|The Mandylion at the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris|
|Medallions of Lirey|
|Byzantine coins and the Shroud|
The Pierpont Morgan Library & Museum in New York City has a large collection of illuminated manuscripts. Among them is the manuscript 499, a parchment roll of about 3.3 m long and nine cm wide. Its skin-side is written in Greek with twenty illuminated miniature scenes depicting the Legend of King Abgar, its hair-side is a translation of the Greek text in Arabic with no miniatures, although a cross is drawn on the hair-side on the segment kept at the University of Chicago (see below). Its production has been dated in the third quarter of the fourteenth century, but certainly not later than 1383, because the author of the Arabic text states that year for his translation. The roll was an amulet. Originally, it was likely owned by a Byzantine military officer, then in 1383, owned by a Christian, Suleyman ibn Sara, because the colophon of the Arabic text says so.
Figure 1: The parchment roll 499 of the Morgan Library & Museum. The Greek
text and two partial miniatures are visible. The Arabic text, on the hair side of the parchment, can
be seen on the rolls.
© The Morgan Library & Museum, New York City.
Photography by Mario Latendresse
Figure 1 shows the scroll mounted on two custom-made rolls in a protective case. For its age, the manuscript shows remarkable good conservation, although the miniatures have lost some paint. The tiny Greek writing is still crisp and clear, see Figure 2.
Figure 2: The Greek text of the Abgar legend with two partial miniatures.
© The Morgan Library & Museum, New York City.
Photography by Mario Latendresse
As part of the Legend of King Abgar, Christ sends an image of himself to King Abgar. That image is known as the Image of Edessa also known as the Mandylion. Actually, the legend evolved from an image painted by a messenger sent by King Abgar to an image made by Christ himself. The Mandylion can be seen in several of the miniatures of M.499. Because this manuscript M.499 was produced after the sack of Constantinople in 1204, it is almost certain that the artist who created the miniatures never saw the Mandylion itself. Furthermore, the manuscript was probably produced in Trebizond, if not, it was in Constantinople. Actually, one may ask the general question: had any artist, who reproduced the Mandylion, seen the real Mandylion before the sack of Constantinople? The answer is likely negative. The many artistic representations of the Mandylion that we still have today are probably based on hearsay and on the legend of King Abgar. Manuscript M.499 would be a documentary evidence supporting this claim, because we can see in it the typical artistic reproductions of the Mandylion similar to many others produced before 1204, yet the artist of M.499 can hardly have seen the real Mandylion.
The twenty miniatures of M.499 can be seen on the website of the Pierpont Morgan Library. The manuscript is divided in twenty sections, each with a miniature scene. In the entire manuscript, four scenes show clearly the Mandylion, where only the head of Christ is visible, and one scene where the Mandylion is mostly hidden:
Figure 3: Miniatures of Section 14 in manuscript M.499. Ananias reveals the face of Christ on a cloth to King Abgar. The cloth is known today as the Mandylion/Image of Edessa.
© The Morgan Library & Museum, New York City.
The roll is incomplete because the beginning segment is missing and it is kept at the library of the University of Chicago as manuscript 125. That segment is about 1.7 m long with seven miniatures representing Mark, Luke, John, Christ, Christ and the Virgin, the Trinity and David as King of Israel. The Chicago fragment does not contain any scene involving the Mandylion.
For a good description and analysis of the manuscript M.499, see , which has a lengthy bibliography.
The Mandylion/Image of Edessa was most likely a real cloth with an image of Christ, which is transferred from Edessa to Constantinople in 944. It had been kept in Edessa for many centuries. When the Image of Edessa arrives in Constantinople, it is kept in the Imperial Palace and hidden from public view. Its whereabouts is not clear after the sack of Constantinople in 1204, but it is likely transferred to the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris in 1241 after Baudoin II, the desperate Latin Emperor of Constantinople, sold twenty-two relics to King Louis IX. Indeed, the inventories of the Sainte-Chapelle describe a reliquary with a face of Christ at the bottom and containing a cloth.
The manuscript “Pour scavoir la verite,” written around 1525, says that the shroud of Lirey, today the shroud of Turin, was received from King Philip VI. The simplest explanation for the provenance of that gift is the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris, because that is the main repository of the relics of Christ of the King of France. The only relic of the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris that can correspond to the shroud of Turin is the Mandylion.
In 2005, Raymond Rogers published, in Thermochimica Acta, a study of linen fibers from the Shroud. That study concluded that gum Arabic had been used on the fibers near the radiocarbon dating sample used in 1988 to date the Shroud. The overall conclusion of that study pointed out that the area around and including that sample was mended or at least was different from the rest of the Shroud.
More recently, Marco Bella, Luigi Garlaschelli and Roberto Samperi wrote an editorial paper criticizing the mass spectrometry analysis of that study, concluding that no gum Arabic was detected on the fibers but that instead an unknown contaminant was detected on the sample.
Actually, these criticisms by Bella et al. are misleading, which is discussed in a short communication just published in Thermochimica Acta. Its main conclusion is described in the abstract:
In a recent editorial paper of this journal, Bella et al. commented on the mass spectra analysis done by Rogers, which consisted of two mass spectra of the pyrolysis of linen fibers from two areas of the Shroud of Turin. The main conclusion of Bella et al. was “No diagnostic peak in the pyrolysis mass spectra indicates a significant difference in the two samples, besides hydrocarbon-derived contamination. Therefore, none of the presented data supports the conclusion by Rogers.” We show that the technical analysis of Bella et al. of the mass spectra is incorrect and that their main conclusion is unconfirmed, in particular that a “contaminant” would be present on the second sample analyzed.
This short communication is freely accessible until Feb 12, 2016.
The hypothesis that Othon de la Roche acquired the Shroud of Turin, during the conquest of Constantinople in 1204, has been proposed for many centuries. We read that due to its great services during the 4th crusade, Othon was given the Shroud in 1204, kept it in Athens, and that it was brought back at the castle of Ray-sur-Saône or to the castle of his father.
But that hypothesis can be shown to be false. The misconception sprang from a lack of knowledge about the original documentary sources.
|An elevated baldachin on a platform at the same location where the Grande Châsse containing the relics of Constantinople were kept in the choir of the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris. © Mario Latendresse. Photo taken April 26, 2015.|
The thesis of the Sainte-Chapelle has been proposed by André-Marie Dubarle and Hilda Leynen to explain the transfer of the Mandylion from Constantinople to Lirey, which became the Shroud of Turin. It is a very coherent, direct and well documented thesis. The thesis is even more coherent when all the inventories of the relics of the Grande Châsse of the Sainte-Chapelle are carefully analyzed. I have little doubt that it is the correct basis from which we can coherently explain the appearance of the Shroud of Turin in Lirey.
Compared to many other thesis, including the involvement of Othon de la Roche or the Knights Templar, it is a well documented thesis with a direct route from Constantinople to Geoffroy de Charny, who brought the Shroud to Lirey. It is coherent with the statements made by the canons of Lirey as well as the son and granddaughter of Geoffroy de Charny. It also explains in a very simple manner the 153-year silence of the Mandylion that became the Shroud of Turin.
It is even hard to believe that such a coherent thesis has been so unfavorably presented, with so many invalid arguments, since Dubarle and Leynen described it.
You can read the arguments in favor of that thesis by reading a preliminary version of a future paper about that thesis and the inventories of the Grande Châsse of the Sainte-Chapelle.
|© France 3 Franche-comté, F. Ménestret|
It is now official, the castle Ray-sur-Saône, its furniture and its park are now owned by the department of Haute-Saône. That implies that all future visits of the castle will be under the control of the department. For more details see Le château de Ray-sur-Saône offert au conseil départemental.
Countess Diane-Régina de Salverte is the last owner of the castle. Although not stated in the newspaper article (see link above), the Countess will possibly still live in a part of the castle.
One of the long time ago owner, in the 13th century, of a castle on the same location was Othon de la Roche who participated in the Fourth Crusade. Many authors stated that Othon was probably the owner of the Shroud of Turin while he was Duke of Athens. This possibility is actually very unlikely because it is based on a manuscript of the 18th century, kept in the Municipal Archives of Besançon, that has no solid foundation.
The castle of Ray-sur-Saône is located about 200 km southwest of Lirey and 50 km north of Besançon. It is often cited in the history of the Shroud of Turin because it belongs to descendants of Othon de la Roche, a knight who would have acquired the Shroud during the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). The castle houses a copy of the Shroud of Besançon, which was a partial copy of the Shroud of Turin (ventral part only), and a small chest that would have been used, so it is said, to bring the Shroud from Greece to France in the 13th century.
Despite several historical hypotheses of the Shroud that have been put forward involving Othon de la Roche, it is very unlikely that Othon had anything to do with the Shroud of Turin. The main reason for this conclusion is that the seed of all these hypotheses is the dissertation in favor of the authenticity of the Shroud of Besançon, written in 1714, contained in the manuscript 826 of the archives of the Besançon library. That is, all subsequent historical documents mentioning Othon de la Roche as possibly having owned the Shroud are based directly or indirectly on that dissertation. But that dissertation has no solid foundation to state that Othon de la Roche was involved with any shroud: the dissertation refers to documents that never mention that Othon received a shroud or owned any shroud. In other words, the author of that dissertation made up a story about Othon de la Roche receiving a shroud during the Fourth Crusade. The book Le Saint Suaire de Besançon discusses these hypotheses and has a complete transcription of the manuscript 826 (in French).
Moreover, the small chest still at the castle of Ray-sur-Saône appears unlikely to have been used to bring any shroud back from Greece. There is no written tradition from de la Roche family, or its descendants, mentioning that such a chest was used. Several people, including myself, tried to discuss this tradition with the last owner of the castle, the countess Diane Régina de Salverte, but no such discussion was possible. It is difficult to date the chest as no authorization would be given to do so.
It is also odd that the copy of a shroud in the castle is not of the Shroud of Turin but of the Shroud of Besançon, which is not what one would do to honor this incredible fact that the Shroud of Turin was brought from Constantinople by one of your ancestors. If this copy is used, it is most likely because it is based on the story coming from the manuscript 826 of Besançon, which means that this copy is not based on family tradition but rather from the writing of Dom Chamard, which in turn is based on the dissertation in favor of the Shroud of Besançon of manuscript 826, which we know is totally unreliable.
And any hypothesis stating that the Shroud came to Lirey through Jeanne de Vergy (second wife of Geoffroy de Charny), who would have been a descendant of Othon de la Roche, is fraught with other major issues. For example, the receipt of Humbert de Villersexel, given in 1418 to the canons of the collegiate church of Lirey, states clearly that the reliquary containing the Shroud had the coat of arms of de Charny, not of de Vergy. The son and the granddaughter of Geoffroy de Charny also stated clearly that the Shroud was from Geoffroy de Charny, not from Jeanne de Vergy.
The castle was transformed several times and even, due to the Ten Years war, it was destroyed then rebuilt. The castle used to have up to twelve towers, but now has only two. The countess Diane Régina de Salverte still lives at the castle but occupying only a part of it because the ownership of the castle is in the process of being transferred to the French administration (Département de la Haute-Saône). Visits, for the general public, of the interior of the castle have been suspended until this transfer is completed.
For many more photographs of the castle Ray-sur-Saône, its garden and its surrounding view of the valley, see Photographs of the Castle Ray-sur-Saône.
The first ostentations of the Shroud of Turin in the Western world was in Lirey, a hamlet 16 km southwest of Troyes, the nearest large city. Lirey is still today a hamlet with about fourty houses and a 19th century chapel located on the same piece of land where the first chapel was built in 1353. The first ostentation of the Shroud would have been around 1355, but we do not know the exact year. In 1418, the Shroud leaves the chapel and Lirey to be kept at the castle of Montfort under the protection of Humbert de Villersexel, the second husband of Marguerite de Charny, granddaughter of Geoffroy de Charny. The Shroud never came back to Lirey although the canons of Lirey tried many times over a century to regain the Shroud. A second chapel was inaugurated in 1525, which was demolished in 1828. A third chapel was built at the end of the 19th century. The following photographs show the inside and outside of this third chapel at Lirey.
In 1353, the chapel was supervised by a small group of canons, the collegiate, who lived nearby. In the following photo, on the right, is the site where the collegiate building was located (the chapel, not visible, is on the left). Notice the black small tower. It probably dates back to the 16th century. It houses pigeons that were probably used for communication.
The castle (or maison forte) of Geoffroy de Charny was further back on a small slightly elevated piece of land encircled by a protective trench filled with water. The trench is still visible today and water is still keeping the visitors away. The collegiate and the castle no longer exist and their pieces of land are now private. Thanks to Alain Hourseau who made the appropriate arrangements to access the site where the castle used to be located. The following photos show the trench filled with water and the castle site filled with trees.
The Shroud of Besançon was as popular as the Shroud of Turin for almost three centuries. It disappeared in 1794 during the French Revolution.
The 18th century manuscript 826 from the archives of the Bibliothèque de Besançon contains two dissertations, one for its authenticity and one against it. The dissertation for its authenticity has a proof of the origin of the Shroud of Besançon from Constantinople, but not only that proof has been critised by many researchers, its use to prove an historical route for the Turin Shroud, based on Othon de la Roche, is shown to be highly doubtful. Indeed, this dissertation, and its proof, was cited numerous times by scholars and historians of the Shroud of Turin.
This newly published book presents a complete transcription of both dissertations. The transcription of the first dissertation, for the authenticity, is new because this dissertation was never published before. A French description, from the back cover, is given below. An electronic version of this book (for phones, tablets, computers) is also available.
You can order this book in Europe from
You can order this book in North America from
Le Saint Suaire de Besançon fut très populaire pendant près de trois siècles, attirant des foules considérables dès ses premières ostensions au 16e siècle. Sa popularité est si grande qu'en 1705 le roi Louis XIV ordonne la suspension des ostensions pour éviter que les soldats allemands s'emparent de la ville en se dissimulant parmi les dizaines de milliers de pèlerins étrangers.
Le Suaire de Besançon disparaît en 1794 lors de la Révolution française, mais il subsiste de nombreux anciens manuscrits et publications le décrivant. Le manuscrit 826 du 18e siècle des archives de la bibliothèque de Besançon est composé de deux dissertations distinctes qui poursuivent des objectifs diamétralement opposés, la première plaidant en faveur de l'authenticité du Suaire de Besançon et la seconde soutenant le contraire.
Ce livre présente une transcription inédite de la première dissertation et une version modernisée de la seconde dissertation publiée en 1831, accompagnée de commentaires.
Les auteurs de ces dissertations comparent le Suaire de Besançon avec le Suaire de Turin, parfois pour déterminer lequel serait authentique. Le lecteur pourra juger de la pertinence de ces comparaisons et mieux découvrir ces deux Suaires. Il découvrira aussi des éléments modernes de la seconde dissertation et en particulier qu'un suaire authentique est plus crédible s'il produit une image tridimensionnelle, une remarque très pertinente au regard des développements scientifiques modernes sur le Suaire de Turin.
Quelle est l'origine du Suaire de Besançon? Était-il aussi populaire que le Suaire de Turin? Est-ce que l'Histoire de ce Suaire a été combinée à celle du Suaire de Turin? Le chevalier Othon de la Roche est-il réellement à l'origine du Suaire de Besançon ou peut-être est-il plutôt à l'origine de celui de Turin? Voilà quelques-unes des questions fascinantes abordées dans ce livre.
L'auteur est chercheur en informatique et bioinformatique dans un centre de recherche de la Silicon Valley. Il a un doctorat en informatique-mathématiques de l'Université de Montréal et a publié de nombreux articles scientifiques en informatique, bioinformatique et mathématiques appliquées. Il est aussi l'éditeur du site web sindonology.org sur le Suaire de Turin. Il est l'heureux père de deux charmantes filles.