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Comments on Icon of Beirut by C. Carta, P. Sabe and J M Orenga
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Comment submitted by Mario Latendresse

The paper by Barta, Sabe, and Orenga, tries to demonstrate that the
Mandylion was not the Shroud of Turin and that instead the Shroud was
probably the icon of Beirut.

On pages 49-51, in particular, they also tried to demonstrate that the
Mandylion that reached the Sainte-Chapelle was similar to a Veronica,
as exemplified by the Genoa icon, which is very different from the
Shroud. That is, in particular, the authors try to demonstrate that
the Shroud cannot have gone through the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris.

Unfortunately, the authors have made several substantial errors that
bring down this latter demonstration. Essentially, they have confused
what is most likely part of the reliquary of the Mandylion and the
cloth, which was identified in 1247 to be in the reliquary.

It must be noted that the first complete inventory of the relics in
the Grande Châsse of the Sainte-Chapelle of Paris occurs in 1534, well
after the presence of the Shroud had been identified to be in Lirey
and Chambéry, among other places.

A first substantial error of the authors occurs on page 50, where they
write: "The reliquary had a face on a cloth surrounded by a gold plate
decorated with a “trellis”." The author points to references 26 and
27, which neither demonstrates that statement. Indeed, all inventories
of the relics in the Grande Châsse do not mention a cloth in the
reliquary of the Mandylion. The late inventories describe an image
inside and on the bottom of the reliquary with no mention of a
cloth. And, as already stated, the first complete inventory of the
Grande Châsse is well after the presence of the Shroud in Lirey. In
other words, based solely on the inventories, it appears that the
cloth that arrived in the reliquary of the Mandylion disappeared from
the Sainte-Chapelle between 1247 and 1534.

The reasoning of the authors is essentially the following: the
descriptions of the image seen at the bottom of the reliquary are
similar to icons such as the Holy Face of Genoa, which also includes a
cloth, but glued to the bottom of the reliquary, which is totally
dissimilar to the Shroud, therefore the cloth that arrived in Paris is
not the Shroud. However, as mentioned, that reasoning ignores the fact
that no cloth is mentioned in the reliquary and that, furthermore, in
1534, the inventory says that only a different object than a cloth (a
trelle) was found in the reliquary. The authors do not even consider
that the disappearance of the cloth is a possibility, but instead
consider that the cloth is certainly present, which is contrary to what
the texts of the inventories say.

A second substantial error occurs with the following statement:
"Exhibitions of the Image of Edessa in Constantinople can be found
until the middle of the eleventh century.". No reference is made
to support such a statement. In reality, no known showing of the Image
while in Constantinople is known. The image is always hidden during
a procession and private showing does not specify that the image
or the cloth is shown to the public or any high-ranking visitor.

A third substantial error occurs with the following statement:
"However, when the pilgrim who wrote their description visited the
city - around 1075-1198 - the superstition preventing opening was
already established." The authors probably meant "1075-1098", a
change of one century, which means that the pilgrim describes a state
of affairs at least one century before Robert de Clari saw the
"Sydoine" at the Blachernae, not just a few years. The authors are
trying to demonstrate that the Mandylion was never extracted from its
reliquary starting around 1075 until Robert de Clari saw the "Sydoine"
(in 1203), which would make the Mandylion not the same as the
"Sydoine", which is assumed to be the Shroud by the authors. But
nothing prevents the current emperor of 1203 to change what previous
emperors of more than one century ago had decided. More importantly,
in 1203, the Byzantine empire is in great turmoil, and the current
emperor may have decided to finally show the Mandylion to distract the
attention of the soldiers of the fourth crusade. It is also possible
that the pilgrim who stated this supposed "superstition" was ill
informed. It could have been a made up reason created by a guide of
the city, which many pilgrims used to visit the city, to explain the
non-exhibition of the Mandylion. A pilgrim is obviously not a high
ranking official who would have known the real reason why the
Mandylion was not shown.

A fourth statement on page 51 says : "Moreover, it [Sydoine] was
placed in the church of Blachernae, far from Pharos chapel where the
Mandylion was kept." This statement is trying to demonstrate that the
Mandylion could not have been transported from the Pharos chapel to
the church of Blachernae because of the distance between the two
locations. This is a very weak argument, because there is at most 6 km
between the two locations. It would have taken about one hour for a
single carrier to silently bring the Mandylion from the Pharos chapel
to the church of Blachernae, if the Emperor so desired. In other words,
it is possible that the Mandylion was brought to the Blachernae church
from the Pharos chapel, and back, with nobody noticing it, except the
Emperor and possibly a few high-ranking officials.

A fifth statement on page 51 says: "However, the Shroud of Blachernae
[Sydoine], as described by Robert de Clari, disappeared during the
sack of the city." That statement comes from Robert de Clari himself,
but he is not a high-ranking official that would have known the real
whereabouts of the "Sydoine". Nothing prevents the possibility that
the Mandylion was transferred back and forth from the two palaces, that
is, the "Sydoine" did not leave Constantinople but could have been
hidden away in the reliquary of the Mandylion.

In conclusion, the Mandylion could have been the "Sydoine"
shown in Blachernae, without the soldiers of the fourth crusade noticing
this identity, because the Emperor had complete control on the Mandylion
and no soldiers of the fourth crusade had seen the true Mandylion. Moreover,
the Mandylion itself could have reached the Sainte-Chapelle and could have
disappeared from it, because the texts of the inventories tend to support
such a possibility, not the opposite.

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