by Pete Remmert
The Shroud of Turin is widely believed to be the actual cloth that covered the body of Jesus Christ in the tomb. It is mysteriously imprinted with the front and back image of the body of a man who has been cruelly beaten and crucified, and contains bloodstains corresponding to the wounds of scourging and crucifixion.
I first became aware of the Shroud in 1975 when I saw a picture of the Shroud’s facial image included in a newspaper article about the famous relic. From that moment on, I have studied the Shroud and have become a staunch advocate for the acceptance of its authenticity as the true burial cloth of Our Lord. Because of my devotion to the Shroud, I have given presentations on it throughout the country.
Early in 1978 it was announced that the Shroud was to be placed on public display in Turin, Italy for the first time in nearly 45 years. My wife, a life-long Catholic, strongly encouraged me to make the trip to Italy to see the Shroud first-hand. I believe that she sensed that this experience would become a life-changing event for me, which it did. I was not a Catholic at the time, but that would soon change.
When I stepped onto the viewing platform to examine the Shroud I was overwhelmed with emotion because the image of (the man I believe is) Our Crucified Lord is powerful beyond words. It has the power to be an instrument of conversion, and I say that from personal experience. I went to Turin as a Protestant, but returned with the conviction that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded and guided and sustained by Jesus Christ.
A brief history
At the time of Jesus, King Abgar V was the ruler of a powerful city-state called Edessa (modern-day Urfa, Turkey). According to an ancient legend, Abgar became gravely ill with leprosy. He had heard of the healing miracles of Jesus, and he sent a letter to Jesus inviting Him to come to Edessa, hoping for a healing. However, by the time the letter reached Jerusalem, Jesus had already been crucified. St. Jude Thaddeus reportedly took the Shroud to Edessa for the king to venerate. Not only was the king healed after seeing the image of Christ on the cloth, he was converted to the new Faith. Today, we often see statues and pictures of St. Jude holding a medallion of the Face of Jesus.
It is believed that, at that time, the Shroud was folded and framed in such a way as to be able to see only the image of the Face on the cloth. The Shroud was then known as the Image of Edessa and later became known as the Mandylion. It remained in Edessa until the year 944 when it was taken to Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey).
Constantinople was sacked by the Knights Templar in 1204, and the Shroud was one of the spoils of war. The Knights took it with them to France (after a brief detour through Athens, Greece). The Shroud came into the possession of the Italian royal family in 1453, and it was moved to its permanent home in Turin, Italy in 1578. In 1983, the Shroud came under the ownership of the Catholic Church, in accord with the will of Umberto II, the last of the Italian kings. Today, the Shroud resides locked away in a chapel of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, and is shown only rarely to the public. Exhibitions of the Shroud also occurred in 1998, 2000, and 2010. The next scheduled public exhibition will be in the year 2025.
In one of historian Ian Wilson’s several books on the Shroud, he suggests that the story of the Veronica Veil (face of Christ imprinted on woman’s veil, after He wiped His face on it en route to Calvary) is actually a legend that originated with the facial image on the Shroud. Its viewers ostensibly came up with a compelling story as to how the image of the Holy Face came to appear on the cloth, not knowing that what they were looking at was actually a burial cloth. In their culture a burial cloth would have been considered “unclean”, thus it was folded to conceal its true identity.
To support his theory, Wilson points out the Latin and Greek origins of the name “Veronica” being “vera” (Latin for “true”) and “icon” (Greek for “likeness”). Therefore, according to Wilson’s theory, Veronica may not have been an actual historical person, but rather a personification of the words “vera icon“, meaning “true likeness”. Fact or fiction? We may never know, but the Wilson theory is intriguing, nonetheless.
During the 2010 exhibition, my wife and I co-directed a pilgrimage to Turin in conjunction with the Pilgrim Center of Hope (a San Antonio-based Catholic ministry). One of our pilgrims was inspired with the idea that San Antonio would be an ideal location for a permanent exhibit dedicated to the understanding of the Shroud and what it teaches about Our Lord’s suffering. Plans are currently underway to bring the exhibit to San Antonio under the auspices of The Pilgrim Center of Hope. The exhibit – called “Who is the Man of the Shroud?” – will feature a life-size replica of the Shroud, a bronze statue of the man of the Shroud in repose, 3-D renderings of the images, and much more. I ask your prayers for this project so that many others will come to an understanding and appreciation for the Passion of Christ!