The Lirey Shroud Mystery
With thank s 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
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
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.
If the so-called forger of the Shroud ever did exist, it is presumed that he flourished
around the time of the first appearance of the cloth (that is, the 1350's). The following story