also believed to be Judas the Zealot, took the Shroud to King Abgar.  The king did have his miracle; he was cured.  As a result he converted to Christianity.  Now, at the time when the cloth was brought to Edessa it was sealed in a cloth envelope, with only the face showing.

As was the custom at this point in history, likenesses of the pagan gods were mounted above the city’s main gate.  People entering the city were meant to pay homage to the displayed gods. 
Abgar had a tile image of the Shroud face take the place of the previous display.  With the display of the Shroud face there was also an inscription above the main city gate, it read “Christ the God.  He who hopes in thee is never disappointed”.

Now Edessa was a city along the trade routes between the Mediterranean and the Far East, so that this provided for many to see the face on the Shroud.  This also explains why early icons of Jesus Christ all have similar features.  It is believed that these icons were copied from the Shroud.
When King Abgar died in 55AD, King Ma’nu, a known pagan, came into power in 57 AD.  He was known to persecute the Christians.  He wanted the new icon destroyed.  He failed in this plan since the cloth was hidden to avoid destruction.

The year 525AD brought to the city of Edessa a major flood that almost destroyed the city. Workmen repairing the city gate found the hidden icon.  By this time the city had once again returned to Christianity and was recognized as the City of Churches.
In the year 944, Romanus I, the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, decided his last act in office would be to bring the icon to Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire.  Constantinople had a collection of relics and icons and the Shroud would have been a major relic to possess.

Romanus sent troops to Edessa and laid siege to the city for six weeks.  Even with the city of Edessa under Muslim rule, the people wanted to keep their treasured icon. It took many concessions and promises on the part of Romanus in order to get the people of Edessa to finally relinquish this precious relic.  There is an interest fact here about the icon.  As far as the people of Edessa knew it was only the face of Christ.  Remember the icon was sealed in a cloth envelope and had never been opened.
During the Fourth Crusade, Constantinople was overrun and many of the churches relics were carted off including the Shroud.  In 1204 the Shroud surfaced in a small village in Lirey France.  Many believed the icon was in the possession of the Knights Templar in both France and England.  It is believed that the Shroud was smuggled back to France and placed on public display.

No one is exactly how Geoffrey de Charny gained control of the Shroud, but he brought it to Lirey in 1357.  This is when it was declared the true burial Shroud of Christ.
The ownership of the icon fell to Margaret de Charny; she in turn relinquished ownership to the Savoy family, the ruling house of France and Italy.  This is when it was moved to the royal capitol of Turin Italy in 1578.  A special chapel was built for the sole purpose of housing the shroud.  The chapel is in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist that adjoins the royal palace.

The Shroud was nearly destroyed in 1532 when a fire broke out and the silver box that held the Shroud started to burned and the molten silver fell upon the Shroud in places. It is the repaired of the cloth that some have used as a reason to believe the Shroud was a hoax.  The burned areas of the Shroud were seamed and rewoven.  It is from these area materials were taken for the radio carbon dating process.  This also explains why the results came closer to the date of the mid- 1500s.
The Shroud was moved again to safeguard it during World Word II. Then in 1983 Umberto II, the exiled king of Italy, bequeath the Shroud to the Vatican.

There is a great deal more about the Shroud of Turin that I would love to share, and I would suggest that anyone interested in learning more buy the book “The Shroud of Turin An Adventure of Discovery by Mary and Alan Whanger, on

Have a Blessed Easter and Celebrate the Risen Lord!