Friday, 25 September 2015

The Shroud Of Christ By Paul Vignon D.Sc (Fr) Part 12.


WE confess that documentary history is distinctly unfavourable to the authenticity of the Holy Shroud, and it is on this lack of historical testimony that the opposition, dating from the fourteenth century onwards, has been based. The relic had lost its passports on its long journey, and what we have to do now is to search for them. If no proofs are to be found, if we cannot discover what became of the Shroud before 1200, and above all between 1205 and 1353, we shall be obliged to relinquish all hope of supporting our case by historical evidence ; and the claim of the Holy Shroud will rest entirely on scientific probability.

We will, therefore, try to give our readers a categorical chronology of the Holy Shroud, and we will borrow our material for the most part from its chief opponent, M. le Chanoine Chevalier!

The recorded history of the Shroud of Turin (Lirey) commences in the year 1353, when Geoffroy the First, count of Charny, and lord of Champagne, presented the relic to the abbey of Lirey, which had been founded by him in the vicinity of the town of Troyes. This nobleman was Governor of Picardy, and had accompanied the Dauphin, Humbert II, in the crusade of 1346. There is absolutely nothing to prove that the relic was brought back by him from the East. In 1355 Count Geoffroy was appointed Grand Standard Bearer by King John II of France, and was slain beside his King, on September 19, 1356, at the battle of Poitiers.

As Geoffroy, count of Charny, gives no precise account of how the sacred relic came into his possession, we fear that its history can never be absolutely traced back earlier than 1353. The Charny family merely said that the Holy Shroud had been obtained as spoils of war or had been received by the Count as a reward of valour ; and it must even be admitted that so far no actual record or deed recording the donation of the relic to the monks of Lirey has been discovered. 1

M. de Mely in La Revue Critique of December 24-31, 1900, cites " a letter of indulgence signed by twelve bishops, who in 1357 granted privileges to those who should come on certain specified days to offer their veneration to the relics of the abbey," relics of which a list is given, and among which the Shroud is not mentioned, although the year 1357 was the year after Count Geoffrey's death. But M. de Mely has however omitted to mention that in 1355 the Charny family reassumed the charge of the sacred relic, and that it remained in their keeping until 1389. Again, mention is made of the record kept at the Abbey of masses said for the soul of the defunct Count Geoffrey, in which no mention is made of the relic ; but it should have been added that the record makes no special mention of specific gifts, but merely recalls the memory of the Count as a u benefactor of the Abbey." That the Shroud was not mentioned by the Comte de Charny proves nothing. Let us suppose that he did not wish to say how it came into his family's possession. He would certainly have maintained a prudent silence with regard to it.

It may be as well to inquire here whether at the date 1353 there was known, if not the Holy Cloth of Lirey, any shroud or burial-cloth said to have been used as the Shroud of Christ. We have but to refer to page 9 of the Revue Critique, cited above, to find a series of extracts, of which the most ancient takes us back to the year a.d. 670. In some of these there is mention of a face-cloth (sudarium) as having been folded round the head of the dead Christ; in others the word " sindon " (winding-sheet) is used, or the Shroud is spoken of simply as cloth (linges).

It was in the eleventh century that pilgrims began to make mention of the burial-clothing of our Lord Jesus Christ as being among the relics in the possession of the Emperor at Byzantium. In 1150 an English pilgrim specifies one of these relics as " Sudarium quod fuit super caput ejus," while in 1171 William of Tyre expressly mentions " syndonem." Thus in twenty-one years a small kerchief (sudarium) has become "syndonem," a winding-sheet, which shows that too much importance must not be attached to the words of these ancient writers. The most interesting notice, perhaps, as it is the latest, is that of the Chronicler, Robert de Clary in 1203. I quote from Monsieur Chevalier : " . . . Et entre ches autres en eut j (un) autre des moustiers, que on apeloit Medame Sainte Marie de Blakerne, ou li Sydoines, la oil Nostre Sires fut envolepes, i estoit, qui cascuns devenres se drechoit tous drois, si que on i pooil bien vei'r le figure Notre Seigneur ; on ne seut on onques, ne grieu, ne Franchois, que chis Sydoines devint, quand le vile fu prise " (" And among others there was a monastery called our Lady Sainte Marie de Blakerne, where were the Cloths in which our Lord was wrapped, on which when one stood straight up could plainly be seen the figure of our Saviour. Since then no one, either Greek or French, can say what became of the cloth after the town was taken This record is of the highest importance. There was then, we see, at Constantinople, in 1200, in the Imperial Chapel, a shroud (not a face-cloth) which was at that time venerated as the actual Shroud of Christ, and on this winding-sheet when one stood straight up was visible the impression of the figure of the Saviour. And now, if we allow ourselves to suppose that the relic of Constantinople is identical with that of Turin, and it is stretched against a wall, it would be necessary to " stand straight up " in order to see the head clearly, as doubtless the feet would be raised above the ground level. Note further that in the report of Robert de Clary it is clearly stated that at the sack and taking of Constantinople in 1205 by the Latins the winding-sheet was lost, and no one knew what had become of it.

For those of our readers to whom our coming studies and arguments may bring conviction I mention an hypothesis put forward by the Rev. Father Solaro (see chap. vi. pp. 24-27 in his La S. Sindone, etc.) to account for the hiatus in the history of the Holy Shroud between the years 1205 and 1353- It is but a supposition, which cannot be proved, but which we will take for what it is worth, admitting that there is no reliable evidence to show that the Shroud of Constantinople is identical with that of Lirey. For us, however, who are endeavouring to trace back the Lirey Shroud to the time of our Saviour's crucifixion, P. Solaro's hypothesis is important, especially as the description of the Shroud at Constantinople, slight as it is, would apply equally well to the Shroud of Lirey.

The reasoning of Father Solaro is as follows. The Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople, but respected the shrine of St. Marie de Bla-kerne ; this is an historic fact, and is testified to by Count Riant in his Exuviae. Garnier de Trainel, bishop of Troyes, who accompanied the expedition, was charged with the duty of preserving all the relics which had been found in the Imperial Chapel. Count Riant assures us that the Bishop had full power over these relics, and dealt with them as seemed best to him. A considerable number of valuables and relics were sent by the Bishop to Europe, and the list thereof is known, but in the list there is no mention of the Holy Shroud. Father Solaro supposes that the precious relic was preserved by the Bishop for himself, perhaps for greater security during the homeward journey ; but unfortunately it happened that the Bishop never returned—he died at Constantinople in the year 1205. What, then, became of the Holy Shroud ? Did it pass into the possession of one of the Bishop's subordinates ? the names of most of these are known ; they were chiefly natives of Champagne ; one of them at least was related to the Count de Charny. Thus then the Shroud might have passed surreptitiously into the possession of the Counts family ; but we must once more admit that this is probability, and not proof.

1 Historians may well refuse to accept as historically probable the authenticity of a relic which has so little testimony to prove its origin.