Alan Whanger - Previously unpublished response to the article When the Shroud of Turin went on display this spring for the first time in 20 years, it made the cover of Time magazine with the blurb "Is this Jesus?
" In BAR, we summarized the controversy that has enshrouded this relic, venerated for centuries as the burial cloth of Jesus ("Remains to Be Seen," Strata, Julyl August 1998, p 13).
And stealing and forgery were both part of the business.
It was also a time when the material remains of Jesus' Passion were very much in vogue, when St. Chapelle solely to enshrine the Crown of Thorns (which had recently been stolen from Constantinopole).
The most characteristic form of acheiropoietos, however, is the holy cloth. Veronica stepped forward to wipe the sweat from Jesus' brow as he stumbled toward Calvary, and her towel already transformed into a relic through that holy contact miraculously retained the image of Jesus' face.
Known as Veronica's Veil, the relic became one of the most famous acheiropoietai of the Middle Ages.* Another such cloth image (also generated by perspiration) was produced on the night of the betrayal, as Jesus prayed intently at Gethsemane.
This relic (the column) appears for the first time in fifth-century historical sources, which describe its location in the Church of Holy Sion; but it is only in the sixth century that pilgrims began to see the image of Jesus' hands and chest impressed into its stone surface, left there, presumably, as Jesus was bound in place for the flagellation.
A contemporary model will help us understand this culture in which the blood and gore of Jesus' death carried intense spiritual power.
Although Emperor Constantine outlawed crucifixion in 315 AD, the practice as a form of piety-was never com-pletely abandoned.
"It doesn't look like any known work of art," they say.
The implication is that its creation was somehow miraculous, perhaps caused by a sudden burst of cosmic energy as the cloth came into contact with the dead body of Jesus.