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Motives, authors, sponsors: who is behind the fake relic on the outskirts of Turin?

In fact, according to the French historian Nicolas Sarzeaud, specialist in worship and images in the Middle Ages, scientifically, “the file is closed” : it is obviously a fake, made in the 14th century. On the one hand, carbon 14 dating – which there is no reason to question – carried out by three different laboratories in 1988 gave the same date range (14th or even 13th). On the other hand, the written sources do not mention this hedge before the 14th century, while the protagonists of this period themselves consider it the Holy Spirit as a fake!

“Already, around 1900, Canon Ulysse Chevalier, looking at the document, affirmed that the fourteenth century – 80 years before carbon dating 14. It is not for nothing. The reason is that the sources are very terrible. To evoke the fake, they in fact exceptionally clear. In my thesis, I have his 130 hedges and it is the only one they said at the time to do”frame from the beginning Nicolas Sarzeaud, author of ‘Copy and worship: The gift of Christ, a reproducible image-relic from the 14th to the 16th century’. “Given the state of the documentation, we can even almost say that Saint Cavalman was born around 1350-1355.“, he specified.

Complaint to Pope Clement VII

A document of the time seems very revealing to him: the memory of the bishop of Troyes Pierre d’Arcis, written to the Pope in 1389, to complain about the deceptive display of the object, which the bishop clearly affirms is a false relic. . This exhibition is held not far from Troyes (Champagne), in Lirey, a small town where there is a colliery church, directed by a college of canons. For Pope Clement VII, Peter of Arcis summarizes the affair, which actually began about thirty years earlier, when the Holy Spirit began to show in the mid-1350s at the College of Lirey. Before, under the injunction of Bishop Henri de Poitiers, the predecessor of Pierre d’Arcis, the cult was stopped and they were withdrawn from public view for three decades. Until the moment of memory, therefore.

Gift of Turin.

According to an investigation by Henri, Pierre assures us that it was a craftsman who made the blanket that he identified. “Making fake relics is rarely described to us, it can be in very polemical and funny texts that make fun of the clergy, but the texts with a pastoral dimension that explain very clearly that someone made the relic like this in fact, it is extremely rare. It is an outstanding record of the knowledge of the false”underlines medievalist Nicolas Sarzeaud, researcher at the University of Lyon.

Another amazing feature: the owner of the house, the Charny family, assures themselves that the exposed linen is not a real wreck. “When the owner of the object asks (in 1389, the first mention of the object in the document, according to M. Sarzeaud) The Pope to be able to bring out the object that they had to put aside after the intervention of the bishop (Henry), they use the term ‘figure or representation’ of the blanket. A term that leaves no ambiguity: it is an image. Pierre d’Arcis disagrees with this formulation which seems too nice for him. For him, it is nonsense: he says that this name was invented on purpose by the dean (in the canons) in the collegiate church to be able to bring out the object, which indeed was shown for a time as a relic but which was destroyed by the previous bishop. It is indeed a term that is rarely found in the literature to designate the image of the relics. Pierre d’Arcis accuses the dean of inventing this formula ‘figure or representation’ in the tomb to revive the image without needing to justify its authenticity. But it is also the position of the Pope, who will say that we can show the object, but as an image.

Does the Shroud of Turin prove the existence of God?

A big scandal”

nonetheless, the historian continues to give the example of another blanket (there are dozens of them in the Middle Ages) accepted by the Pope as a relic of Carcassonne in the same period, “it doesn’t take much to pass off an object as a relic of the Middle Ages”. “But in Lirey, obviously, that doesn’t happen. And if it doesn’t happen, for me, the only explanation is not the bishop of Troyes: there was a big scandal (in the 1350s) because he was found to be a forgery. Such a scandal that they had to hide the object for thirty years. And when we found it, the problem was the same. The actors of the first phase were still alive at the time, so it is impossible to lie about what happened.

If Pierre d’Arcis does not name the forger, he bluntly denounces what we might call today the sponsor of the crime: “For him, it is the dean of the college who has – in Latin he writes must be given – fill the blanket. That’s why the dean of the college found him. We want to hear ‘order’, but it is perhaps a bit strong. But it seems that the dean of the college is at work. He ordered it from someone. Who? the question is open.”

Historical documents indeed provide very little information about what could be the profile of a relic forger in the Middle Ages. “Anyway, we know that they exist, that people make fake relics. (Medieval theologian and writer) Guibert de Nogent thus wrote a treatise on relics in which he related that one day a merchant was near the church praising a piece of bread that Christ had chewed during the Last Supper, and he asked Guibert to go up on the platform to confirm! At that time, there were relatively few lawsuits against relic forgers. Questions of authenticity do not keep the Church from sleeping. His position is a bit of the Roman Curia if you question him off today: ‘people need this, let’s give them the scraps’…”

Attract pilgrims to a “lost hole”

On the other hand, the motive for such a counterfeit is beyond doubt: fame and money. “Money is the motive evoked by the Bishop of Troyes Pierre d’Arcis, who assured us that in order to launch the devotion to the Saint around 1350, the canons of the collegiate church also paid people to make people believe in miracles. , for example a. false paralysis that arose in the crowd during the ostentation. This testifies to a fairly extensive fake business. But in fact, more than the money, it is the desire to make Lirey – a collegiate church in a remote hole – an important sanctuary. The college wants to have many pilgrims, who when they come will donate (money, books, goods of all kinds…) to the church and pray for the soul of the founder of the college or the bishop in exchange for indulgence.” The indulgences? Sort of discounted days in purgatory,”medieval invention”.

Exhibition of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Turin.

Between sanctuaries, it is as much about imitation as competition. “Some have said that the Bishop of Troyes was jealous of Lirey (And therefore saw the cult of the Holy Ghost with an evil eye, Editor’s note), but in fact, in my thesis, I prefer to observe the opposite. Those who promote a hedge tell others it is true, because their interest is to keep it up to date. Moreover, once a person is in Lirey, nothing prevents him from pushing Troyes. And we also see that several sanctuaries are organizing together to set up a big event where everyone comes at the same time.”

But the presence of a relic of Christ on their territory also strengthened the status of the local rulers – the Charnys – because the medieval rulers used the relics of Christ to underline their role as representatives of Jesus on Earth. Without forgetting that the faithful, if they want a tolerance, must also pray for Geoffroy de Charny and his wife…”The interests of the temple and the local lord are mixed”we can think that they were in combination…”There was also a kind of 50/50 ownership of the ‘relic’ between the college and the family” : to open the reliquary two keys were needed, one belonging to the canons, the other to the Charny…

Mode of operation

An important question remains: mode of operation. How could the forger make the blanket? We ignore it. If the image of the man in the linen corresponds very well with the iconography of Christ in the 14th century (long hair, beard, etc.), it is “extremely unique”. “It’s not because I said it’s fake that I’m saying it’s a worthless image. It is an image of great intelligence. Pierre d’Arcis says that the image was represented (“depingere”, which does not necessarily mean “painted”, it is “figured”) with great intelligence. For all textile designs at the time, block printing was used. This is done in a flat tint, and therefore it is completely homogeneous. But on the sheet, some areas are darker than others. How they found this technique is a real question and remains a real nice question.

A violation where the authenticity of “pro” and “anti” swallowed their heads. “Authenticity professionals say, ‘you don’t know how it was made’. The anti-authenticity is therefore made blankets and methods are made in the garages. As a historian, I am no more convinced by the antis than by the pros!” One theory evokes a sculptural system dabbed against a canvas. This seems quite credible to Nicolas Sarzeaud but there are no historical documents to confirm it.

“According to forensic medicine, Christ died of respiratory acidosis after postural asphyxia”

In the 21st century, the Gift still has its counterfeiters, because a real “parascience” (fields of research and methods similar to scientific methods without presenting the expected guarantees) developed around the blanket. “Scientific studies were done by anyone and in any way in order to show that the blanket was authentic”. Nicolas Sarzeaud’s medieval detail: self-reference, techniques inappropriate to the object (pollen studies, blood grouping, etc.), use and invention of own methods, scientists venturing into fields that are not theirs…

Famous example: this study published in April 2022, which asserted, with a new dating system, that the blanket goes back to the 1st century. This team only had “no recognized textile specialist” and he applied, with the Tomb, a method of dating which he had invented, and to a cloth for the preceding. “There is no chance that it will reproduce, predicts Nicolas Sarzeaud. These people, no one knows them in the world of textiles. They arrived and said: ‘we are inventing a new method of textile dating’. They do it without any partnership with a textile museum, without any partnership with a textile specialist…”

“I believe that the purpose is deep (in this parascience) there is a media exhibition. And as my thesis supervisor said, in the Middle Ages, you needed a nice reliquary and light to ‘look real’. In the same way, today, science is needed, not in the sense of a real scientific project, but a kind of scientific exhibition. There is also this phenomenon of people who want to rationalize their beliefs, that science confirms faith. It is the idea that you can prove the Resurrection, that eternal life, basically. The tire is an object that almost has this promise in it. So there will always be people who say it is genuine. It sure is.” As for the Church, recalls the historian, he refers to the study on carbon 14 and himself attributes in his hedge the Holy statue of an image and not of a relic. It closes the file and furthermore does not allow any further analysis of the fabric sample.

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