A conspiracy theorist couldn’t ask for anything more: evidence that links the Shroud of Turin to the Knights Templar. Readers of this blog will recall that the Vatican released documents a while ago that showed the Templars had actually been exonerated of the charges of heresy that were used as the justification to bring the order down–evidently, in a reversal of today, they had gotten too big and too successful not to fail. Now we have evidence that the disembodied head/idol the Templars were said to worship was actually the image on the Shroud of Turin. Very interesting stuff:
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.