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Holy Mandylion – Acheiropoietos Jesus Images in Constantinople I – V



Acheiropoietos Jesus Images in Constantinople. An icon of Jesus’s face on a cloth. The Documentary Evidence *** No. 1 – 5


Numerous documents describe in important detail the presence in Constantinople of an icon of Jesus’s face on a cloth which in the year 944 had come from the city of Edessa, modern Urfa in southern Turkey. This icon, known also as the Mandylion,1 was said to be miraculously imprinted, a likeness not made by human hands, or acheiropoietos. In this chapter I have selected sixteen of these documents for close scrutiny. The documents span the period 944 to 1247. Four of the earliest documents, datable from 944 to 960, refer to the Mandylion alone. Six others, those dating from 1150, 1200, 1201, 1203, 1207, and 1247 also assert the presence in Constantinople of Christ’s burial wrapping, or portions thereof, along with the Mandylion. Six different documents from 958, c. 1095, 1157, 1171, 1205, and 1207, attest the burial wrappings but not the face cloth (Mandylion).

the Holy Mandelion icon the face of jesus Christos
The Holy Mandelion

The emphasis upon a singular imaged cloth icon considered to be the actual burial wrapping in this study of acheiropoietos Jesus images is appropriate chiefly because one most important document of 1203, the memoire of Robert of Clari, a knight of Picardy, reported seeing “the burial cloth (sydoines) with the figure of the Lord on it. This text is considered below in  chronological order. In addition, numerous other documents beginning from the period of the Fourth Crusade, 1204, record the transfer of fragments of Christ’s reputed burial linens to various cathedrals in western Europe.2 These include the above-mentioned 1247 document, which is also the only record of the departure of the Edessa icon from Constantinople.3

One difficulty which presents itself to the historian is the great variety of terms used by these medieval sources to designate these two objects, the imaged face cloth and the linen(s) of burial. For the first we get sancta toella, imago Christi Edessena, ektypoma, linteum faciem Christi repraesentans, mantile, soudarion, mandylion, manutergium, sudarium super caput, ekmageion, prosopon, opsis, acheiropoietos, morphe, cheiromaktron tetradiplon, himation, and peplos. Of these, the last three suggest a cloth larger than a mere face-towel-sized icon. For the latter we have sindon, sudarium, linteamina, fasciae, panni, spargana, othonai kai ta soudaria, entaphioi sindones, and Clari’s Sydoines (sing.).4 Most of these latter are plurals, evidencing the likelihood that besides a large shroud icon other auxiliary linens associated with the burial of Jesus were claimed to be present.

A second problem addressed in this paper concerns the time of the arrival in the capital of the reputed burial shroud icon of Christ. Whereas the Mandylion was received in Constantinople with a great celebration (Documents I and III), not a single source records the arrival there of any larger Jesus-icon. It is, however, included in a number of documents, as already noted, and at least once explicitly with a Christ-image on it.

The implication of this is that the Mandylion and the burial wrap icons may prove to be one and the same object. This third and closely related question involves the size and, ultimately, the true nature of the imaged towel of Edessa. It was first mentioned in a 4th c. Syriac text known as the Doctrine of Addai and containing the legend of King Abgar V Ukama. The ailing King Abgar of Edessa (reigned CE 13-50) sent his agent-court painter Hanan to fetch the healer Jesus or at least to make a picture of him. By this version, the Mandylion was an icon, but painted “with choice colors” (the material, whether wood or parchment or cloth, not divulged). This phrase provides only the merest hint of any special quality of the Mandylion. The text makes no claims to any miracle; but both its words and its omissions ingenuously unlatch that door. Abgar was cured by means of the portrait, was converted by Addai, Jesus’ disciple, and Edessa became largely a Christian city. This account, which describes the icon’s coming to Edessa during Christ’s lifetime, must be taken with great care for it was possibly only a legend, albeit one embellished by certain and plausible historical data.5 By all the hard evidence, Christianity did not come to Edessa until the reign of Abgar VIII (CE 177-212) towards the end of the 2nd c. The account in the Edessan Archives of the great flood of 201 includes among the buildings destroyed “the sanctuary of the Christian church.6

In the 6th c. the Greek apocryphal book called the Acts of Thaddeus (=Greek for Addai) retold the Abgar legend with two important alterations. First, the image was heralded as miraculously imprinted on a cloth by Jesus himself (acheiropoietos) but still during his ministry. Second, the cloth is described as much larger than needed for a cheiromaktron or a face-towel. In this version, Abgar’s agent, in Greek named Ananias, could not capture the likeness of the Lord because of its dazzling brilliance, so Jesus compliantly washed his face and wiped off on a cloth which was oddly called a tetradiplon, (“four-doubled” = eight layered). Then, “having imprinted his image on the sindon he gave it to Ananias.”7 The operative word sindon is the N.T. synoptics’ word for large burial shroud. A sindon folded in eight layers, a single exposed panel of which could present a life-sized face, is large indeed. By the 8th c. and later, more and more references present clues pointing to a larger cloth while continuing to ascribe to it a miraculous or acheiropoietos nature. But for all its increasing size, it continued to be regarded as a cloth on which Jesus had wiped only his face, leaving its holy imprint. Its presence in Edessa is further attested in 544 when, according to the historian Evagrius, its miraculous powers saved that city from the siege imposed by King Chosroes of Persia.8

A development of the 10th c., one clearly associated with the Mandylion’s arrival in the capital and its accessibility to new and more sophisticated eyes, was the revelation in the two eyewitness sources produced immediately upon its arrival that the icon also had blood on its face and, surprisingly, that it had a bloodstain where Jesus had been stabbed in the side while on the cross. In light of these data and recalling the term sindon of the Acts of Thaddaeus, we may rephrase this third question: Could the Edessa Mandylion always have been a folded burial shroud icon now assumed in these Constantinopolitan sources to be the real blood-stained burial wrapping of Jesus, whose separate arrival in the capital is nowhere mentioned? This initial awareness of larger size and of blood on the Mandylion is the thrust of my first two documents.9 Although some Byzantine scholars have alleged that the history of the Edessa icon may contribute to the history of the Turin Shroud, my study does not address that issue, but only urges that the Mandylion and that shroud icon referenced in Constantinople until 1247 were one and the same.


On August 15, 944, amidst great celebrations, the Mandylion arrived in Constantinople from Edessa. It was still stretched out against a board and sealed inside its oblong case, the face visible in the circular central opening, as it was subsequently seen by artists who made copies of it.10

The entire cycle of the Mandylion’s legend and history can be found in this first document from Constantinople, the lengthy Narratio de imagine Edessena, written in or shortly after 944 (Weitzmann thinks on the first anniversary of its arrival in the capital), under the auspices of the scholarly future Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus.11 On the day of its arrival, Constantine and his two brothers-in-law, sons of Emperor Romanus Lecapenus, had a private viewing of the icon. The Narratio retells in detail the Abgar legend and relates that Ma’nu, grandson of the now-Christian Abgar V, still in the first century, returned to paganism and that the cloth was kept safe by Christians by being sealed in a niche in the city wall above the Sacred Gate.1 2

In time it was forgotten. The Narratio recounts its miraculous rediscovery and cites Evagrius for its storied protection of Edessa in 544. However one need not accept the story of its being hidden or its defense of the city as literal truth. The Narratio continues with the legend that a lamp, placed in the niche with the cloth centuries earlier, was miraculously still lit, and a tile placed protectively over the cloth now contained an identical miraculous image.1 3

What interests us now is Constantine’s personal description of the image: It was extremely faint, more like a “moist secre¬tion without pigment or the painter’s art.”1 4 Equally curious and increasingly significant in light of Documents III and IV -is a second version of the origin of the Edessa cloth which comes later in this same Narratio and which Constantine says he preferred:

There is another story: . . . When Christ was about to go voluntarily to death . . . sweat dripped from him like drops of blood. Then they say he took this piece of cloth which we see now from one of the disciples and wiped off the drops of sweat on it.1 5

This version would be inexplicable unless we suppose that traces of blood were noticed on the face. Since the Edessa versions of the Abgar story exclude any idea of blood, the Narratio, product of an eyewitness, offers this variation along with the original version.1 6


The Narratio’s account of a nearly imperceptible image is corroborated and embellished by Symeon Magister, writing his Chronographia also in the tenth century and likely also under the influence of Constantine VII. He asserts that while Constantine could see the faint image in its details (eyes and ears: ophthαlmoύς κaι oτα) his two brothers in law and rivals for the throne could barely make out an outline.1 7


As recently as 1986 a Rome classicist, G. Zaninotto, turned up in the Vatican Archives a 17-page Greek text (Codex Vaticanus Graecus 511) of a sermon delivered by one Gregory, Archdeacon and referendarius of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, on August 16, 944, the day after the Mandylion’s arrival. As an eyewitness of the events, Gregory again recites the original Abgar legend, and he describes the image as formed by “the perspiration of death on [Jesus’] face.” Then comes the most arresting part: he speaks of the wound in Jesus’ side (πλευρα) and the blood and water found there (haιμα κaι hydor eκεi):

[This image of Christ] was imprinted only by the perspiration of the agony running down the face of the Prince of life as clots of blood drawn by the finger of God. . . . And the portrait . . .has been embellished by the drops from his own side. The two things are full of instruction: blood and water there, and here the perspiration and figure. The realities are equal for they derive from one and the same being. . . . teaching that the perspiration which formed the image and which made the side to bleed were of the same nature that formed the portrait.18

Describing the Edessa cloth, then, Gregory has divulged that it might have contained more than a facial image. Yet, for all this, it is curious that he did not express an iota of surprise at his unanticipated observation of the side wound on a cloth that for centuries hitherto was supposed by all to bear the face only of the Lord. He did not draw the reasonable and obvious conclusion, that the blood-stained Edessa Mandylion might actually be Jesus’ grave cloth.19 In his defense, it had just then arrived from Edessa, and with it had come an old and venerated legend that could not easily be cast aside. It is not a question of actual blood and miraculous images, but of the perception of the people of those centuries.


A letter of the same Constantine VII to encourage his troops campaigning around Tarsus in 958 is the first explicit introduction of the burial shroud icon of Jesus in this context. The letter announced that the Emperor was sending a supply of holy water consecrated by contact with the relics of Christ’s Passion which were then in the capital. No mention is made of the recently acquired Mandylion: as a relic of Jesus’ ministry it would have been out of place among the relics of the Passion. Reference is made, however, to the precious wood [of the cross], the unstained lance, the precious inscription [probably the titulus attached to the cross], the reed which caused miracles, the life giving blood from his side, the venerable tunic, the sacred linens (σπάργαvα), the sindon which God wore, and other symbols of the immaculate Passion.2 0

The term used here for “sacred linens,” spargana, usually means infant’s “swaddling cloths,” but here must mean burial linens, as it does in several other texts. The precise identity of this sindon has been enigmatic, since no mention exists of the arrival in the capital of Jesus’ burial sheet, but it acquires some clarity with Zaninotto’s recovery of Doc. III. Just as in the Gregory Sermon, the words of this text may suggest that the Byzantines could see “blood” from the side of the figure depicted on a cloth.

Document III is strong evidence that the Edessa icon was indeed a larger object, harmonious with the words sindon and tetradiplon of the Acts of Thaddeus, and was seen to be stained red in the correct places. It must thus have been unfolded in Constantinople sometime after its arrival in 944. A possible unfolding is evidenced by the imperial letter of 958 (Doc. IV), where suddenly, without fanfare, Jesus’ sindon is first announced. At the time of its arrival in 944, the status of the Edessa icon must, it seems, be understood as follows: Still enframed or encased as described earlier and as seen by artists, and still generally considered to be the towel of the Abgar narratives, and in the treasury of the Byzantine emperors it was inaccessible to the public (as it had been in Edessa). Its size (larger and folded in eight layers) and nature were not fully known and not often pondered. Certainly its possible identity as Jesus’ bloody burial wrapping was not immediately recognized or, if it was, then by only a few intimates and not generally broadcast. The Byzantines were too much under the spell of the Abgar cycle to have considered the implications of the side-wound. The evidence for this last point is the absence of any hint of a shroud in Gregory’s sermon (Doc. III), though his words hint strongly that he was looking at the entire body on the Edessan cloth. With the Mandylion folded in eight so as to expose only a facial panel, the chest with side wound section might have been available to the view of Gregory, upside-down on the opposite side, without requiring a complete unfolding with consequent recognition.2 1


Von Dobschütz (110**-114**) identified the next important document appended to two codices of the Narratio. He called it the “Liturgical Tractate,” and attributed to it a date around 960. Its importance lies in its description of the rituals and preservation of the imaged cloth while it had been in Edessa. In that city the image had been shown to the public only rarely. On its festival day, a throne was brought forward and on it was placed the revered and acheiropoietos image of Christ and God, draped with a white linen cloth. Four bishops, if they happened to be present, or otherwise four presbyters, elevated the throne, and holding it aloft they came out of the treasure chamber, the archbishop leading the way.

During Holy Week a second exposition occurred.

The archbishop alone entered the room of the icon. He opened the chest (theke) in which it had been kept, and with a wet sponge that had never been used, he would wipe the icon and then dispense among the whole people the drops that could be squeezed out. . . . And since the old chest was encased with shutters, so that it would not be visible to all whenever they wished, on these two days of the week–I mean on Thursday and Saturday–when these shutters, so to speak, were opened up by means of very slender iron rods that were thrust through (these were called “sceptres”), then all the assembled throng gazed upon it; and every person besought with prayers its incomprehensible power. But nobody was allowed to draw near to it, or to touch their lips or eyes to the holy shape. So holy dread increased their faith, and made them shiver with yet more awe in their worship.

This text does not speak to the question of what really lay within the shuttered theke in Edessa, whether a small towel with facial image or a folded larger tetradiplon.2 2

Whatever the chronology of an unfolding and recognition in Constantinople, no significant new information, whether about the Mandylion or the burial shroud, appears again in the capital’s documents for more than a century after 960 (Doc. V). During that time only casual references to one or the other occur. Still we may be sure the cloth or cloths in question remained the property of the Emperors, for subsequent references describe them exactly as previous documents had. Significantly, from 958 on, the burial cloth icon is named in every description of the imperial relic collection.

To be continued …

Daniel C. Scavone

University of Southern Indiana (6/21/96; 4/23/01; 2-25-04; 11-24-04, 12-02-05, 01-03-06, 10-07-2006)

*** This paper owes its origins to the numerous leads provided by British author Ian Wilson. And the debt is immense. Gratitude goes also to Fr. Adam Otterbein (+) the University of Southern Indiana, and the scholars, those who generously read early drafts of this paper, and those on whose shoulders I now stand.

. .


1 Robert Drews, In Search of the Shroud of Turin (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Allanheld 1984) 39, noted that the word „Mandylion“ first appeared in 990 in a biography of the ascetic Paul of Mt. Latros, who was granted a miraculous vision of „the icon of Christ not made by hands, which is commonly [sýnethes] called the holy Mandylion.“ Synethes, however, suggests earlier occasions of the word. This paper is heavily indebted to Ernst von Dobschütz, Christusbilder, Untersuchungen zur christlichen Legende (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung 1899). This priceless study was paginated as three volumes in one: 1-294; 1*-335*; and 1**-355**.

2 Paul Edouard Didier Riant, Exuviae sacrae constantinopolitanae, 2 vols. (Geneva: Sociètè de l’orient latin 1878). See also Riant, Dépouilles religieuses enlevés a Constantinople au XIIIe siècle par les latins et documents historiques nés de leur transport en occident (Paris: Sociètè Nationale des antiquaires de France 1875). Jean Ebersolt, Sanctuaires de Byzance: recherches sur les anciens trésors des eglises de Constantinople (Paris: Editions Ernst Leroux 1921).

3 See especially Riant, Exuviae (above, n. 2) II.133 35.

4 Many of these terms will be found in their appropriate contexts in the notes to this paper. The list is not exhaustive. See von Dobschütz (n. 1) 248** for a litany of the terms used to describe the Mandylion. Also see Drews (n. 1) 38f.

5 George Howard, tr. from Syriac, The Teaching of Addai (Chico, CA: Scholars Press 1981) 3-13. L.-J. Tixeront, L’Église d’Édesse et la Légende d’Abgar (Paris: Maisonneuve et Ch. Leclercs 1888), 81-103, discussed the scholarly arguments about the dates of this work and placed it in the early 4th c. Eusebius says three times that he translated the Abgar legend from Syriac originals in the archives of Edessa and twice that he cited word for word (pros lexin). Tixeront concluded that this was the document that Eusebius translated but lightly retouched and interpolated, possibly in light of the main ideas of the Council of Nicaea 325. Eusebius (H.E. I. 13. 1-22) describes only a letter sent by Jesus to Abgar, but no portrait, miraculous or otherwise. Eusebius (c. 260-340) was an early opponent of images, and he may have omitted that element if it was present in the Edessan archive he consulted. He also changed Addai to Thaddeus. Cyril Mango, The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312-1453. (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall 1972) gives Eusebius’s Letter to Constantia (sister of Constantine the Great) 16-18, which manifests the bishop’s iconoclastic position. The same 4th c. attitude to images is seen in the letters of Epiphanius of Salamis to Emperor Theodosius and to John, Bishop of Aelia on the imaged curtain in the Anablatha (Jerusalem) church in Mango 41-43.

6 On the question of Christianity’s establishment in Edessa, see J. B. Segal, Edessa, „The Blessed City“ (Oxford: Clarendon 1970) and his bibliography. See Steven Runciman, „Some Remarks on the Image of Edessa,“ Cambridge Historical Journal, III. 1929-1931, 238-252 and Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1971) Ch. 1. For the archival Chronicle of Edessa, L. Hallier, Untersuchungen über die Edessensiche Chronik, 48-53 and 84-91. The account of the great flood of 201 in Edessa includes among the buildings destroyed „the sanctuary of the Christian church. See also Terence Towers, „The Holy Face of Edessa,“ The Downside Review, 90 (1972).

7 Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., „Acts of the Holy Apostle Thaddaeus, One of the Twelve,“ in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII (New York: Scribners 1899) 558, esp. n. 4. Greek in von Dobschtz (n. 1) 182*: καὶ ἐπεδόθη αὐτᾡ τετράδιπλov, καὶ vιψάμεvoς ἀπεμάξατo τὴv ὂψιv αὐτoΰ. ἐvτυπωθείσης δέ της εἰκόvoς αὐτoΰ έv τῇ σιvδόvι ἐπέδωκεv τᾡ Ἀvαvίᾳ . . .

8 Evagrius, HE 4.27 in von Dobschütz (supra, n. 1) 68** and 70**, introduces the image during the siege in 544. See too Robert Drews (n. 1), ch. 5. This text effectively counters the position of Averil Cameron (infra, n. 9) based on Procopius.

9 See n. 14 below. That Mandylion and burial wrapping may be one and the same, has been well-argued by Ian Wilson, The Turin Shroud (London: Victor Gollancz, Ltd. 1978) and others. This position is strenuously opposed by Averil Cameron, The Sceptic and the Shroud (London: King’s College Inaugural Lecture monograph 1980). The thrust of Cameron’s case is the failure of Procopius to mention the Edessa image in the 6th c., though he devoted much space to the reputed letters exchanged between Jesus and Abgar and elsewhere accepts the possibility of miraculous interventions. In view of the copious literature on the image, Procopius might be the only 6th c. writer who was oblivious of it. Note that c. 1330 Nicephorus Callistus, Eccles. Hist. XVII.16, in J.-P. Migne, PG, Vol. 147, cols. 259 [Latin] and 260 [Greek] asserted, though without a specific citation, that: Insuper etiam Procopius memorat ea quae a veteribus quoque de effigie Christi memoriae sunt prodita, quae Abgaro Edesse principi est missa. From this we may conclude either that these lines of Procopius have been lost or, more likely, that for the earlier events in Edessa, precisely the acquisition of letters and portrait (both parts of the same story), Procopius must have used the Hist. Eccles. of early iconoclast Eusebius, which omits any reference to the portrait. Cameron further assumes that a natural and ordinary picture of Christ introduced into the literature in an extremely credulous period of history was later embellished by even more credulous minds into a miraculous image. This paper argues that the reverse sequence is more realistic. Cameron has not refuted Wilson but rather has reintroduced the case for a mere painted icon (the Mandylion) as it stood before Wilson’s important revision. Wilson’s stance is strengthened by documents included in the present paper. His own response has appeared in William Meacham, ed., Turin Shroud–Image of Christ?, Proceedings of the Hong Kong Shroud of Turin Symposium, March 3-6, 1986: „The Shroud and the Mandylion: A Reply to Professor Averil Cameron,“ 19-28. Although Wilson has argued that the history of the Edessa icon may contribute to the history of the Turin Shroud, this paper does not address that issue.

10 The manner in which the Mandylion was encased is verified by pictorial examples from the 10th to the 13th centuries. In a wide case the apparently disembodied face was visible behind a circular (nimbus-like) central opening, flanked by decorative panels on either side. Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday 1986) color plate 28; also Werner Bulst and Heinrich Pfeiffer, Das Turiner Grabtuch und das Christusbild (Frankfurt am Main: Knecht 1987) illustrations 118, 119, 121, and 122.

11 Kurt Weitzmann, „The Mandylion and Constantine Porphyrogennetos,“ Cahiers Archéologiques XI, 1960, 163-184, p. 183-184.

12 Evagrius (n. 8) omitted any miraculous rediscovery. A „hidden-away period“ could be argued from–and explains–the significant list of writers in and about Edessa who did not mention the icon. The list includes the 4th c. Spanish pilgrim Egeria and several 4th and 5th century Edessan chroniclers and bishops. Or, as Drews (n. 1, 62-68) thinks, an icon thought at the time to have been man-made and thus not noticed by Edessa sources, achieved prominence in the siege of 544 when by its power–as the Edessenes believed–their city was saved.

13 For a learned treatment of the history of Edessa in the first six centuries, see Segal, Edessa, „The Blessed City“ (n. 6).

14 Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Narratio de imagine Edessena in von Dobschütz (n. 1) 41**: . . . τὴv δὲ αἰτίαv τoῦ πῶς ἐξ ἰκμάδoς ὑγρᾶς δίχα χρωμάτωv καὶ τέχvης τῆς γραφικῆς ἐvαπεμoρφώθη τὸ τoῦ πρoσώπoυ εἶδoς ἐv τῷ ἐκ λίvoυ ὑφάσματι. English translation in Wilson (n. 9) 235 51.

15 von Dobschütz 53**: λέγεται δέ τις καὶ ἕτερoς περὶ τoύτoυ λόγoς . . . ἐv τᾡ μέλλειv, φασί, τὸv Χριστὸv ἐπὶ τὸ ἑκoύσιov πάθoς ἐλθεῖv . . . , ὃτε καὶ τoὺς ἱδρῶτας αὐτoῦ ὡσεὶ θρόμβoυς σταλάσσειv αἳματoς ὁ τoῦ εὐαγγελίoυ λόγoς ὑπoσημαίvεται, τηvικαῦτα, φησίv, ἀπό τιvoς τῶv μαθητῶv λαβόvτα τὸ vῦv βλεπόμεvov τoῦτo τεμάχιov τoῦ ὑφάσματoς τὰς τῶv ἱδρώτωv λιβάδας ἐv αὐτῷ ἀπoμάξασθαι καὶ εὐθέως ἐvτυπωθήvαι τὴv ὁρωμέvειv ταύτηv τoῦ θεoειδoῦς ἐκίvoυ εκτύπωσιv.

16 I have omitted from the documents under consideration the Menologion or „Monthly Lection“ for August 16, which von Dobschütz (38**-84**, even numbered pages) gives as a text parallel and nearly identical with the Narratio (39**-85**, odd pages). Drews remarks that it was composed by imperial scholars soon after the Mandylion’s arrival in Constantinople for reading in 945. It should be noted that the Menologion contains a second use of tetradiplon: „There was given to [Jesus] a piece of cloth folded four times [rakos tetradiplon]. And after washing, he imprinted on it his undefiled and divine face.“ See von Dobschütz 48**. par. 5. Drews (n. 1) 40. I have also omitted many documents or passages that merely mention or repeat the Abgar legend.

17 Symeon Magister Metaphrastes, Chronographia. 52 in I. Bekker, ed., Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae (CSHB) (Bonn: Ed. Weber 1838) 750: καὶ γὰρ πρὸ ὀλίγωv ἡμερῶv τoύτωv, πάvτῶv καθιστoρoύvτωv τὸv ἄχραvτov χαρακτῆρα ἐv τῷ ἁγίῳ ἐκμαγείῳ τoῦ υἱoῦ τoῦ θεoῦ, ἕλεγov oἱ υἱoὶ τoῦ βασιλέως μὴ βλέπειv τι ἢ πρόσωπov μόvov, ὁ δε γαμβρὸς Κωvσταvτίvoς. ἒλεγεv βλέπειv ὀφθαλμoὺς καὶ ὤτα. It is intriguing to note that the elements of the two versions of the Abgar legend in the Narratio combined with Symeon’s remarks quite accurately describe the facial image on the famous Turin Shroud: apparent absence of artist’s colors, faintness of image, traces of blood. Symeon thus supports the similarity in appearance between the Edessa image and the face of the figure on the Turin Shroud. Ian Wilson (n. 9) has impressively urged the thesis that the face seen on the Mandylion was in fact the facial portion of the Shroud in Torino, Italy, whose folded remainder was hidden by being enclosed in an elaborate frame. The present study does not otherwise address Wilson’s thesis.
The comments of the Continuator of Theophanes (ca. 950-970) are not included among the documents, since they only sketch what Symeon has in more detail. B. G. Niebuhr, ed., CSHB (Bonn: Ed. Weber 1838) VI. 48, p. 432 τoῦ δὲ ἁγίoυ ἐκμαγείoυ ἤτoι μαvδηλίoυ. Von Dobschütz (n. 1) 127**ff omits ἤτoι μαvδηλίoυ.

18 Translation drawn from that of A. M. Dubarle, personal correspondance. Translation of the entire document is forthcoming.

19 Werner Bulst and Heinrich Pfeiffer (n. 10) 134. The surprising recognition in the „Gregory Sermon“ that the Mandylion was larger than a small face towel helps make sense of the word used by John Damascene in de fide orthodoxa IV.16 (von Dobschütz, n. 1, 189*) for the Mandylion: Seeing the inability of Abgar’s agent to capture the brilliance of his face, the Lord wiped his face and left his image on the Hanan’s himation. Thus already about 750 the Mandylion was known in some circles as a large garment-sized cloth, about two yards by three yards in size. Von Dobschütz (supra n. 1) 217* also cites Leon Diaconos (d. 992), whose version of the Abgar legend calls the Mandylion a Peplos. See also the discussion of Document VI and n. 18 below. The Gregory Sermon was noted by François Halkin, Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca (Bruxelles: Sociètè des Bollandistes 1957) Vol. 3, 111f and before that by von Dobschütz (n. 1), 212*.

20 See A. M. Dubarle, Histoire Ancienne du linceul de Turin jusqu’ au XIII siècle (Paris: O.E.I.L. 1985) 55f. See too Carlo Maria Mazzucchi „La testimonianza piú antica dell’ esistenza di una Sindone a Costantinopoli,“ Aevum, 57 (1983) 227 231, which provides the original Greek of the salient portions of the letter of 958. Though the burial cloths emerge quietly and without fanfare or ceremony in the capital from 958 with no mention of an image, the large or main shroud is described with image in the texts of Mesarites and Clari (Documents XI and XII).

21 See above, n. 10. The manner of displaying the Edessa cloth, in a frame wider than it is tall may have been the result of folding the actual burial wrapping in half three times and sealing it in a frame to remove from view the blood and nakedness of the body. In this form it came to Constantinople where only gradually did the Byzantines become aware that a far greater relic was present, one which derived from the actual (Biblical) burial of Jesus, and not from the Abgar story, a mere apochryphal and anachronistic aetiological legend. Indeed, the fact that the arrival in the capital of the burial wrappings, so prominant in the relic collection, was not heralded by the usual great processions and viewings, seems to support a rather unorthodox discovery.

22 Drews (n. 1) 46, whose translations of Liturgical Tractate passages, I have used, was properly curious about the secrecy in which the icon was kept in Constantinople, where it was carried in procession only once or twice a century. Adopting Wilson’s point of view, he asked, „Is it conceivable that all of this secrecy–the guarded chamber, the shuttered case, the slip-cover embroidered with gold trellis, the cloth itself folded four [should read three] times and packed against a board–was perpetuated because no one knew there was anything of interest on the rest of the cloth?“

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