Shroud of Turin History

Shroud History Timeline

The most important fact to know about the history of the Shroud is that there are two timelines: The first is before 1356 —based on circumstantial evidence, legend, art, and coins. The second is after 1356, when the Shroud's trail is documented and accepted by historians.

A Reconstruction of the Shroud’s Trail Before 1356:

Early First Century - Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Empire. Legend and folklore speak of a mysterious cloth with healing power, bearing an image of Jesus that arrived in Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey) circa First Century AD. The Apostle Jude Thaddeus, one of the original Apostles of Jesus Christ, is associated with bringing the cloth from Jerusalem to Edessa.  

Early Second Century - Christian persecutions in the Second century were supposedly the reason why the cloth was hidden inside the fortified wall surrounding the city of Edessa.

525 A.D. - After a severe flood destroyed most of Edessa, the cloth was rediscovered when the walls —where the cloth had been hidden for over 400 years —were being rebuilt. The cloth became known as "The Image of Edessa" and later was called “The True Likeness of Christ not made by human hands.” All Orthodox icons of Jesus and Byzantine coins dramatically change to conform to the True Likeness featuring long hair, full beard, large eyes, and flattened nose—all stylistically similar to the Shroud image. 

944 A.D. - The Byzantine Imperial Army invaded Edessa for the express reason of retrieving the cloth from the city which had fallen to Islam. It was taken to Constantinople (now Istanbul) and presented to the Emperor. 

1204 A.D.- Constantinople was invaded by the Fourth Crusade, and the revered cloth disappeared. Some historians believe, and 2009 Vatican research supports long-time rumors that the Shroud was held in secret possession by the Knights Templar before 1356 when the cloth was displayed in France.

Note: There is a significant piece of physical evidence that a burial cloth with an image resembling the man depicted on the Shroud was in Constantinople prior to 1204 A.D. (Before supposedly being stolen by the French during the Fourth Crusade.) This “proof” is known as the Pray Codex or Hungarian Pray Manuscript, a collection of medieval manuscripts with images dated to the late 12th to early 13th centuries.
The Codex resides today in the National Széchényi Library of Budapest.  (See more explanation and illustration below.)

Documented History Begins

1356 A.D. - Geoffrey DeCharney first exhibited the Shroud in Lirey, France. Evidence indicates that members of DeChaney’s ancestral family were also leaders within the Knights Templar organization. For a detailed history of the Shroud by century,  use the following Century Navigator to skip directly to the era of Shroud history you wish to read about or you may scroll through the page in the usual manner. The Century Navigator links will take you to the first event in the list for the specific century you selected. You can always return to this navigator by using your browser's "back" button. A duplicate of this navigator also appears at the end of the history. Courtesy of Shroud.com

Highlights of the Shroud’s Documented History That Today Impacts the Shroud of Turin:

December 4, 1532: The Shroud is folded in 48 layers inside a silver reliquary in Sainte Chapelle, Chambéry, France. A fire breaks out, and drops of molten silver burn through the cloth’s outer folded edges. Miraculously the entire cloth was not destroyed, but the burning silver drops left those distinctive linear markings that line both sides of the Shroud image that we see today. Here are first-hand accounts of the fire from a report of the Chambery nuns dated 1534.

April 16, 1534: Chambéry's nuns repair the Shroud’s fire damage. The nuns sew the Shroud to a backing cloth and sew patches over the most unsightly damaged areas. With repairs completed in May 1534, the Shroud is returned to the Savoys' castle in Chambéry, France, owners of the Shroud. 

Note: The royal Savoy family owned the Shroud from 1450 to 1982 until the former King of Italy, Humberto II passed away and willed the Shroud to the current living Pope.

September 14, 1578: The Shroud arrives in Turin, heralded by a gun salute from the local artillery. The cloth has remained since that time and why it is called the Shroud of Turin.

Second World War 1939 – 1946: On April 8, 2010, the day before the Shroud was going on rare public display, it was revealed and widely reported that in 1939, the Shroud was secretly moved from Turin to Montevergine Abbey in southern Italy. Reportedly, the Shroud needed to be hidden from Hitler. It remained there until 1946 when the Shroud was quietly returned to Turin. Documents found at the Abbey confirmed that the Shroud was “hidden under the altar of a small chapel” with only a select number of authorities knowing that the Shroud had even been moved from Turin.

April 11-12 1997: A destructive fire breaks out in Turin's Guarini Chapel, quickly threatening the Shroud housed in a bulletproof display case. Fireman Mario Trematore uses a sledgehammer to break open the case and rescue the Shroud.  Later, arson is determined to be the cause, but the Shroud is found to be unaffected by the fire. 

April 19 - June 24, 2015: The Shroud’s last public display. A history of the most recent Shroud public exhibitions, starting in 1898, is found here.

2025: Next Shroud public exhibition? Shroud exhibition dates are set by the Pope. There is speculation that the next one will be in 2025. Watch this "official" Holy Shroud site for confirmation and tickets. (Google will translate this Italian site into English.) 

More Explanation of Hungarian Pray Manuscript or Pray Codex: Constantinople between 944 A.D. and 1204 A.D.

Here is more detail about the physical evidence known as the Hungarian Pray Manuscript or Pray Codex that historians believe proves that the Shroud was in Constantinople between 944 A.D. and 1204 A.D.  The codex was written between 1192 and 1195. One illustration in the manuscript shows Jesus being placed on a burial shroud. In another panel, he is wrapped in his burial shroud. The top panel shows a naked body, as we see on the Shroud and Jesus, with hands folded over his pelvis, showing only four fingers and no thumbs--also consistent with the Shroud. 

The second panel shows a long narrow burial cloth--same as the Shroud--with the identical pattern of burn holes found on the shroud. The artist has also drawn the very unusual three-hop herringbone weave like that of the Shroud of Turin. 

Given these distinctive markings, there is no question the Pray Codex from 1192 depicts the same cloth that is in Turin today.  If the Shroud of Turin can be clearly linked to the one that disappeared in 1204, this is the smoking gun that provides a definitive link and clearly falsifies the questionable 1988 carbon-14 dating that found the Shroud dates from 1260 at the earliest.

Earlier evidence indicates this same cloth arrived in Constantinople in 944 when it was retrieved by force from Edessa, a city in current day Southern Turkey which had fallen to Islam.  

Hungarian Pray Manuscript illustration showing Shroud circa 1192, important because the 1988 carbon-14 tests dated the Shroud between 1260 -1390.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT SHROUD HISTORY: Always remember that the Shroud's mysterious photo-negative properties seen below, were not discovered until 1898 when the new technology of photography was applied to the Shroud.

The full Shroud of Turin as it appears on a photographic negative, vertical orientation. The man’s image is seen at the bottom half of the cloth with his full back side at the top half. The images reflecting how the cloth would have wrapped a dead body.

Aside from its history, the Shroud poses a profound either-or proposition:

The Shroud is either the authentic burial cloth that wrapped Jesus in the tomb or it is the work of an artist. Yet there is no evidence of the cloth being produced through a deliberate artistic effort.

Historian John Walsh described the dichotomy this way:

“The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Jesus Christ in existence or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever products of the human mind and hand on record.  It is one or the other, there is no middle ground.”

A Sign From God Foundation Inc., we characterize it a little differently and perhaps  more to the point:

The Shroud of Turin is either the greatest hoax ever perpetrated...

or

...it is a deliberate and purposeful sign from God.

The Shroud asks us all the same question Jesus asked Peter:

“Who do you say that I am?”

The mission and purpose of The Sign from God Foundation is to explore the meaning of this question as it relates to the Shroud, Jesus, and you.  

                                                                     A sepia version of the face of the Man of the Shroud

Shroud Photographs ©1978 Barrie M. Schwortz Collection, STERA, Inc.


Sign From God