Richard Owen in Rome
Medieval knights hid and secretly venerated The Holy Shroud of Turin for more than 100 years after the Crusades, the Vatican said yesterday in an announcement that appeared to solve the mystery of the relic’s missing years.
The Knights Templar, an order which was suppressed and disbanded for alleged heresy, took care of the linen cloth, which bears the image of a man with a beard, long hair and the wounds of crucifixion, according to Vatican researchers.
The Shroud, which is kept in the royal chapel of Turin Cathedral, has long been revered as the shroud in which Jesus was buried, although the image only appeared clearly in 1898 when a photographer developed a negative.
Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives, said the Shroud had disappeared in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, and did not surface again until the middle of the fourteenth century. Writing in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Dr Frale said its fate in those years had always puzzled historians.
However her study of the trial of the Knights Templar had brought to light a document in which Arnaut Sabbatier, a young Frenchman who entered the order in 1287, testified that as part of his initiation he was taken to “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access”. There he was shown “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times.
Dr Frale said that among other alleged offences such as sodomy, the Knights Templar had been accused of worshipping idols, in particular a “bearded figure”. In reality however the object they had secretly venerated was the Shroud.
They had rescued it to ensure that it did not fall into the hands of heretical groups such as the Cathars, who claimed that Christ did not have a true human body, only the appearance of a man, and could therefore not have died on the Cross and been resurrected. She said her discovery vindicated a theory first put forward by the British historian Ian Wilson in 1978.
The Knights Templar were founded at the time of the First Crusade in the eleventh century to protect Christians making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Order was endorsed by the Pope, but when Acre fell in 1291 and the Crusaders lost their hold on the Holy Land their support faded, amid growing envy of their fortune in property and banking.
Rumours about the order’s corrupt and arcane secret ceremonies claimed that novices had to deny Christ three times, spit on the cross, strip naked and kiss their superior on the buttocks, navel, and lips and submit to sodomy. King Philip IV of France, who coveted the order’s wealth and owed it money, arrested its leaders and put pressure on Pope Clement V to dissolve it.
Several knights, including the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, were burned at the stake. Legends of the Templars’ secret rituals and lost treasures have long fascinated conspiracy theorists, and figure in The Da Vinci Code, which repeated the theory that the knights were entrusted with the Holy Grail.
In 2003 Dr Frale, the Vatican’s medieval specialist, unearthed the record of the trial of the Templars, also known as the Chinon Parchment, after realising that it had been wrongly catalogued. The parchment showed that Pope Clement V had accepted the Templars were guilty of “grave sins”, such as corruption and sexual immorality, but not of heresy.
Their initiation ceremony involved spitting on the Cross, but this was to brace them for having to do so if captured by Muslim forces, Dr Frale said. Last year she published for the first time the prayer the Knights Templar composed when “unjustly imprisoned”, in which they appealed to the Virgin Mary to persuade "our enemies” to abandon calumnies and lies and revert to truth and charity.
Radiocarbon dating tests on the Turin Shroud in 1988 indicated that it was a medieval fake. However this had been challenged on the grounds that the dated sample was taken from an area of the shroud mended after a fire in the Middle Ages and not a part of the original cloth.
After the sack of Constantinople it was next seen at Lirey in France in 1353, when it was displayed in a local church by descendants of Geoffroy de Charney, a Templar Knight burned at the stake with Jacques de Molay.
It was moved to various European cities until it was acquired by the Savoy dynasty in Turin in the sixteenth century. Holy See property since 1983, the Shroud was last publicly exhibited in 2000, and is due to go on show again next year.
The Vatican has not declared whether it is genuine or a forgery, leaving it to believers to decide. The late John Paul II said it was “an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age.” The self proclaimed heirs of the Knights Templar have asked the Vatican to “restore the reputation” of the disgraced order and acknowledge that assets worth some £80 million were confiscated.
The Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ, based in Spain, said that when the order was dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1307, more than 9,000 properties, farms and commercial ventures belonging to knights were seized by the Church. A British branch also claiming descent from the Knights Templar and based in Hertfordshire has called for a papal apology for the persecution of the order.
Knights Templar may have secretly held shroud, Vatican expert says
Apr 6, 2009
By John Thavis Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY – A Vatican researcher has found evidence that the Knights Templar, the medieval crusading order, held secret custody of the Shroud of Turin during the 13th and 14th centuries.The shroud, which bears the image of a man and is believed by many to have been the burial cloth of Jesus, was probably used in a secret Templar ritual to underline Christ’s humanity in the face of popular heresies of the time, the expert said. The researcher, Barbara Frale, made the comments in an article published April 5 by the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. The article anticipated evidence the author presents in an upcoming book on the Templars and the shroud. Ms. Frale, who works in the Vatican Secret Archives, said documents that came to light during research on the 14th-century trial of the Templars contained a description of a Templar initiation ceremony. The document recounts how a Templar leader, after guiding a young initiate into a hidden room, “showed him a long linen cloth that bore the impressed figure of a man, and ordered him to worship it, kissing the feet three times,” Ms. Frale said. The idea that the Knights Templar were secret custodians of the shroud was put forward by British historian Ian Wilson in 1978. Ms. Frale said the account of the initiation ceremony, along with a number of other pieces of evidence, supports that theory. The shroud’s history has long been the subject of debate. It was believed by some to have been in Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey, when the city was sacked during the crusades in 1204. It turned up for public display in France in 1357, and today is kept in the cathedral of Turin, Italy. The cloth’s image, according to some experts, corresponds with that of a man who was scourged and crucified. Ms. Frale said the Knights Templar may have kept the shroud secret because of papal orders of excommunication for anyone involved in looting relics from Constantinople or trafficking in them afterward. She said the shroud’s image was particularly important for the Knights Templar, as an “antidote” to the heresies that had arisen – especially those that affirmed that Christ was a purely spiritual being, and never really had a human body or shed human blood.
Book reveals new facts about the Templars discovered in the Vatican’s Secret Archives **** 4 Stars
by Gabrielle Pantera
“While I was doing my research for my Ph.D., I found the Chignon Parchment in the Vatican Secret Archives,” says ‘The Templars: The Secret History Revealed’ author Barbara Frale “I couldn’t quite believe it! The first people I showed my research thought I was crazy. Other people thought I was a genius.”
The Chignon Parchment is a record of the trial of the Templar leadership authorized by Pope Clement V. The document reveals details of the orders’ scandalous secret initiation ceremony. It also reveals that the Grand Master and other high ranking Templars were found innocent.
In The Templars: The Secret History Revealed, Barbara Frale explains how the Templars transformed from being monks to warriors to being disbanded. Entrusted with the money to fight the Crusades against the Muslims, the Templars become so rich and powerful they become a threat to royal houses in Europe and to the Catholic church. France’s King Philip IV, plots the downfall. He gets a secret loan from the Templars, then asks Pope Clement V to disband the Templars.
Frale’s Italian editor is Ugo Berti at Il Mulino. She corresponds by email with her American editor Casey Ebro. The two have never met.
“I studied history at university and wrote my thesis on the Templars in 1993, way before Dan Brown popularized the subject,” says Arcade Publishing editor Casey Ebro. “So when I learned about the book, I was over the moon with excitement. After I’d acquired it, a very good editor friend agreed to pass on my request for a foreword to Umberto Eco! And he agreed! Days like that are why I’m an editor.”
Eco, an Italian philosopher and novelist, is known for writing The Name of the Rose, which was made into a film starring Sean Connery, and for writing Foucault’s Pendulum, a novel about a plot created by the Medieval Templars to take over the modern world.
“There are numerous books on the Templars,” says Eco. “The only problem is that in 90 percent of the cases they are pure fantasy. No other subject has ever inspired more hacks from more countries throughout time than the Templars. Barbara Frale’s stunning discovery of the long-lost Chinon Parchment in the Vatican Secret Archives allows us to see in a new light the church’s role in the process against the Templars.”
The popularity of her Templars book took Frale by surprise. “It’s just a little book, but suddenly I was known around the world in certain circles.”
Frale has written two books that haven’t been published. “I was twenty-five years old when I wrote two historical novels,” says Frale. “In one, the action is set in 11th century Italy, where the future pope Gregory VII and a handful of brave monks defend the Church against attack. The other is set in 9th century Spain, with Muslims and Christians living in peace and religious tolerance.”
The Templars: The Secret History Revealed is a must-read for anyone with a more than passing interest in the Templars and this historical era. The book is scholarly, but a fascinating read. It’s too bad the book lacks maps to give a clear picture of where things happen.
Barbara Frale lives in Viterbo, Italy, where she was born. She’s a historian and an archivist. She’s written four historical essays. Her two historical essays about the Shroud of Turin will be published by Il Mulino in 2009.
The Templars: The Secret History Revealed by Barbara FraleHardcover, 232 pagesPublisher: Arcade PublishingRelease: January 12, 2009ISBN 9781559708890
Turin Shroud 'could be genuine as carbon-dating was flawed'
New evidence suggests the Turin Shroud could have been the cloth in which Jesus was buried, as experiments that concluded it was a medieval fake were flawed.
By Stephen Adams Last Updated: 6:08PM BST 10 Apr 2009
Turin Shroud could be genuine, scientist has said
Radio carbon dating carried out in 1988 was performed on an area of the relic that was repaired in the 16th century, according to Ray Rogers, who helped lead the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STRP). At the time he argued firmly that the shroud, which bears a Christlike image, was a clever forgery. But in a video made shortly before his death three years ago, he said facts had come to light that indicated the shroud could be genuine.
Rogers, a chemist from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said: "I don't believe in miracles that defy the laws of nature. After the 1988 investigation I'd given up on the shroud. "But now I am coming to the conclusion that it has a very good chance of being the piece of cloth that was used to bury the historic Jesus." He came to his conclusion after re-examining a theory from two amateur scientists that he had earlier dismissed as being from "the lunatic fringe".
Sue Benford and Joe Marina, from Ohio, suspected the 1988 sample was from a damaged section of the linen shroud repaired in the 16th century after being damaged in a fire. Rogers said: "I was irritated and determined to prove Sue and Joe wrong." However, when he came to examine threads taken in 1978 - luckily from the same section as the 1988 sample - he found cotton in them. He said: "The cotton fibres were fairly heavily coated with dye, suggesting they were changed to match the linen during a repair.
"I concluded that area of the shroud was manipulated by someone with great skill. "Sue and Joe were right. The worst possible sample for carbon dating was taken. "It consisted of different materials than were used in the shroud itself, so the age we produced was inaccurate." In the video, made shortly before he died of cancer in March 2005, he said: "I came very close to proving the shroud was used to bury the historic Jesus." This latest evidence, to be broadcast in The Turin Shroud: New Evidence at 8pm on Sunday on the Discovery Channel, is the latest chapter in the shroud's history.
For the last 21 years most have considered it to be a medieval fake, after the 1988 tests dated it as being made between 1260 and 1390. The result overturned 10 years of hope among Christians that it was real, after the first scientific tests found evidence of blood and serum stains. The earliest documented sighting of the shroud is from 1353, but last week a historian claimed in the Vatican's newspaper that she had found a "missing link" in the Holy See's Secret Archives proving the Knights Templar had safeguarded it during the 13th century.
From Times Online
August 21, 2008
Vatican scholar: prayer proves Knights Templar not heretical
Richard Owen in Rome
The Vatican has for the first time published the prayer the Knights Templar composed when "unjustly imprisoned", in which they appealed to the Virgin Mary to persuade "our enemies" to abandon "calumnies and lies" and revert to "truth and charity".
L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said the prayer was further proof that the order, which was dissolved in the fourteenth century, was not heretical. The knights were innocent of the charges against them, which included the accusation that they worshipped idols such as a "monstrous statue, half man and half goat".
The L'Osservatore Romano article, by Barbara Frale, the Vatican Secret Archives scholar who has made a special study of the knights, said it was untrue that the knights were guilty of "decadence, heresy and immoral practices".
The move follows legal action by the alleged heirs of Knights Templar to force the Vatican to restore the reputation of the disgraced order and acknowledge that assets worth some 80 million pounds were confiscated.
The Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ, based in Spain, says that when the order was dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1307, over 9000 properties, farms and and commercial ventures belonging to knights were seized by the Church.
It is not however demanding that they be handed back, only that the order be "rehabilitated". A British branch also claiming descent from the Knights Templar and based in Hertfordshire has called for a papal apology for the persecution of the order.
The Knights Templar were founded at the time of the First Crusade in the eleventh century to protect Christians making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Order was endorsed by the Vatican, but when Acre fell in 1291 and the Crusaders lost their hold on the Holy Land support faded, amid growing envy of the order's fortune in property and banking, and rumours about its corrupt and arcane secret ceremonies.
Whispers said novices had to deny Christ three times, spit on the cross, strip naked and kiss their superior on the buttocks, navel, and lips and submit to sodomy. King Philip IV of France, who coveted the order's wealth, arrested its leaders and put pressure on Clement V to dissolve it. Several knights, including the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, were burned at the stake.
However Dr Frale said the arrests by Philip IV were "absolutely illegal". She said "legends and inventions" about the knights had been perpetuated by "fantasies" such as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and - "though of a different literary calibre" - Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.
She said that in 1312 Pope Clement had declared that the Templars were not heretics, and had explained that he had only dissolved the order to prevent Philip IV from "opening up a schism in the Church". She said proof of the Templars' fidelity to the Pope and Christian dogma lay in the prayer they had composed during their long imprisonment.
It was "beautiful and moving" and "full of poetry", Dr Frale said, but "incredibly has never been studied".The prayer is addressed to "Holy Mary, mother of God", the "consolation of those who hope", and "humbly implores" her to obtain freedom for the order "through the intercession of the angels, archangels, prophets, evangelists, apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins". It adds that the Virgin Mary knows that "our enemies" have spread "calumnies and lies" about the order, and pleads with her to make them "return to truth and charity".
Last October the Vatican launched a scheme to market limited reproductions of Processus Contra Templarios (Papal Inquiry into the Trial of the Templars), also known as the Chinon document, which Dr Frale discovered in the Vatican archives in 2003 after realising that it had been wrongly catalogued.
She said the parchment proved Clement V had accepted the Templars were not guilty of heresy. Their initiation ceremony involved spitting on the Cross, but this was to brace them for having to do so if captured by Muslim forces.