The Lirey Shroud Mystery
With thanks and due recognition to Joe Nicholl ("Relics of the Christ"), and Mark Oxley ("The
Challenge of the Shroud History, Science, and the Shroud of Turin").
A shroud bearing the image of a crucified man was placed on view in the small
church of Lirey, several miles to the south of Troyes, in 1357. The church had been
founded 4 years earlier by the celebrated Knight Geoffroy de Charny, son of Jean de
Charny (Lord of Lirey) and author of three works on chivalry. It is believed that he
donated the cloth to the dean of the proposed abbey, and soon the artefact was
attracting pilgrims from far and wide across France and adjacent Burgundy. The
phenomenon was such that the event was commemorated by a medallion (one of
which survives to this day and is exhibited in the Cluny museum, Paris) and
eventually attracted the ire of the nearby Bishop of Troyes, Henri de Poitiers. Henri
launched a lengthy and well documented investigation, concluding that the so-called
relic was, in fact, a fake. When he tried to have the offending article confiscated, the
dean had it hidden away (it is presumed by its owner, Geoffroy de Charny).
Nothing more was heard of the shroud for more than 30 years, until the then
dean of Lirey, Nicole Martin, sought and received Royal Honour for it to be again
exhibited. Anticipating renewed opposition, the 2nd Geoffroy de Charny contacted
his close relation, Pope Clement, who instructed the Bishop of Troyes (now Pierre
d'Arcis) to be silent on the matter. Despite the edict, d'Arcis decided to draft a letter
(now known as the d'Arcis Memorandum) to the Pope, declaring that; "the Dean
of..Lirey, falsely and deceitfully..procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly
painted.." and, of the findings of his predecessor; "eventually, after diligent inquiry
and examination, he discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly
painted, the truth being attested by the artist.."
Whether the d'Arcis Memorandum was ever sent to the Pope is still debated, as
is the veracity of the original claim that an artist had actually laid claim to producing
the forgery (he was never named). However, what is known is that Pope Clement
eventually ordered that the cloth be described as a painted copy, although some
claim that this may simply have been judicious diplomacy on his part, as the family
declined to attest to the item's provenance.
The shroud continued to be displayed as such until it was transferred to the de
Charny family castle in Montfort in 1418. It was then gifted by the family to the
House of Savoy in 1453, who began to again claim its authenticity. It was damaged
in a fire at the Savoy chapel in Chambery in 1532, and transfered to the capital in
Turin in 1578. Finally, it was transferred to its current resting place in the Cathedral
of Jean the Baptist, and is now known as the Shroud of Turin.
Various tests were undertaken in 1969, 1973, and 1978, mostly finding the
shroud to be a forgery (although each of these claims have been challenged). In
1998 a sample was carbon dated to the middle ages, although this was also
challenged (amongst other things, it was claimed that the samples were taken from
repairs undertaken during the time in question).
The de Charny family were minor nobles during the early 1300's, and appeared
to have had sympathies, if not direct familial connections, with the Knights Templar.
Another Geoffroy de Charny, who was Templar Master of Normandy and closely
associated with the border region between Champagne and Burgundy (that is, in the
region of Troyes), was burnt at the stake in 1314, and there is some anecdotal
evidence to suggest that he was related to the de Charny family from Lirey. Given
these linkages, along with the belief that the Templars worshipped the image of a
head during their initiation ceremonies (the so-called "Mandylion"), some have
conjectured that this was noneother than the Lirey or Turin Shroud, folded in such a
way that only the head was visible.