CHAPTER III. DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF THE HOLY SHROUD cont.
|The Shroud of Turin superimposed |
on the Vilnius Divine Mercy image
These questions are reasonable, but it will be noted that Monsieur Chevalier does not allude to the fact of the Bishop's death and the consequent probability of so valuable an object having passed surreptitiously into the possession of one of his followers.
Let us now proceed with the authentic history of the Holy Shroud subsequent to 1353. We find the then Bishop of Troyes, Henri de Poitiers, opposing himself to and discouraging pilgrimages to the shrine on account of the doubtful authenticity of the relic. " It was taken out of the treasury of the Abbey, and was no doubt returned to the family of its donor, in whose keeping it remained during the subsequent troubled years, when Champagne was ravaged by war and pestilence. In fact, for the next thirty-four years nothing more was heard of it " (Etude Critique, p. 24).
During this time it must be borne in mind that the Shroud remained in the keeping of the Charny family at St. Hippolyte on the banks of the river Doubs. In the year 1389 the solemn public display of the relic was resumed, and again forbidden by episcopal authority. Soon after we find a new Bishop of Troyes, Pierre d'Arcis, the third in succession from Henry of Poitiers, and either he or the authorities of the Abbey were menaced by threats of excommunication on account of the relic. A legal proccs was commenced by order of Pope Clement VII of Avignon, in which the Abbot of Lirey and the Charny family, represented by Count Geoffroy II, were on one side, and the Bishop of Troyes on the other. The rights of the Abbey of Lirey were energetically defended, but, as Monsieur Chevalier gives it (p. 26), " the Bishop did not consider himself beaten, and although worsted in the lawsuit he assembled a commission of learned theologians, and published a detailed examination of the whole question. It was held therein that the Shroud of Lirey was not the true winding-sheet of Christ, but only a painted representation, the work of man ; and, further, that any public exhibition of the Shroud was likely to expose the feeble and ignorant to the perils of idolatry. This memorandum was forwarded to Clement VII about the close of the year 1389."
According to Monsieur Chevalier, this ecclesiastical pronouncement settles finally the question of the authenticity of the Shroud of Lirey. It is indeed a most formidable attack. The Bishop of 1389 recalls the fact that in 1353 his predecessor, after careful inquiry, had obtained a confession of the fraud from the forger himself, and proceeds : "Et tandem solerti diligencia precedente et informacione super hoc facta, finaliter reperit fraudem et quomodo pannus ille artificialiter depictus fuerat, et probatum fuit eciam per artificem qui ilium depinxerat, ipsum humano ope factum, non miraculose confectum vel concessum " (Etude Critique, Doc. G, p. 8). There, says Monsieur Chevalier, is the avowal of the actual forger himself. What more can be desired ?
We are not disposed to admit so easily an "ex parte" statement. The imputations and assumptions of the Bishop's inquiry—nay, the very avowal of the so-called forger—are worthless if we are able to prove that the impressions on the Shroud cannot have been painted, but are of the nature of a photographic negative. Further still, we find as a result of the much vaunted inquiry, that the Bishop got no satisfaction— "de plus le pape imposait a l'veque perpetuum silentium sur cette question" (Etude Critique, p. 25.)
We may be allowed to point out that the archives of Troyes must have been very badly kept when there is to be found no written record of any public disavowal of the relic. The Pope's letters on the subject make no mention of any such formal prohibition : he contents himself by re-enforcing his mandate of "perpetual silence" to the Bishop : " Eidem episcopo super inhibitione praedicta perpetuum silentium imponentes" (Etude Critique, p. 21).
Indeed, had the authorities of the Abbey of Lirey, together with the Charny family, been guilty of the attempt to foist upon the religious world a manufactured relic they would have been well deserving of censure, if not of excommunication, but the Holy Father Clement VII decides mildly that the relic shall be regarded with veneration as "a copy" of the original. This was perhaps a wise decision, in view of the fact that the previous history of the relic could not be traced.
But the so-called "avowal of forgery by the forger himself" is no longer regarded seriously. It is not surprising that Pierre d'Arcis had no official document to send to Pope Clement VII, and therefore had to publish and send his own examination, because there never had been a legal proccs in 1355. Pierre d'Arcis himself, in his letter to the Pope, admits this (Etude Critique, de M. Chevalier, Appendix, Doc. G, p. 8, lines 15-20).
When the Bishop offers to prove his words, whose testimony does he invoke ? " Le bruit public " ! Is Henry de Poitiers any more reliable as a witness ? M. Chevalier himself seems to say that he is not, for hardly a year later than the date when Henry of Poitiers is supposed to have surprised the authorities of the Abbey in their trickery, " il confirmait avec eloges leur pieux etablissement " !! (Ibidem, p. 23, lines 3-4).
In 1418 the ecclesiastical authorities of Lirey (who now since the mandate of Clement VII recognized their relic as a copy of the Holy Shroud) confided the Shroud to the care of the son-in-law and successor of Count Geoffroy II of Charny—Humbert, count of La Roche, and lord of Vil-lersexel and Lirey (Etude Critique, p. 31 and following pages). Count Humberts widow, Marguerite de Charny, obstinately refused to restore the relic, and finally, to avoid further anxiety on the subject, she made it over to the Duke of Savoy. Little by little the doubts and disputes as to the authenticity of the relic, which had so agitated the religious world in 1355-1389, subsided, or were forgotten, and the relic grew in renown. On June 11, 1502, the Holy Shroud was solemnly deposited in the Chapel of Chambery Castle, where it remained until 1532, when the Chapel was partly destroyed by a fire, in which the Holy Shroud was nearly lost, and of which it bears traces at the present time. In 1534 it was religiously repaired, and finally, in 1578, it was conveyed to Turin, where it has remained ever since.
So then, the linen winding-sheet of Turin, formerly the Holy Shroud of Lirey, presents itself to us as truly remarkable, from a scientific point of view, but without any historical guarantee of authenticity. The history of that piece of linen must be deciphered from its own folds and markings, and the reader will judge whether that history is not marked out with startling clearness, as we hold it to be. How, then, shall we sum up the researches which have been undertaken, and which we have endeavoured to set forth here in detail. We cannot regard the results as hypothetical, for the coincidences are so numerous as to be intensely striking. It is no hypothesis to say that the impressions on the Shroud are of the nature of a photographic negative. We shall demonstrate that beyond any question of doubt. We shall show also that the impressions on the Shroud are not paintings, nor can they be attributed in any way directly to the hand of man. Again, it is no mere hypothesis that the impressions bear unmistakably the wounds of Christ ; but it is, we submit, absolutely hypothetical to say that while the imprint of the body may have been produced by chemical means, the marks of the wounds have been afterwards made by man's hand. In short, our essay is not a sheaf of suppositions, but the logical outcome of scientific investigation, and we venture to predict that the Holy Shroud will obtain definite historical recognition through the opening of the door to scientific investigation.