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  • 8/2/2019 Relics of the Christ


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  • 8/2/2019 Relics of the Christ


  • 8/2/2019 Relics of the Christ





    Joe Nickell

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    Publication of this volume was made possible in part

    by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    Copyright 2007 by The University Press of Kentucky

    Scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth,

    serving Bellarmine University, Berea College, Centre

    College of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University,

    The Filson Historical Society, Georgetown College,

    entucky Historical Society, Kentucky State University,

    orehead State University, Murray State University,

    orthern Kentucky University, Transylvania University,

    niversity of Kentucky, University of Louisville,

    and Western Kentucky University.

    All rights reserved.

    Editorial and Sales Offices: The University Press of Kentucky

    663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40508-4008

    1 10 09 08 07 5 4 3 2 1

    ibrary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    ickell, Joe.

    Relics of the Christ / Joe Nickell.

    p. cm.

    Includes bibliographical references and index.

    ISBN-13: 978-0-8131-2425-4 (hardcover : alk. paper)

    ISBN-10: 0-8131-2425-5 (hardcover : alk. paper)

    1. Jesus ChristRelics. 2. Relics. 3. Religious articles. I. Title.

    BT465.N53 2006



    This book is printed on acid-free recycled paper meeting

    the requirements of the American National Standard

    or Permanence in Paper for Printed Library Materials.

    anufactured in the United States of America.

    Member of the Association of

    American University Presses

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    List of Illustrations ix

    Acknowledgments xiii

    Introduction: The Life of Jesus 1

    The Christ 1The Nazarene 5

    The Mythologized Jesus 8

    The Physical Evidence 11

    1. The Cult of Relics 13

    The Origin of Relics 13

    The Veneration of Relics 16

    The Dispensation of Relics 18Authentication 21

    2. Christian Relics 26

    Nativity and Infancy 26

    Life and Ministry 31

    Disciples 33

    Later Saints 40

    3. The Holy Grail 50

    Grail Legends 50

    Historical Evidence 53


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    he Grail as Relic 56

    he Da Vinci Hoax 60

    4. Self-Portraits of Jesus 67he Likeness of Jesus 67

    he Image of Edessa 69

    Veronicas Veil 71

    5. The True Cross 77

    Visions of Constantine and Helena 77

    he Holy Cross 82

    he Titulus 86Fragments and Nails 90

    6. Other Crucifixion Relics 96

    Relics of the Trial and Scourging 96

    he Crown of Thorns 100

    he Holy Garments 103

    he Lance of Longinus 106

    7. Holy Shrouds 111

    esus Jewish Burial 111

    oly Winding Sheets 114

    Shroud of Constantinople 117

    Shrouds in Art and Liturgy 120

    8. The Shroud of Turin 122

    he Affair at Lirey 122A Confessed Forger 128

    ourney of the Holy Shroud 130

    A Linen Cloth 134

    9. Photograph of Christ 139

    mage on the Shroud 139

    he Imprinting 142

    edical Evidence 147A Work of Art 150

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    CONTENTS vii

    10. The Sudarium of Oviedo 154

    Companion Relic 154

    istorical Record 156ogus Science 159

    Carbon Dating 164

    11. Blood of Jesus 167

    oly Blood 167

    Blood on the Shroud 174

    Blood on the Sudarium 177

    12. The James Ossuary 180

    ackground 180

    Provenance 184

    Further Suspicions 186

    he Verdict 189

    Conclusion 191

    References 193Index 201

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    The Annunciation 3

    The Holy Family 7

    Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead 10

    Relic collection at the Church of Maria Ausiliatrice 14

    Relic chapel in the Church of Maria Ausiliatrice 17

    Reliquary of the reputed blood of Christ 21

    Reputed relic of St. Augustine 22

    Ten Commandments being given to Moses 23

    Basilica of St. Eustorgio in Milan 28

    Depiction of the Magi at Basilica of St. Eustorgio 28

    St. Marks Basilica in Venice 38

    Crypt supposedly holding relics of St. Mark 38Lunette depicting St. Mark , the Virgin, and Christ 39

    St. Januarius holding vials of his own blood 45

    Gilded bust of St. Januarius 48

    Luigi Garlaschelli and the Pozzuoli Stone 48

    Suit of cups in the tarot deck 51

    Knights Templar 54

    Statue of Faith holding the Holy Grail 57The Antioch chalice 59

    Cover of The Da Vinci Code 61

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    Statue of Leonardo da Vinci 62

    Purported relics of Mary Magdalene 64

    Face of Christ imprinted on cloth 69Veronica offers her veil to Jesus 72

    Veronica displays her veil 72

    Veronica engraving on linen 74

    Jesus dies on a cross 78

    Byzantine cross 79

    Crusaders capturing Jerusalem 84

    View of Golgotha 85Cover of The Quest for the True Cross 88

    Embossed token of the True Cross 93

    Collection of relics from Constantinople 99

    Jesus with the Crown of Thorns 101

    Cover of The Spear of Destiny 110

    Burial of Jesus 113

    Holy Shroud of Besanon, France 117

    Crusaders desecrating a church in Constantinople 119

    Container of the Shroud of Turin 123

    useum of the Shroud in Turin 123

    Shroud of Turin carried aloft by angels 124

    Cathedral of St. John the Baptist 132

    Walter C. McCrone 133

    Photographs of the Shroud of Turin 141

    Detail from photoreproduction of the shroud 144

    Negative photo of the face on the shroud 146

    Negative photo of experimental image 147

    Cover of The Oviedo Cloth 157

    ap of Spain 158

    Sketch of the Oviedo cloth 161

    Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges 171

    Painting in Bruges depicting the Holy Blood 171Lighted cross at Church of Maria Ausiliatrice 172

    The James ossuary 181

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    Ossuaries at Royal Ontario Museum 182

    The James ossuarys inscription 183

    Ossuary exhibition at Royal Ontario Museum 186Drawing of rosettes on James ossuary 187

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    am grateful for the assistance of many people, including all my col-

    leagues at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York, notably,

    Paul Kurtz, chairman, and Barry Karr, executive director, for their

    continued support. So, too, the entire staff of Skeptical Inquirer ma -

    azine, in which some portions of this book appeared.

    Specifically, I want to thank Timothy Binga, director of CFI Li-

    braries, for research assistance; Thomas Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry,

    or help in various ways; and Paul E. Loynes for word processing.

    I appreciate all the efforts of the staff at the University Press of

    Kentucky, especially Gena Henry for her continuing interest in this


    any others assisted in various ways, especially my Italian col-leagues and friends, including Paola de Gobbi, Francesco Chiminello,

    and Matteo Fillippini (in Venice); Massimo Polidoro (in Milan); Ste-

    ano Bagnasco, Andrea Ferrero, Claudio Pastore, Beatrice Mautino,

    and Mario Tomatis (in Turin); and Luigi Garlaschelli (who accompa-

    ied me to Naples).

    And, of course, once again I am grateful for the encouragement

    and assistance of friends and family, especially the love of my life,Diana Harris; our beautiful daughter, Cherette Roycroft; my son-in-

    law, Randy Roycroft; and my grandsons, Chase and Tyner.


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    The Life of Jesus

    The founder of Christianity, the religious movement that helped

    shape the course of Western civilization, was an itinerant, wonder-

    orking, Palestinian rabbi from Nazareth named Yeshua (in He-

    brew), today known as Jesus (from the Greek form of that name). He

    as been viewed in quite different ways. As portrayed in the Chris-

    tian Gospels, he was the Messiah, or Christ (from the Greek anoint-

    ed); scholars have attempted to understand him as a historical

    gure, sometimes called the Nazarene; and some have even seen him

    as largely or even completely fictitious, the product of an evolving

    ythology. This chapter treats each of these views in turn and then

    sets the tone for the remainder of the book, which investigates the

    eputed relics of Jesus and his family and followers, examining howthey contribute to an understanding of what is necessarily a story of

    a story.

    T e C rist

    The primary source of information about the life of Jesus is the four

    GospelsMatthew, Mark, Luke, and Johnsupplemented by other

    Christian texts, including apocryphal Gospels, and scant non-Christianritings. Three of the four GospelsMatthew, Mark, and Lukeare

    known as the synoptic Gospels (from the Greek synoptikos, with

    one eye) because of their similarities. Matthew appears first in the


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