Is this the
face of Jesus?
Many people have heard of the Shroud of Turin (GREAT website – you could spend hours there!).
Most people have heard that the Shroud is not authentic because Carbon-14 testing showed that it was created in the Middle Ages. Most people HAVE NOT HEARD that the very scientists who conducted those tests are now saying THE TESTS WERE WRONG.
Among those who have heard of the Shroud of Turin, most have never heard of the Sudarium.
The Sudarium is a blood-stained cloth that is kept at the Cathedral of San Salvador (Holy Savior) in Oviedo, Spain. Although the Sudarium doesn’t bear an image, many people believe that it is related to the Shroud of Turin. Specifically, it is believed that the Sudarium is the same cloth that St. John the Evangelist describes in his Gospel (Jn 20:7):
6 Then cometh Simon Peter, following him, and went into the sepulchre, and saw the linen cloths lying, 7 And the napkin that had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but apart, wrapped up into one place. 8 Then that other disciple also went in, who came first to the sepulchre: and he saw, and believed.
Sudarium is a Latin word that means “sweat cloth”. According to tradition (with a small “t”), when Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross, a cloth, or napkin, was placed on his head. It is this cloth that John saw folded and set apart in the sepulchre. It is this cloth, according to the tradition, that is kept in Oviedo. Hence, the cloth is sometimes called the Sudarium of Oviedo. (By the way, the Shroud is sometimes referred to as the Sidone, which is a Greek word that means “linen cloth”. The Shroud and the Sidone of Turin are the same thing.)
The Sudarium and the Shroud may have both come out of the Holy Sepulchre, but they took different routes to Europe after that. The Sudarium traveled across North Africa and into Hispania (Spain) before 700 AD. Within a few years, Tariq and the Muslim Berbers would launch an invasion of the Christian peninsula from the tip of North Africa into the Iberian Peninsula. (It is from Tariq that we get Gibraltar, which means “Rock of Tariq”.)
The Sudarium was placed in the security of the Kingdom of Asturias, a mountainous northern Christian kingdom along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. The Asturians, led by Pelayo, were the last line of resistance against Muslim aggression. The cloth was brought to Oviedo by 1113 AD. King Alfonso II had a special chest, the “Camara Santa” or Holy Chest, that held it lined with silver; and it was placed in a special chapel.
It was ultimately from the resistance of the Asturians that the Reconquista began, and ended 700 years later with a Christian Spain. (Thank goodness for the Asturians.)
But, I digress. Back to the Sudarium…
So, the Sudarium has been kept in Oviedo since that time. There have been several scientific studies done on the cloth by an interdisciplinary team of scientists. (Here’s a website, but it’s in Spanish – no English translation. I can’t vouch for what’s on it, but maybe you read Spanish.) These teams made several remarkable discoveries, coinciding with features of the Shroud of Turin, to wit:
the stains on the cloth are from blood and pleural edema (fluid from the lungs), such as generated with a person dies of asphyxia, like during a crucifixion
the stains were generated by a person who had a beard, moustache, long hair, and suffered head wounds
the same kinds of pollen as are found on the Shroud are also found on the Sudarium; these pollens come from a limited area of Palestine around Jerusalem
the blood on both the Sudarium and the Shroud are both Type AB; in an interesting fact, the confirmed blood type of all Eucharistic miracles is Type AB (scroll down to see the Lanciano miracle)
the stains on both cloths line up perfectly if the Sudarium is overlaid on the Shroud
One important fact in favor of the Sudarium is the fact that it was kept at all. Simply looking at the cloth doesn’t reveal ANYTHING. To all outward appearances, it is worthless. Why keep it?
The Catholic Church has never made any pronouncement as to the historical reality of either the Shroud of Turin or the Sudarium of Oviedo. There is no way to make such decisive pronouncement. These cloths do not in and of themselves produce Faith – only God’s grace and the Holy Spirit do that.
However, they can be very good enticements to people to begin exploring Christianity’s claims; and, in my case, they can help provide consolations and reassurances to continue to strive in the Faith.
May God bless us and give us all the grace to believe.