Sudarium and Shroud

The Sudarium

The cathedral of the Holy Savior, in Oviedo, Spain, is famous as its little known relic of the christian faith that has come to the fore since the 90's. Called the "face cloth" of Jesus Christ, it is kept in a reliquary case in the Camara Santa and is displayed at various times during the christian year for veneration. Reputed to be the "napkin" or "handkerchief" which was found in the tomb in which Christ was buried after his death and resurrection, it came to Spain from Palestine, via Egypt and North Africa and has remained ever since in Oviedo. It remains a precious relic of our faith and an instrument of coroboratory evidence of the authenticity of the Holy Shroud of Turin, to which it is linked in the minds of the faithful.


(Shroud photos positive and negative courtesy Holy Shroud Guild)

We are told in the gospels that on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb to wash and anoint the body of Our Lord, and to anoint it with oil and spices. But when they saw that the stone had been rolled back, without entering the tomb, they sent word to Peter of what had happenedc. Having heard the news, Simon Peter came to verify for himself and he indeed found the stone removed and the burial clothes folded and lying on the rock where Christ had lain in death. Only now the body was gone and the relics remained. One with the faint imprint of the body of Our Lord, and the other cloth stained with blood and water which had exuded from the body at death.

The significance of the Sudarium then is that it is a substantiary object of authenticity for the Shroud which is kept secure in the cathedral of Turin, Italy. The use of the shroud in ancient culture is simple, most understand the method of use. The entire cloth was usually wrapped lengthwise, head to foot, over the body and was usually quite long in actual length. In the case of Our Lord's Shroud it is slightly over two body lengths in size, with a slight overlap. So the image that was flashed upon the cloth as if it were scorched by a great light, is head to head and shows both sides of the naked body, with all the elements of our Scripture there in full view. The thorn marks are on the head, the lashes which pierced the flesh at the beatings, the face is swollen and disfigured, as well as the shortening of the leg where one was behind the other at the time of nailing onto the cross. The wrists show that the nails were driven through the interstitches where they meet at the wrist to prevent the nail from pulling out.

The Shroud enclosed the body and kept the spices and oils close to the body to help preseve it for a time from corruption, since all bodies were expected to corrupt. But because of the events Jesus' body was incorrupt and was raised up to life again, a different life from the physical in a glorified body, which left the image on the cloth for us to see even today. Because the body had been buried in haste it had not been washed, but only strewn with a few spices, and wrapped hastily in the cloth, until the first of the week when the women would take care of the preparations needed in any entombment. The reason for the haste had been the obligation of removing the body from the cross before sundown when the holy sabbath began, and all who were involved were faithful still to the judaism they knew. Later they would be ejected from the temple and the synagogues for their adherence to their messianic beliefs.

The sweat, blood, white blood cells, dirt and other matter were still on the body of Christ when he was wrapped in the shroud. Later when Christ arose, the cloth itself was exposed to a light force so great in photonic power that it imprinted onto the cloth the very image of the body which was enclosed in it.

The Sudarium had been laid aside after its use, rolled up like a scroll, and so was not exposed to the same intensity of light as that cloth which was in contact with the actual body of Christ. The integrity remained what it always had been in a light coarsewoven cloth with the look and feel of white muslin or taffeta. But today the cloth is much darker with age and an accummulation of time evident only in very old fabrics exposed to constant light and handling.

The Shroud is of fine linen, woven in a close haringbone pattern, and contains a uniqueness not only in the marble powder embedded in it that can only be found in the vicinity of the Eastern gate at Jerusalem, but pollen grains only found in the Holy Land, Turkey and France are there as well. While the Sudarium not only has the pollen of Palestine it also contains that from the plants of Egypt and even North Africa embedded in it, evidence to indicate the different route of migration it had taken from the other.

pollen grains seen through microscope

Due to the fire in the former cathedral where the shroud was kept before it was moved to Turin, it alone suffered damage from the molten metal of the reliquary which burned and scorched it. The triangular parts one sees on the shroud are evidence of where the fire damaged it, and were embroidered with pieces of newer cloth by the nuns in order to preserve the integrity of the cloth so it would not ravel where it had been damaged. But the image of Our Lord on it is still intact for us to view. Unfortunately the method of carbon dating has been skewed due to the abundance of carbon in the smoky air during the fire. The cloth has absorbed the carbon molecules and therefore dating it in this fashion now produces a "false" dating located somewhere in the 13th century when the fire occurred. So this nullifies the truth of the carbon dating process. This is the reason why many believe the Shroud is a fake and was manufactured during the middle ages, but what could not be faked are the pollen grains embedded in it, or the marble dust, and other things which bear a different testimony to the age of it.

If we look at the history of the Shroud's migration we note that it traveled from the Holy Land to Turkey where it was placed as one of the most important relics of christianity in the Hagia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom. It was regularly venerated there before the fall of the city of Constantinople to the muslim turks. But before the muslims took the city the Knights Templar of the west sacked it and removed everything valuable and all holy relics for protection so that nothing important would fall into the hands of infidels. So although this is considered a great loss for the orthodox it preserved the shroud for the rest of christendom.

Why do the two go together, Sudarium and Shroud? Because in the Gospel according to St. John Chapter 20 it relates that

6. "Then cometh Simon Peter following
him and went into the sepulchre,
and seeth the linen clothes lie,
7. And the napkin, that was about his head,
not lying with the linen clothes
but wrapped together in a place by itself".

Note the wording "that was about his head" which clearly identifies it as a sudarium. The two were together in the tomb, and many believe this napkin was used as a "chinstrap" to keep the mouth closed, but we now know it was a cloth which was draped over the head of the victim according to common Jewish custom, so that the grief of seeing the badly beaten and mutilated face of the beloved, would not cause additional pain and suffering to the family.

Once the body were entombed and no longer viewed by the family, the cloth was removed, rolled up and left in the tomb along with the other items which were of no use any longer, and because they were funereal they had to be left in the tomb so noone could touch them and become unclean from this contact. All funeral elements which touched the body had to be isolated or anyone touching them had to undergo a rigid purification before they were admitted back into the worship community again. In the case of the Mandylion which in the east was also called the Image-made-without-hands or Veronica's Veil, we are told that the prohibition of handling funeral garments needed to be somehow gotten around in the case of Our Lord, and so a cloth enclosure had been made for the Shroud which was then folded in such a way in three parts that only the face showed through the circular hole cut into the frontice of the cloth. So when we hear that the Mandylion was sent here or there we may assume it was the same Shroud of Christ enclosed in the covering to prevent actual contact of any person with the funeral garments of the dead. This would then protect anyone handling it from requiring the need to go through the purification process.

After the Council of Jerusalem when the right for gentiles to have a different set of rules for christian membership, then the dietary and cleanliness regulations, along with circumcision were not required of the gentile converts. St. Paul was instrumental in obtaining this from the Jerusalem Church which had authority then over the faithful in Palestine.

We also know that there were other customs in play. A microphotograph of the "eyes" of the Shroud image looks as if there are pupils, as if the eyes are open, but they are actually two coins of the period that were placed on the closed eyelids of the individual, and they bear the image of caesar -- although to the unenlarged view they appear to be eyes looking directly at the viewer.


note the 30 AD coin
compare with the coin in the eye photo
note the flat side opposite the image

The image on the shroud itself was not readily visible to the casual observer because it was a negative image, sepia toned on an off white colored cloth. Only when the cloth was photgraphed and viewed in the negative plate within the last century was it seen to become a positive image for us to recognize as the face and body of a human and also recognizeable as Our Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we know that the Sudarium was a cloth placed on the head? Because this cloth was made of a different material than the shroud. It was like a fine muslin or taffeta, that had an opaquelike quality. Through demonstrations with a similar cloth it was shown that it would have been placed over the head like a cloth bag, while the body was still on the cross. The head then would have been resting on the shoulder, lying off to the side as the body was still hanging upright with arms extended.

The duration of this position with the cloth in place was about the length of 45 minutes -- time enough for the centurian to use his lance to determine death, for the absorption of any fresh blood and "water" and also allowing Joseph of Arimathea to obtain permission to take the body off the cross and bury it in his own tomb. The blood patterns show exactly the same wounds to the back of the head as that matching those on the Shroud's deep puncture wounds where the crown of thorns was placed and forced into the scalp.

While the body was being taken down, two fingers perhaps held the cloth to the nostrils, because the forensic evidence for death on the cross was by asphyxiation. This resulted in a painful and agonizing death, the lungs filling with fluids in the lumbar cavity, weakening the lungs, preventing them from functioning, stilling the heart muscle from beating, and the victim virtually drowning in the ademic fluids bult up inside the chest. The only relief for the person dying in this manner was for the victim to lift the weight of the body by sheer strength to relieve the pressure on the lungs. Eventually however, the strength would abate, and the final throes of death would be assured in time. Vinegar was often offered to the victim in a sponge to stop the breathing and suffocate them earlier, but Christ we are told refused the mercy of it.

When the body was then tilted to remove it from the cross the accummulated fluid in the lungs would have flown out the nasal passages and that was why the cloth was pressed to the nostrils to prevent the fluid from falling to the ground or over those taking the body down.

The type of the blood on both Shroud and Sudarium is AB, common in jewish individuals. The markings on the Sudarium show a distinct facial geometry, but Jesus was beaten so brutally there are precise and specifice blood marks on the cloth. NASA scientists registered both images of the Sudarium and the Shroud together and declared them a perfect match. But not only did they match they registered so completely that they also said the same head touched both cloths shortly after death.

There are external references not found in Holy Scripture that the Apostle Peter placed a cloth napkin over his own head when appointing leaders in the Church. We are not told specifically what the cloth was but we are led to believe it was the Sudarium. It was the relic of Our Lord which still had the blood marks on it and had been obtained from the garden tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

In 614 the Persians invaded Palestine and a Presbyter Philip and his congregation fled into north Africa with the relics. The bishop of Alexandria mentions that he welcomed them and they were carrying relics, including a precious relic of Jesus. When Persia invaded Africa christians then crossed over to Spain and fled up to Toledo where they were received and were noted in the annals of the time as "carrying" with them a holy ark of wood which was a reliquary chest containing the precious relics we noted.

Islam arose in the middle east in about 600 and in 711 AD the muslims invaded Spain pressing north to gain the lands held under the christian kings of Iberia. They wrote regarding those they sought to subjugate to their rule "the Christians are fleeing north and taking their precious relics with them." A regional council of bishops in Bravo, Portugal, refers to the relic of Christ being kept in the north of Spain in a sacred ark in the mountain fastnesssafe from the hands of the infidels. King Alphonso VI reconquered Spain and drove the Moors out and back to North Africa. At the same time he had the reliquary removed from hiding and re-establishing his court at Oviedo built the Camara Santa as a special chapel to hold the Sudarium. The cathedral was then built over the Camara Santa snd became a part of the cathedral precinct.

At the time of the expulsion of the Moors from Iberia by the forces of the King Alphonso VI, he was assisted by Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as El Cid. The King, his sister Doña Urraca, and Don Rodrigo, fasted and prayed throughout 40 days of lent before opening the oaken chest to view the contents. There was a story earlier that someone had opened the chest without fasting and praying, and was blinded by the light from the chest and from the relics contained in it. To avoid a similar occurrence the King insisted on this proceedure beforehand.

When the chest was opened inside it was a scroll telling what the inventory of items were, -- the Sudarium itself, the sole of "Peter's" sandal, a piece of the true cross, and a piece of cloth belonging to the "Virgin Mary". The king had the chest covered with precious metal and it was only in 1998 that the tests were begun on the Sudarium to determine its authenticity and value as the true relic it claimed to be but also to link them to the Holy Shroud of Turin.

(copyrighted photo courtesy of Mark Guscin)

Turin Shroud Facts: First photographed 1898 by Secundo Pia;image on cloth is a negative;radiation made the body image was up and down, parallel to gravity, no side image;Image only appears on cloth where body surface is 3.5cm away or less -- Darkness on cloth is inversely proportionate to this space -- resulting in a 3D image when seen with the VP-8;Image is X-ray-like as it shows bones in hands, face, etc.; Pixels of uniform darkening make image similar to a random halftone as in photographic printing; more pixels per area in darker areas;Each pixel is on separate 15 to 20 micron fiber of linen of random length, 50 to 500 microns long; sharply bounded pixels make up body image but cannot be duplicated by any known process today; Image does not fluoresce like other burns in linen fiber; No image is under the blood; Blood stains are exactly correct as modern medicine would expect to see from a crucified victim; Scourge marks (approximately 120) have UV response around them, as blood serum would have impregnated the cloth;High bilirubin content in blood from torture; Passover-time image, when flower pollens from the Dead Sea area in the cloth, along with pollens from France & Turkey;Travertine aragenite dust, as found in Jerusalem vicinity, is found on the feet, knees, and nose;1532 fire deposited excess heavy carbon only 3" from area sampled for carbon 14 dating;Microbiological growth found on linen fibers;Linen cloth is mentioned in all four gospels.

All other images and Shroud Facts are courtesy of the Holy Shroud Guild, instituted for the purpose of shroud study.

Back to Main Page