Short summary: why I too think the scorch image on the Turin Shroud represents Jacques de Molay (Templar Grand Master, barbecued Paris, 1314)

Here’s a comment  (#39) posted last night to Dan Porter’s site, prompted by the appearance of Italian historian Andrea Nicolotti,  author of at least two books on the TS, including one (sadly Italian language only) on the Shroud-Templar theories. I could not resist telling him I had developed one of my own, a variant of the Knight/Lomas theory, despite his scepticism re much that has been written previously on alleged links between the Templars and the Shroud prior to the first recorded display of the latter at Lirey in 1357 approx.


November 2, 2013 at 7:16 pm | #39

Well, I’m no historian, Andrea, and there are plenty on this site who would remind me of that fact were I to forget it. But I do have gut instinct, nurtured by a all-consuming interest in current affairs, politics etc etc, so while I agree that there is probably no strong direct connection between the Templars (given that the last Grand Master and his lieutenants were dispatched in 1314 at the earlier end of the radiocarbon dating) I do think there was a cause-and-effect relationship between the events of 1314 and the first documented showing of the Shroud in 1357. Some of the features of the Lirey Pilgrim’s badge hint at such a connection. Most of these ideas have been drip-fed to this site over many months, but here’s something that I bashed off hastily earlier, before you put in your appearance on this thread, thinking an opportunity might present itself to post here as a comment. Seems I must be prescient – you have provided just such an opportunity:

The Templar Shroud of Lirey (Mk1 and 2) now Turin

Initially intended as a memorial to Jacques de Molay , last of the Templars, and to the manner of his death. (1314, Paris, slow-roasted at stake)

There was no corpse, possibly no ashes except for ghoulish souvenir collectors, so no headstone. Yet he was or had been head of a powerful order that probably had surviving members, certainly outside of France, who had means, one of whom wanted something more than memories. He hit on the idea of a striking wall-hanging, to be seen initially by a tiny circle of surviving crypto-Templars only.

The decision was made to represent De Molay as if Christ laid out on a burial Shroud, but with a difference. The image would show that of a man at an intermediate stage of being burned, or rather roasted. The linen would be expensive, as per biblical account,

The L-shaped poker holes were there from the start. They were intended as a cue to the viewer to see the image as a scorch, as if a hot man had transferred heat to the linen. This is of course a metaphor – nobody is suggesting that a real man was used to produce the image, at least not directly by scorching from hot flesh.

So how was the image produced? Probably use of heated metal or ceramic template, or by powder frottage, or a combination of the two. Garlaschelli used frottage to obtain an imprint from the body of a student volunteer, but a number of modifications were needed he said – like using a template for the face, like finishing the fingers with manual artwork (thus their unnatural length).

Blood? Given the figure was intended to look Christ-like, while actually that of J de M, there is no reason why some nominal signs of crucifixion were there initially, say palm or wrist wounds and a lance wound. That is all one sees in the 1516 Lier copy. Alternatively there may have no wounds, no blood at all initially.

The “blood belt” of Ian Wilson on the Lirey badge? That may have been an attempt initially to represent a chain, as used for burning at the stake, that was later touched up with blood.

At some stage, someone, no doubt the de Charny family, saw the potential in morphing the image of a Templar completely into that of Christ, and passing it off as a genuine burial Shroud. But they had to be very careful how that was done, so as not to be accused of peddling a fake. But there was a big incentive anyway to regularise the Shroud, to strip it of its Templar symbolism, and re-invent it entirely as a Christian relic.

How did the Mark 1 version look at first showing, in 1357 or thereabouts? Fortunately we have the Lirey medallion, that strangely neglected artefact to provide guidance, and probably its curious omissions, inconsistent with a crucified Christ, that are responsible for it receiving so little attention and languishing in the basement of the Cluny museum. The man on the Lirey Shroud does not look Christ-like – note the short hair – he has no obvious body wounds on hands, feet or side, no bloodstains on head or other attempts to represent a crown of thorns, no scourge marks. But it’s clearly modelled on the Shroud, as shown by the herringbone weave. Arguably the man depicted could be seen as someone in some acute degree of discomfort, going by tilt of head, the hand being where they could protect privates from heat, and it’s even possible that there is an attempt to represent knees burned to bone.

Morphing the image: itt is a matter of painting on blood in all the biblically-correct places. Wrist location of nail wound? Some see as it as telling us what the Bible and early artists omitted to mention – that the wrist is better mechanically, at least with unsupported feet. But there’s another explanation. The artist mistook the bones of the palm, with metacarpals shown prominently through thin skin, as fingers, and placed the wound where he thought the palm would be – i.e. closer to the wrist, but not intended to be at the wrist itself

Note there are no unequivocal wounds on the Shroud image, ie. no lacerations, puncture wounds etc etc. The identification of wound sites depends entirely on blood stains, and those could have been added after image formation. Blood came before image? So we are told, but it rests on one spot test done on “serum-coated” fibres under a microscope, and can hardly be the final word on so crucial an issue (given that blood on top of linen would be at odds with authenticity).

There’s more I could add by way of supporting detail, but hopefully there’s enough of a narrative here to account for why there’s only one Shroud (that we know of) with the negative image double image, and why someone went to the trouble and expense of fabricating (not forging) it in the first instance, by dramatic, point-making “pyrography”, and why it became accepted so quickly as a seemingly genuine holy relic.

No authenticists should be hurt – far less take offence – by the making of this narrative, it being pure imagination (well, mainly)


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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