Any discussion of the Shroud of Turin is bound to be controversial. Those who view this sacred and holy relic fall into two camps, those that believe it to be the undisputed earthly evidence of a Christ risen and those who believe it to be a medieval forgery.
It is not the intention of this web site to cast doubt on or support the authenticity of the shroud, but rather to show its possible relationship to the Knights Templar. We receive many letters from angry people who wish to enter into lengthy debates about carbon 14 reliability. We are aware of new evidence that puts the reliability of carbon 14 dating in question, so please refrain from telling us of the findings or directing us to URLs that make the claims.
There are two theories that relate to the Templars having been involved with the Shroud, one, which would support the authenticity of the Shroud and another, which would refute it.
In 1204 the Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople. Among them were the Knights Templar, whom some scholars contend took the Burial shroud of Jesus from the city. To support this theory, author Ian Wilson who wrote the book “The Shroud of Turin: Burial Cloth Of Jesus?” makes the claim that the head that the Templars were accused of worshipping was none other than that of Jesus. His belief is that the Shroud when folded depicted the head of Christ and was referred to as the “Mandylion.” There is a painted panel at Templecombe in England that shows a bearded head like that, which is depicted on the Mandylion.
In their two books, “The Hiram Key” and “The Second Messiah,” authors Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas paint a contrasting picture to the Mandylion theory. The authors theorize that the image on the Shroud of Turin is in fact that of the last Grand Master of the order, Jacques de Molay, who was tortured some months before his execution in 1307. The image on the shroud certainly does fit the description of de Molay as depicted in medieval woodcuts, a long nose, hair shoulder length and parted in the center, a full beard that forked at its base, not to mention the six-foot frame. De Molay was said to be quite tall.
However, many have criticized the theory on the basis that the Templar rule of order forbade the Templars from growing their hair long. What critics of the theory overlook is that during DeMolay’s seven years in prison it is highly unlikely that he would have been afforded such luxuries as good grooming.
Knight and Lomas claim that the shroud figured in the Templars rituals of figurative resurrection and that DeMolay’s tortured body was wrapped in a shroud, which the Templars kept after his death. Lomas and Knight further believe that lactic acid and blood from DeMolay’s tortured body mixed with frankincense (used to whiten the cloth) etching his image into the shroud.
When the shroud was first put on display in 1357 (50 years after the disbanding of the order) by the family of Geoffrey de Charney who was also burned at the stake with de Molay, the first people viewing the shroud recognized the image to be that of Christ.
The authors theorize that Jacques de Molay may have been tortured in a manner similar to Christ as a mockery. Certainly then, the wounds suffered by de Molay were the same as those of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Today it is commonly believed by many, through carbon dating, that the shroud dates to the late 13th century and not to the date of Christ’s supposed crucifixion. It is interesting that the church revealed these carbon dating results on October 13th, 1989, which is the same day the Templars were arrested by Church and State. According to the authors:
“Carbon dating has conclusively shown that the Shroud of Turin dates from between 1260 and 1380, precisely as we would expect if it were the image of Jacques de Molay. There is no other known theory that fits the scientifically established facts. Through experimentation, we know that the figure on the Shroud was on a soft bed of some kind, which strongly suggests that the victim was not dead and was expected to recover.”
The Second Messiah pg. 161 – Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas
Regardless of whether the findings of Ian Wilson or Knight and Lomas are correct, it is evident that this holiest and venerated relic has found its way into the Templar mythos.
Lynn Picknet and Clive Prince, authors of “Turin Shroud: In Whose Image?” present another theory of interest on the matter. Readers will recognize the authors from the book, “The Templar Revelation.” In the authors’ earlier book the duo claim that Leonardo Da Vinci who created an early photographic technique manufactured the image on the shroud of Turin.