History and Journey of the Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin - its Origin and Journey

One of the most fascinating gifts the Lord has given us is His own burial cloth. 

The Shroud of Turin may be one of the greatest Miracles on the face of the Earth!

How His image was burned into that cloth, and how it has survived these 2000 years is nothing short of miraculous.  

We have always had a great love for and devotion to this gift of Our Lord.  Let us share with you the history and the journey of the Shroud.

First let us pause and review the Gospel accounts of the Shroud of Turin.

“Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in fresh linen…” Matthew 27:59

“Then, having brought a linen shroud, Joseph took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in a tomb which had been cut out of rock.” Mark 15:46

“He took it down (the body of Jesus), wrapped it in fine linen, and laid it in a tomb hewn out of the rock, in which no one had yet been buried.” Luke 23:53.

“He (Peter) stooped down, but could see nothing but the linen cloth.” Luke 24:12

“He (John) did not enter but bent down to peer in and saw the linen wrappings lying there.” John 20:5

The Shroud of Turin, or linen cloth, is mentioned in each of the Evangelists’ accounts of the death and burial of Jesus. 

It is never mentioned again, which makes sense because the cloth’s importance was completely overshadowed by the surge of energy which brought the life of Our Savior back into His body. 

But logic dictates, His followers did not just leave the cloth there on the ground, to be thrown away. 

This was the cloth which held the body of Jesus. 

At a minimum, it would be considered a relic of the Savior. 

At most, it was a precious keepsake of the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

And probably, when Jesus left us after 40 days, this cloth was one of the few mementos they had of the physical presence of Jesus among them. 

What happened to the Shroud of Turin next? 

The answers to this question are documented in part. 

One of the gaps was officially filled in just this year. 

But there are areas where we have to employ; “What if”, and “Why not”

Another question we’re not sure how to answer is, when did the image of His Face, and then His whole body, become visible for all to see?  Let’s begin with tradition. 

St. Jude Thaddeus was the cousin of Jesus.  He is known to have evangelized the area around Turkey. 

He is also the only one of the apostles, who wore a large medal around his neck, with the Image of Jesus on it. 

There is a tradition that has to do with the emir of Edessa in Turkey, Abgar who lived during the time of Jesus.  Abgar was a leper, and he had heard about Jesus and His healing power.  He wrote to Jesus, asking Him to come to Edessa and cure Abgar.  Jesus responded that He could not come, but would send one of His disciples, who would heal Abgar.

Jesus died, and tradition has it that His cousin, Jude Thaddeus took on the task of going to Edessa to fulfill the request of Abgar for a healing, and also to evangelize the area. 

Tradition also has it that he brought with him a cloth handkerchief which had on it a faint image of Jesus, similar to the medal Jude Thaddeus wore around his neck. 

When Abgar saw the image of Jesus, he was immediately healed and converted to Christianity.  In addition, he also had his emirate converted to Christianity.

Now, most of this has been documented historically. 

There was an emirate named Abgar V, who lived during the time of Jesus. 

The town of Edessa was evangelized during that time, and there was a tradition of a sacred image of the Holy Face of Jesus involved. 

There’s no explanation as to how Abgar got the Holy Cloth of Jesus from St. Jude, but tradition tells us that it was revered in that area during the lifetime of Abgar. 

However, after his death, his son reverted back to his pagan ways and carried out a terrible persecution of the Christian converts.  He attempted to destroy all images of Jesus, most especially the Holy Cloth.  At that point, the image of Jesus disappeared, and was not heard of again for almost 500 years. 

Historian Ian Wilson[1] suggests that the Christians who hid the Image were most likely killed by the son of Abgar during his persecution, because, although Christianity was restored in the second century, the Holy Image was never recovered, although the people continued to revere it.

If we believed in coincidence, we would say the finding of the Holy Face of Jesus was coincidental. 

But since the only coincidence we will accept is Holy Coincidence, the Lord decided it was time for the Shroud of Turin to come back to be venerated and adored by the people. 

In 525 or 544, depending on whose date you accept, the walls of the city of Edessa had to be repaired.  In removing the covering of the west wall above the gate, or portal, the Image of the Holy Face was found.  This was the first time that any description of the Image was given. 

It was said to be a reflection, or a negative, rather than a positive which we would see in a photograph or painting. The Image found a place of honor in Edessa, and in the entire region. 

The emperor Justinian, had a cathedral built in honor of the Sacred Face.  Veneration continued through a period when the heresy Iconoclasm, was very strong in the Church. 

However, the Lord protected His Image from the wrath of that heresy.  During this time, it was called a Mandylion, which is an Arabic word for Napkin or Handkerchief.  We have to assume that no one ever opened up the linen image the entire length and width, until 944, when a very strange thing happened.  We go from this little town in Turkey, way up to Constantinople, modern day Istanbul, a distance of almost 1,300 kilometers, or 800 miles. 

The emperor, who had not lived the holiest of lives, wanted the Holy Image to be brought to him in Constantinople, most likely, to safeguard himself and the city against invaders. 

He felt, as did the Jews with the Ark of the Covenant, that if he possessed this most holy Image, that of Our Lord Jesus Christ, it would be a free pass to Heaven. 

He went to great lengths to get it, offering the emir so many benefits, he could not turn it down.  There was a slight problem when the people of Edessa, who venerated the Holy Image greatly, even though they only saw it a few times a year, did not want to see it leave their land. 

Forgeries and disruptions slowed the process, but eventually, the Shroud of Turin found its way to the Cathedral Hagia Sofia in Constantinople.

SIDEBAR Bob and Penny Lord have been writing a small but very complete account of the Shroud of Turin with all  of its historical twists and turns including the series of investigations in the 20th century.  This has been a major work on their part to have a booklet available that presents a unified sequence with accompanied references. And of course Bob and Penny use their investigative and organizational excellence to put many of the pieces of this puzzle together to bring clarity and veracity to the Shroud of Turin.SIDEBAR

[1] The Shroud of Turin – Pocket Books 1979