This post is part of a multi-part series investigating the evidence and arguments surrounding the Shroud of Turin. See the first post, Shoud of Turin, Could it Be Real?, for an index.
When we consider the “possibilities” of the Shroud it may be meaningful to the reader that there is more than one external witness. The Sudariaum of Oviedo is one such witness:
Housed in the Cathedral of Oviedo, Spain, and relatively unknown compared to the attention given the Shroud of Turin, the Sudarium of Oviedo presents it’s own similarly interesting history and apparently related backstory. Equally puzzling, the Sudarium is a smaller piece of cloth that research shows may be closely related to the Shroud. Measuring 34″ by 21″, the Sudarium is a bloodstained cloth believed by many to have covered the head of Jesus of Nazareth while still on the cross or while he lay in the tomb. There is a biblical basis for this belief: John chapter 20 states that there was a cloth, separate from the burial shroud, that was used to wrap around Jesus’s head. We are mindful that this biblical text would open the flood gates for manufactured relics…but lets pause that thought for a moment.
Unlike the Shroud, the Sudarium is traceable to AD 614 when it left Palestine. At that time, it was already venerated and treated as sacred, a tattered rag with apparent blood stains, holes, burns, and no other relic competing for the same claim. Even 1500 years later, it has no competition for its claimed role as the cloth that covered Jesus’ face after his crucifixion.
In 614, just before Khusru II, the Sasanian King of Persia, conquered Jerusalem, the cloth was taken to Alexandria and within a few years made its way to Spain through North Africa. It has been there ever since. The immediate concern is what happened during the 600 undocumented years in the history of the cloth. If this cloth is in fact the sudarium of Jesus of Nazareth, it must have been kept somewhere. Currently, nothing is known for sure about these early years. It does strike me as odd that if these two linens are not the real funeral cloths of Jesus of Nazareth, why don’t we have other contenders in the records, and where might the real ones have gone?
The reason for the silence about its existence is probably related to its function. The Jewish people have always had a strong distaste for anything to do with blood. The very idea of a cloth covering the face of a corpse with blood coming out of its nose and mouth would have horrified all concerned. The disciples would have retrieved it and kept it hidden from sight out of reverence, but little would have been said. So much is conjecture, but what is known for certain is that the cloth has always been venerated and its authenticity has never been in doubt.
The Sudarium is much different than most artistic relics in its chronology through history, ownership, and location. Its tattered appearance makes it not nearly as impressive to look at as the Shroud – visually you come away with wanting more. It is a blood stained cloth that covered the head of someone who died a very brutal death.
The studies on the Sudarium and the comparison of this cloth with the Shroud are just one of the many witnesses which point to both having covered a dead body. The history of the Oviedo cloth is well documented, and the common points of this are meaningful for dating of the Shroud.
The first common point is that the blood on both cloths belongs to the same blood group, AB. Thorn wounds of blood on the nape of the neck coincide with bloodstains on the shroud. It is also suggested that if the face of the image on the Shroud is placed on the Sudarium, the stains, including the beard, and the length of the nose are an exact match. Entire papers are written on the commonalities of the two clothes and are well worth reading.
The following video is also an excellent introduction to the Sudarium of Oviedo and its relationship to the Shroud of Turin.