Shroudie-Alert: Day 11 Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI – what is one to make of his devotion to the Shroud (despite that radiocarbon dating)?

Warning: this (and other postings of the era) were written in reverse chronological order. If wishing to follow the writer’s train of thought, I would advise scrolling down, and then reading back to the top, noting the updates and time labels. (It’s on account of the old-style bottom-up blogging format that the fascinating Machy Mould does not appear in the title, having become the main topic of interest along the way).

I’ve added the note above a year after writing (4th Feb 2014)  given that Dan Porter has beaten me to it in drawing attention to Ian Wilson’s recent update on the Machy Mould (see link below)  with his revised views, especially in thinking that the Mould was the earlier Mark 1 version.

Ian Wilson’s follow-up article appears in the current (Feb 2014) edition of the BSTS Newsletter, which is now edited by Hugh Farey. Here’s the title page, with a link to Wilson’s pdf.

Newsletter No. 78 – December 2013

Table of Contents:

Going Digital – Questions, Questions – by Hugh Farey

Editorial – by Hugh Farey

Future Events – Extraordinary Exposition in 2015

Future Events – Conferences in 2014

Recent Events

The Shroud and the Action Man – Research article by Hugh Duncan

The Machy Version of the Lirey Pilgrim’s Badge – A Revised Reconstruction – Research article by Ian Wilson

The Stuttgart Psalter ‘Discovery’ – An exaggerated claim – Research article by Ian Wilson

The Mystery of the Invisible Patch – Research article by Hugh Farey

Recent Publications – Fiction, Non-fiction and Films

Recent Publications – Scientific Papers – Reviews by Hugh Farey

Obituaries – Dr. Frederick Zugibe and Ilona Farkas – by Ian Wilson

Around the Internet/Call For Articles

UPDATE: I have just discovered Ian Wilson’s excellent monograph on the Machy Mould  – seen after writing this post.  Whilst unenthusiastic about Wilson’s major claim to fame – the alleged linking of the Shroud to the ‘Image of Edessa’ this quite short article is essential reading for all who wish to understand the detail on the Lirey badge!  He cites evidence that the mould was for a badge that preceded the one that is in the Cluny museum , but there is much else besides of interest. (He also works in a sentence or two about the Edessa image – but then he would, wouldn’t he?)

17:40:  Today’s posting (after a brief look at the depressing news from the Vatican) has focused on some original reseach I am doing on the ‘Machy mould’.

The Machy Mould , assumed mid-14th century provenace, found close to Lirey, (from scholarly new owner's photographic archive, with my yellow circle showing location of face above the (reverse) lettering SUAIRE.Thank you Alain Hourseau.

The Machy Mould  (click to ENLARGE), assumed mid-14th century provenance, found close to Lirey, (from scholarly new owner’s photographic archive, with my yellow circle showing location of mystery face above the (reverse) lettering SUAIRE.
Thank you Alain Hourseau.

So what’s that, and where’s Machy, you may reasonably ask? Machy is just 3.5km from Lirey. Lirey is of course the tiny village  in France Profonde  which first brought the Shroud to the attention of western Europe, with the first authenticated public displaying in 1357 by the recently widowed Jeanne de Vergy, following the instructions in her husband’s will. (Why he did not want it displayed while still alive, but keen for his wife to do as soon as he was gone is something to speculate on another day).

Lirey is also the place  associated with the Lirey pilgrim’s badge, aka Cluny (museum) Medallion. Frankly I cannot understand why it’s called the Cluny medallion, given that it’s kept in storage, turning people away who asked  to see it. It’s not as if it is difficult to bring up from the basement – approx 6 by 4 cm!  I mean to say, where else is one supposed to go if wishing to view the “Cluny Medallion”? There are  other issues where that  museum is concerned which I choose not to address today.

It was in Machy, some 3 years ago  that a jogger spotted something unusual in a field, which was a mould for a Lirey medallion.  It has  features in common with the Lirey badge, but with some notable differences, especially the presence of a face directly  above the  label “Suaire” (face cloth). That face, reminiscent perhaps of that on the Shroud (at least after performing a mental Secondo Pia light/dark reversal)  is a source of immense interest right now to this Shroud sceptic, given it may have played a crucial role in image breaking down initial ‘consumer resistance’

(deleted passage)

Here’s Lirey in relation to Machy:

A machy and  B lirey 3.4 km apart cropped

Green A marker – Machy
Green B marker – Lirey
Note Troyes to the north, well known in shroudie literature on account of its bishop.

14:30: So what about that new face that appears on the mould – presumably for post-Mark1 versions of the Lirey pilgrim’s badge?

small web-sized face on hourseau mould

Quote from the site re the mould above, with new feature (not on Lirey badge) enlarged:
“The mold shows the coats of arms of Geoffroy de Charny and Jeanne de Vergy. We can therefore date it back to the 14th century. It is damaged but we can clearly see parts of the Shroud. Very interestingly, the face of the man of the Shroud is also reproduced in the bottom part.”
See my alternative interpretation that follows

Yesterday I was predicting that if Mark 2, Mark3 versions of the badge were to to be discovered, they would show a steady evolution of the man’s image to a more Christ-like appearance, as confidence grew that the  Church showed little or no intention of  laying charges  of fraudulent misrepresentation on the Shroud custodians engaged in covert mission creep.. (Misplaced confidence as it turned out, or should one say fully justified wariness in the manner in which successive cohorts of pilgrims were gradually ‘groomed’  to  accept the Shroud  as Christ’s real burial cloth as distinct from some edgy ‘modern’ day proxy – more on that another day)

Late addition: if one reads Ian Wilson’s very handy potted history of the Lirey period of ownership, one finds that Church did indeed mount spasmodic and active opposition against the Shroud.

What I had not foreseen until looking closely at the recently discovered mould (see below) is that there was an alternative strategy that was available. It was an application of the one used by the medievals in building their cathedrals. You don’t try to build an arch without providing initial support with timber form-work. You rely on the strength of timber while building your arch, and when the latter is complete, you can then remove your form-work.

In this case,  representation of a face cloth, aka sudarium (Latin) or suaire (Fr) was the ‘form-work’ so to speak.  And very clever form work it was as well. The pilgrim would see the face above the label SUAIRE, and think of the Biblical face cloth, separate from the burial shroud, the one that was reputed to carry some kind of pre-imprinting – in sweat or blood- of the face of Christ prior to entombment. He would then make a link between that and the man on the badge (“that must be Jesus too”) and then the face of the Man on the Shroud (“that too is Jesus”). The simple expedient of adding that extra image, correctly labelled as SUAIRE, sets in progress the chain of thought, the desired connections by those hidden persuaders up in the castle, and such is the power of suggestion, to which all of us  are prone, that what surely has to be  greatest marketing coup of all time was achieved (the Shroud subsequently changing hands in exchange for a Savoy-owned castle – or was it two?) And the evidence is all there, on one fragment of engraved rock, only unearthed some 2 years ago in a field near Lirey. Who knows what else might turn up in the future, given the predilection of the medieval French to throw pilgrim badges into rivers, and moulds for the making thereof into farmers’ fields?

Footnote: the present owner of the ‘Lirey Mould’ wrote on the site:

“We can clearly read the word “Suaire” (Sindon) below the face of the man of the Shroud. It is followed by the three greek letters iota, eta, and sigma which would be the abbreviation for “the Shroud of Christ”. Note that in French, it is more precise to describe the Shroud of Turin, and the shroud that was kept at Lirey, as a “linceul” since a “suaire” is typically only a face cloth.”

Well, you have an explanation, Alain, for why you considered a  burial shroud on the Lirey badge was mislabelled. The label did not refer to the shroud. It referred to an image of  Christ’s face on a much smaller piece of fabric, in other words a  ‘sudarium’ or as you would say, suaire.

(Incidentally, can anyone explain to me why the Shroud literature is full of references to a burial shroud? There is surely no ‘burial’ as such in a cave tomb. The deceased is simply laid out on a stone bench… A year later, what’s left can be transferred to an ossuary and taken away, freeing up the cave tomb for someone else…)

12:00: Am busy writing a short and long summary of the role that extra face (inside my yellow circle)  may have played in the early history  (Lirey, mid 14th century) of the Shroud. That’s the face above the lettering SUAIRE on the putative mould for a second Mark 2 or later badge (see below). In the meantime, this comment has just appeared on TOS :

The fact that many medieval art works are consistent with the TS face is also consistent with the latter being used as reference Christ face model/template.

If that were the case, then why do we see the nail wound(s) in paintings, manuscripts etc always in the palm, never the wrist?

PS: I believe this is the image ( the last of 4 in the relevant Pray Codex series) that is claimed to show a nail wound in the wrist.


Click to enlarge

One has to be pretty desperate to base any claim for a correspondence between this image and the Shroud of Turin on the location of nail wounds, given this inexpert line image is  more like a “cartoon” in its execution than a serious attempt at art, and with there being no obvious points of correspondence here. In fact, other images in the same series show hands without any nail wounds at all!  What’s more,  this  image shows thumbs, the absence of which on another in the series is trumpeted as “proof the  illustrator must have seen the TS”.  Yeah, right.  Playtime over. Back to your classrooms…

Late addition: if higher magnification and/or improved colour/contrast adjustment is needed, then how about this?


Do you see wounds that are unequivocally in the wrists,  dear reader? Nope, didn’t think you would  and neither do I.   Don’t you just love ’em – time-wasters?  End of…

“Now kindly could CB put side to side the Pray Ms and TSM left hands with nail wound at the same scale. Thank you. What can you see now?”

Nope. this blogger has his own ideas to research, like the Machy mould today, and has wasted enough time already responding to someone who demands information  one minute , and then showers one with insults the next.If he manages to make any useful points, I’ll respond to them, without identifying the source,  but I reserve the right to move on, rather than get drawn into a vortex of empty speculation. My research invariably begins with an observation, especially an unusual and unexplained one. . Call me old fashioned, but I consider that hypothesis and theory should be based  initially on well-grounded empirical observation.

Old joke. Comment attributed to a French ambassador (no doubt apocryphal): “That’s all very well in practice. But how does that work in theory?”

10:30: Here’s something else to be thinking about.

lirey v new mould with yellow lettering

Lirey pilgrim’s badge left. Alain Hourseau’s recently  unearthed mould for a second Lirey badge on right (my labelling)

Click anywhere on image to ENLARGE

See enlargement of the face within the circle below

The image on the left is the Lirey pilgrims’s badge. The one on the right is the newly discovered mould (such as still survives) from which another Lirey badge could and probably was cast. It’s clearly for a different badge, and the major difference is the insertion of a new supplementary image (inside yellow circle) that is a Christ-like face, sitting above the word SUAIRE (reversed of course on the mould). Code for the other labels: de C = coat of arms of de Charny; de V= his wife’s (Jeanne de Vergy) coat of arms, HBW = herring-bone weave (sadly the only part of the representation of the Lirey shroud to have survived centuries in a farmer’s field).

Here’s the new face in close -up (the unsightly drill-holes are said to be casting aids, i.e. drains for excess molten lead).

small web-sized face on hourseau mould

Here’s the label that Alain Hourseau attached to his mould for Lirey badge Mk?. His scholarship gives one a head start in getting to grips with the newly discovered artefact,  and I’ll be back later with my own interpretation, centred on what SUAIRE  was really intended to convey to 14th century pilgrims by those oh-so-scheming ‘hidden persuaders’ up in the castle.

” Copyright Alain Hourseau (2012). A drawing of what would have been the complete view of a medallion from the mold in Figure 10a. The coats of arms of Jeanne de Vergy are on the left and the coats of arms of Geoffroy de Charny are on the right. The coats of arms are reversed on the Lirey Medallion kept at the Cluny Museum. We can clearly read the word “Suaire” (Sindon) below the face of the man of the Shroud. It is followed by the three greek letters iota, eta, and sigma which would be the abbreviation for “the Shroud of Christ”. Note that in French, it is more precise to describe the Shroud of Turin, and the shroud that was kept at Lirey, as a “linceul” since a “suaire” is typically only a face cloth.”

09:40:  I’ve spent the last half hour looking closely at the mould for a Lirey badge – the one now (fortunately) in the possession of  scholar Alain Hourseau. If I’m not mistaken there’s a strong clue as to how the non-Christ-like image of the Man on the Lirey badge was gradually melded with that of the Man on the Shroud to identify BOTH in the minds of pilgrims as that of the crucified Christ. How was that achieved? It was very very clever. It was done by adding a third image to the Lirey badge (Mark 2, Mark 3?) of a facecloth, but not the Oviedo-type one, with blood only, but a recognizable  Christ-like face (not dissimilar to the Secondo Pia reversed image!!!!).  This gets more interesting by the minute. Back later.

00.02 : this curious (and to me infuriating) item appeared in the UK’s Daily Mail  – or “Daily Wail” as it’s irreverently known in some quarters-  just two days ago . I’ve only just this minute spotted it.

Daily Mail  27 Feb 2013

Daily Mail 27 Feb 2013

I’ll be guarded in my comments until I’ve slept on this. For the moment I’d leave it at saying that the outgoing Pope’s veneration for the Shroud suggests strongly that he really does believe 99% or more in its authenticity. So he is signalling that he rejects the radiocarbon dating of the three laboratories, yet he failed to exercise his prerogative while still in office to commission repeat testing (with sampling at multiple sites, instead of one corner). Instead he has made an 11th hour decision to give the Shroud his wholehearted seal of approval.

Yes, I know the design and statistics was crazy, but whose fault was that? I hardly think that the 3 labs said “Just give us a bit from the corner – that’s all we need”.  Nuff said  on that score for now…

See a previous posting of mine, from August last year, expressing concern at Emeritus Pope Benedict’s over-enthusiastic embrace of what is still, in all probability, of medieval manufacture.

Why anyone should go the trouble of making this ‘one-off’ is still a fascinating and unanswered question, but after a 14 months of study, and some 160 or more postings, I  have a hunch I’m at least “getting warm”. The Lirey pilgrim’s badge, which failed to get a single mention  on The Other Site, despite THOUSANDS of postings, until I blogged on it, holds the key. What a pity there are not more of them (we know there is a fragment of a mould for a second, non-identical with the first). I would confidently predict that each new edition of the Lirey badge aka Cluny Medal, would have shown a progression of more Christ-like figures than the one in the museum in Paris.


About Colin Berry

Retired science bod, previous research interests: phototherapy of neonatal jaundice, membrane influences on microsomal UDP-glucuronyltransferase, defective bilirubin and xenobiotic conjugation and hepatic excretion, dietary fibre and resistant starch.
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