The standard historical record of the Shroud – broadly endorsed by carbon-dating – traces its first appearance back to the 1350s in rural France, when a knight called Geoffrey de Charny put it on display in his local church. “And we have a description of a cloth, that sounds very like the Shroud, that had been seen before that in Constantinople, described as the burial cloth of Jesus, that then goes missing and is never heard of again.” So, de Wesselow’s theory is that it was taken to France by the Crusaders as looted bounty.
But what were the origins of the cloth in Constantinople?
It is an intriguing theory, with plenty of circumstantial evidence in those 100 pages of notes, and even mention of possible sightings back in the mid-sixth century, but nothing more precise.
At the risk of sounding like an accountant, that leaves us 500 years short of first century Jerusalem.
De Wesselow dismisses those tests as “fatally flawed”.
“I am an art historian,” he responds calmly, “not a theologian, so I can approach the problem from a new angle.” It feels like we’ve reached a moment for laying our cards on the table before we start examining the details of his theory.
The exact nature of the Resurrection troubles me, as it does many Christians.
This brings us to the oddly named “Holy Mandylion” (man-dill-e-on), a long lost relic in Eastern Christianity, said to be the imprint of Jesus’s face.
“The Mandylion was brought to Constantinople in 944,” says de Wesselow. It was an object of fascination, said not to be made of paint but of blood, and described as a landscape shape, rather than a portrait.” The legend of the Mandylion is also given a reworking by de Wesselow.