The Templars, The Shroud,
The Veil and the Mandylion
Article © 1999 Chev. John Ritchie KGOT.
From research material collected by the Late Chevalier Jamie E. Craik of Assington K.G.C.T. 1959.
In 944 AD a Byzantine army besieged Moslem occupied Edessa. The Christian general offered the city's Moslem Emir a huge sum of money, the freeing of 200 Moslem captives and the promise of perpetual immunity for just one thing... the Mandylion. After considerable haggling the Emir agreed and so the Mandylion was taken to Constantinople where it remained for two and a half centuries as the most sacred object in the imperial collection of relics. At Constantinople it was kept in strict seclusion with no public expositions and was seen only occasionally by monastic -artists, monks who were regarded as good enough and received the privilege of reproducing the holy relic as a new icon copy, this was done under conditions of great secrecy. These copies passed into the Orthodox Church and became the standard icons of Christ, both in Greece and later Russian Orthodox Church. A few garbled 12th century accounts speak of the full length image of Jesus on the Mandylion, and it said that someone at that time may have undone the Trellis work mounting and unfolded the Mandylion, this would explain the sudden new references to a shroud in the Imperial collection.
On the 12th of April 1204 AD the Fourth Crusade captured and looted Constantinople and in the confusion the Mandylion disappears, the sacking is described by Gunther of Paris, for three days the pillaging raged.
Then on the 16th of April Count Baldwin of Flanders was crowned the first Latin Emperor in the Cathedral of St. Sophia. Andre Grabar, the internationally famous Byzantine art historian, states, that it is uncertain what happened to it. Icons in Rome and Genoa have claimed to be the original Mandylion, but are undoubtedly later copies.
Sir Steven Runciman, the distinguished Art historian, favoured a "Sanctum Toellam" which was preserved in St.Louis' Sainte Chapelle, Paris, until the French Revolution when it was destroyed by a mob.
This identification also appears unlikely, the reason being that this Toellam attracted no interest in the West, in considerable contrast to the mere memory of the faithful, on tens of thousands of Eastern Orthodox icons right up to the present day.
This would indicate that the Mandylion was so sacred and important that its memory has existed in the East for over a thousand years and its image has been accurately and faithfully copied by countless monk Artists down through the ages.
The Paris Toellam was possibly a copy looted from the Temple in Paris after the arrest of the Templars.
There is then, suggested evidence that the Mandylion and the Shroud are one and the same or are they?, There is a third object entry, the Vale of Veronica, which is also said to be the Mandylion, references to this object abound, there is a very clear and specific carving in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland which depicts this mysterious object.
Is the Veil of Veronica, the Mandylion or are all three the same sacred object.
This is what we hope to decipher. However, some explanation is necessary for the missing century and between the cloths disappearance as the Mandylion from Constantinople in April 1204 AD and its reappearance as the Shroud in the possession of the French family of de Charney during the 1350's. The most likely possessors of the Mandylion would appear to be the Order of the Knights Templar, they were the first troops into Constantinople in1204, they knew of the imperial collection, are were in fact the body guard to Count Baldwin of Flanders, so it would have been very easy for them to obtain the Mandylion and other relics during the sacking.
The Knights Templar were aware of the significance of religious relics and were partially responsible for the huge 13th century trade in these items. Perhaps, the most significant factor, was the rumour that throughout Europe, at secret Preceptory meetings the Templars worshipped a mysterious bearded male head, called Baphomet. Described in some accounts as a" plaque" and by the more malicious as an "idol". The word plaque would suggest a flat , rather than a three dimensional object.
In the year 1307, the rumour was used as an excuse by the French King Phillip the Fair, to arrest all the Templars in France on charges of heresy, thereby enabling him to try to lay his hands on the Order's vast property and wealth. It must also be remembered that Phillip owed the Templars a great deal of money, which he had borrowed from the Temple. He also wished to devalue the coinage of France and as the Templars had set the Gold and silver standards in 1265 where all coins minted weighed the same irrespective of their country of origin, similar to a modern ECU. However, whatever the origins of this plaque, the original never fell into his hands, much to his great annoyance. What is clear, is that every Templar Preceptory had a copy of this "head", and one of these came to light in England in 1951,during the demolition of an outhouse at Templecombe Somerset, the site of a long vanished Templar preceptory. This was a curious panel painting covered with dust but clearly depicting a bearded male head of the type referred to in the confessions forced from the Knights Templar under torture by Nogaret and Philip's other agents. Today this Templecombe panel hangs in the church of St. Mary. Templecombe, its resemblance to the face on the Mandylion is unmistakable. If the Mandylion was indeed the "idol" possessed by the Templars one further clue indicates its fate. In Paris on the 14th of March 1314 AD. The last two dignitaries were burned at the stake on an island in the Seine, by King Philip and his cohorts. They proclaimed their innocence of the heresy with which they had been charged, to the end. One was the Grand Master of the Order, Jacques de Molay, and his companion in death was the Master of Normandy, Geoffrey de Charney. Did this Geoffrey de Charney manage to smuggle the Shroud or the Mandylion to members of his family or perhaps both?. And was it thus, that it came into the possession of another Geoffrey de Charney only one generation later, who we know to be the first certain owner of the Shroud. This of course depended upon a genealogical or family link between the two aforementioned. A very substantial link has been proved, which to my mind makes the sequence of events unquestionable. In addition certain episodes concerning the de Charney family and the Shroud makes fascinating evidence, as I will relate. The second Geoffrey de Charney was killed at the battle of Poitiers fighting against the English.