From the Mandylion of Edessa to the Shroud of Turin

The Metamorphosis and Manipulation of a Legend


According to legend, the Mandylion was an image of Christ’s face imprinted on a towel, kept in Edessa. This acheiopoieton image (“not made by human hands”) disappeared in the eighteenth century. The first records of another acheiropoieton relic appeared in mid-fourteenth century France: a long linen bearing the image of Jesus’ corpse, known nowadays as the Holy Shroud of Turin. Some believe the Mandylion and the Shroud to be the same object, first kept in Edessa, later translated to Constantinople, France and Italy. Andrea Nicolotti traces back the legend of the Edessean image in history and art, focusing especially on elements that could prove its identity with the Shroud, concluding that the Mandylion and the Shroud are two distinct objects.
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Biographical Note

Andrea Nicolotti, Ph.D. (2005), University of Turin, is Research Fellow at the Department of Historical Studies. He has published many studies on history of Christianity, including Esorcismo cristiano e possessione diabolica (Brepols, 2011) and I Templari e la Sindone (Salerno, 2011).

Review Quotes

"...Nicolotti has convincingly and methodically shown that throughout the textual and visual accounts, the Shroud and the Mandylion are two distinct objects... this book will be useful for anyone interested in miraculous images, the evolution of the image of Christ, and how legends transform over time."
Anna Russakoff (American University of Paris), The Medieval Review, 15/10 (2015)

"...The author interacts thoroughly with the primary sources. His argument is easy to follow and the chapters and themes are well organized. The author’s work is also prevalent in the highly detailed footnotes which give considerable amounts of beneficial details especially for scholars who are interested in the development of the Mandylion. In general, the presentation of the material flows well and the author’s points are made clear. Even though the Mandylion is highly discussed and how the Mandylion is not the Shroud of Turin, one is left with questions on the origins and the history of the Shroud of Turin. The second volume of Nicolotti’s work discusses at length the Turinese Shroud. If the first volume is any indication to what to look forward to, there are high hopes for his second volume."
Najeeb Haddad (Loyola University Chicago), Annali di storia dell'esegesi, 32/2 (2015)

Table of contents

Acknowledgements ix
List of Illustrations xi

1 Introduction 1

2 Origins and Traditions 7
King Abgar and the Origins of the Legend 7
The Apparition of the Image in Edessa 9
The Development of Traditions about the Image 12
The Siege of Edessa 14
A Later Genesis? 17
An Older Genesis? 18
Silence in Syria and Traditions in Armenia 22
The Iconoclastic Era 26

3 Shifting Perspectives? 29
Acts of Thaddaeus 29
The Term tetradiplon and the Reliquary of the Image 34
The Question of the Folds 39
The Letter of the Three Patriarchs and Jesus’ Height 47

4 The Translation of the Image of Edessa 53
Gregory Referendarius and the Translation of the Image 53
The Narratio de Imagine Edessena 66
The Keramion 72
The Edessean Cult of the Image 77
The Synaxarium 80
The Liturgical Odes 84

5 The Mandylion in Constantinople 89
The Name “Mandylion” 89
Persistence of Converging and Diffferent Traditions 91
An Elusive Vision 96
The Preservation of the Mandylion in Byzantium 99
The Revolt of the Palace 106
Robert de Clari 109
Latin Sermon 112

6 An Overview of Iconography 120
The Holy Face of Lucca 120
Orderic Vitalis 126
Iconography of the Mandylion 128
Flowers or Holes? 148
Miniatures of the Mandylion 152
The Georgian Icon of Ancha 159
The Madrid’s Skylitzes 162
A Russian Icon 170
Byzantine Coins 173
Two Copies of the Mandylion of Edessa 182

The End 188
The Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Disappearance of the Mandylion 188

Conclusions 202

Index of Names 205


All interested in history and iconography of the acheiropoieta images, Mandylion of Edessa and Shroud of Turin, and anyone concerned with History of Christianity, Art History, Syriac and Byzantine studies.

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