March 29, 2010

The Shroud, again

This spring marks a major milestone for those interested in the Shroud of Turin, in fact the ancient linen cloth—which, as everybody knows, is believed by many to be the winding cloth that covered the body of Jesus of Nazareth after his crucifixion—will be exhibited to the public for the first time in ten years from April 10th through May 23rd. This is an exceptional opportunity, since traditionally a public display of the Shroud occurs only once every 25 years.

Apart from the meaning of the event for “true believers,” however, as the Independent puts it, “In the age of Dan Brown and Da Vinci-mania the story of the Shroud is also the perfect potboiler, with something for everyone—including amused sceptics who’ll appreciate its cameos from the Knights Templar and even the Renaissance man himself.” But in this respect a great change has occurred since last year, when a new book was published, The Templars: The Secret History Revealed, by Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives. The Vatican’s medieval specialist, in fact, brought to light a document in which Arnaut Sabbatier, a young Frenchman who entered the order of the Knights of the Temple in 1287, testified that as part of his initiation he was taken to “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access”. There he was shown “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times—the Knights Templar, as it is well-known, had been accused of worshipping idols, in particular a “bearded figure,” called Baphomet, well, now we know, says Frale, that in reality the object they had secretly venerated was the Shroud!

Yet another reason why this whole affair shouldn’t be underestimated.

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