The History


The Gospel stories of Jesus’ burial are the first documents that refer to the Holy Shroud.
We do not possess precise information as to what happened after that. However, we do have enough evidence that from the first centuries following the resurrection of Jesus, his funeral cloths, including the Shroud, had been carefully preserved and venerated by the Christians. According to a legend, the Shroud was sent to Abgar, King of Edess, by Jesus Himself, with a miraculous impression of his own face on it.  Some scholars believe that it could be the Shroud, today preserved in Turin, which in those days was exposed to the public folded into eight parts so as to show only the face and hide the rest of the body. It was called the Mandylion. In the 10th century the Mandylion was transferred to Constantinople (which, being the capital of the Byzantine Empire was the largest and richest city in Europe and the Middle East).

In 1204 the Crusaders sacked Constantinople and stole all the valuables stored in it, problably including the Shroud. It is likely that the Shroud was stolen by a Frenchman because a letter written by an aristocrat in 1205 informs us that the Shroud, which had previously been grabbed by the French, had been taken to Athens.

A century passed, and finally we had more news concerning the Holy Shroud. We know that around 1350, the French knight Geoffroy de Charny built a church in Lirey (a small town, not far from Paris) to preserve and expose the Shroud to the worshippers. We do not know how he came to possess the Holy Shroud, but we know that an ancestor of his second wife participated in the Fourth Crusade and this is indeed an interesting clue.

In the mid-800s a bronze medallion was found on the Seine riverbed. It is likely that it belonged to a pilgrim who was taking it home as a souvenir of his visit to Lirey (probably between 1350-1360), in order to venerate the Holy Shroud. The medallion reproduces the double-impression of the Shroud, the herringbone cloth, and the coat of arms of the Charny family. This stands as the first certain testimony to the existence of pilgrimages to the Shroud in Europe.

During the first half of 400, due to the intensification of the Hundred Years’ War, Marguerite de Charny withdrew from the Church of Lirey the Shroud (1418) and took it with her in his travels through Europe. At last she was welcomed at the court of the dukes of Savoy, which had been linked to both her father and her dead second husband, Umbert de La Roche. It was in that period that occurred in 1453, the transfer of the Shroud to the Savoy as part of a series of legislative acts between the Duke Ludovico and Marguerite.

The Shroud remained a property of the Savoys until 1983, when the last king of Italy, Humbert II, finally donated it to the Pope before his death.


Holy Shroud. The History