Yes, it’s Christmastime not Easter, but I was listening to the back catalogue of a podcast while at work called History Today and wanted to look into the story again once I had a chnace. From 2014 and the Guardian:
according to research by British scholar and author Charles Freeman, to be published in the journal History Today, the truth is that the shroud is not only medieval, just as the radiocarbon dating suggests, but that it is likely to have been created for medieval Easter rituals – an explanation that flies in the face of what he called “intense and sometimes absurd speculation” that coalesces around it.
Freeman, the author of Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe, studied early descriptions and illustrations of the shroud. None predates 1355, the year of its first documented appearance in a chapel
So not a forgery intended to trick the faithful, but an authentic, “antique” stage prop once used for assisting with the telling of the Easter story. Isn’t that brilliant? Also, my library has that book. I’m totally borrowing it to see what else Freeman’s got in there. Relics repel and fascinate me in equal measure.
“On Easter morning the gospel accounts of the resurrection would be re-enacted with ‘disciples’ acting out a presentation in which they would enter a makeshift tomb and bring out the grave clothes to show that Christ had indeed risen,” he said.
Freeman’s idea was shored up by his study of the earliest illustration of the shroud – on a pilgrim badge of the 1350s found in the Seine in 1855. On it, two clerics hold up the shroud, and beneath is an empty tomb.
The church officially regards the shroud with an open mind: as a object to be venerated as a reminder of Christ’s passion, rather than, necessarily, the physical imprint of his body.
See why I didn’t wait until Easter? So cool and seems like a great explanation that solves the mystery completely.
I can bring this back to Christmas now — back in Kindergarten I got to play Mary in the Christmas story, with a blue towel on my head and some loaner plastic rolling pony that kept getting caught on the stage wires so “Mary” walked to the inn by herself while “Joseph” was tasked with untangling her ride. There are no photos of this school play — back in the ancient 1980s, kids, we got by without thousands of snapshots every three minutes and were forced to rely on our memories, and in the case of this play, someone’s tape recorder which at least caught the story with laughter if not visual action…