© Stephen E. Jones
[Above (enlarge): "King Lucius (middle) from the East Window in York Minster." But as we shall see, there never was an English King Lucius: he was in fact Edessa's King Lucius Septimius Severus, aka. Abgar VIII (r. 177-212)!]
Grail, Holy. The "Holy Grail" is a dish, plate, stone, or cup and is part of the Arthurian (King Arthur and the knights of the round table) legendary literature. But historian Daniel Scavone, professor Emeritus of history at the University of Southern Indiana, has shown that the Shroud of Turin is the real object that inspired the Holy Grail legend.
The Venerable Bede (c. 672-735), an English monk, learned from a friend Nothelm in Rome that in the 6th century Liber Pontificalis ("Book of the Popes"), Pope Eleutherius († c. 174-189) "... received a letter from Lucio Britannio rege asking for assistance in converting his lands to the Faith." Bede wrongly included this in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in c. 731, as "Lucius King of Britain" and cited it as evidence that Britain had become Christian in the second century. But German Church historian Adolph Harnack (1851–1930) knew there were no British kings in second century Britain when it was a province of Rome. And that there was only one King Lucius who converted to Christianity in the second century: Lucius Abgar VIII of Edessa, who had visited Rome in the time of Pope Eleutherus. Harnack also revealed that Edessa was sometimes referred to by the name of its citadel: in Syriac Birtha and in Latin Britium. The late second century Church Father, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c.215) had written that the tomb of St. Jude-Thaddaeus (1st-2nd century) was known to be in Britio Edessenorum, the citadel of Abgar.
Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100–1155), an English historian, in his Historia Regum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain"), did not mention Bede's King Lucius, but did mention a first-century British king named Arviragus, whom he found in the Roman satirist, Juvenal (fl. 98-128), who wrote in jest: "Veiento ... will capture some king - perhaps Arviragus will tumble out of his British wagon". Since, like Lucius, there never was a King Arviragus in Britain, Juvenal presumably was referring to Edessa's King Abgar VII (109-116), pronounced "Avgarus", who had led a failed revolt against Rome in 116. But since Geoffrey placed Arviragus between AD 44-54, he presumably had in mind Edessa's King Abgar V (r. BC 4-AD 7, 13–50) of the same period.
In the version of the Abgar story current in Geoffrey's time, the Acts of Thaddaeus, Edessa's King Abgar V had suffered a crippling ailment, and sent his agents to the Roman governor at Eleutheropolis, a town near Hebron in Israel. Abgar V was then healed by a portrait of Jesus' face painted in "choice pigments" on a "towel" which was "acheiropoietos" ("not made by hands"), and was further called a "sindon tetradiplon," ("linen sheet four-doubled"). This can only be the Shroud as the Mandylion/Image of Edessa (see my "Tetradiplon and the Shroud of Turin"). However, this can only be a reference to Edessa's King Lucius Septimius Severus Abgar VIII, who (as we saw) sent a letter to Pope Eleutherus asking for missionaries to come and preach the Faith in Edessa and had also paid a visit to Rome in Pope Eleutherus's time (174-189). This is because it was only in Abgar VIII's time that Roman emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (145–211) renamed the town of Beth Gubrin in Israel to Eleutheropolis in c. 200, and it was Abgar VIII who took that Emperor's names as his own. Geoffroy also included in his "History of the Kings of Britain" stories about another non-existent British king, "King Arthur," who according to folklore led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century.
Chrétien de Troyes (1130-91), a French poet, in his c. 1191 romance, Perceval, the Story of the Grail, introduced the Grail into Western literature as a large platter or dish holding only a single communion wafer, representing the body of Jesus. Although French, Chrétien set his story of the Grail in Britain, presumably ultimately based on Bede's misunderstanding of "Lucio Britannio rege" to mean "Lucius King of Britain," when it actually meant "Lucius [Abgar VIII], King of Britio [Edessa]" (see above). The grail dish was carried in procession to a crippled king, reminiscent of the crippled King Abgar V in the Acts of Thaddaeus. The theme of the poem was the quest for the Holy Grail by Perceval, a knight of King Arthur.
Wolfram von Eschenbach (c. 1170-1220) was a German knight and poet. His epic poem Parzival, written about 1210, was based on Chrétien de Troyes' unfinished Perceval, the Story of the Grail. In it von Eschenbach introduced the idea of the Knights Templars being guardians of the Grail.
Robert de Boron (fl. late 12th-early 13th centuries) was another French poet who, like Chrétien de Troyes, based his story in Britain, presumably also ultimately due to Bede's above misunderstanding. De Boron was the author of the poems Joseph d'Arimathe and Merlin. In the former, de Boron first introduced Joseph of Arimathea into the Grail literature, giving him the responsibility of keeping the Holy Grail and taking it to Britain. The Grail in de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathe is the cup of the Last Supper (Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20; 1Cor 11:24-26) in which additionally, according to de Boron, Joseph of Arimathea caught the last drops of blood from Jesus's body as he hung on the cross. De Boron thus created for the first time a Christian back-history of the Holy Grail legend.
In his "Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail and the Edessa Icon" (2002), as well his paper hyperlinked "Edessan sources for the legend of the Holy Grail" (2010), historian Dan Scavone presents compelling evidence, too long to list here, that the cloth known today as the Shroud of Turin is the real object that inspired the Holy Grail legend. So in that sense, the Shroud of Turin is the Holy Grail!
Gregory Referendarius was the Archdeacon of Constantinople's Hagia Sophia cathedral when the Shroud arrived, as the sindon tetradiplon "linen sheet four-doubled" Mandylion (see above and my "Tetradiplon and the Shroud of Turin") in Constantinople from Edessa on 15 August 944. The next day, 16 August 944, after having had the opportunity to personally examine the Mandylion/Shroud close up, Gregory preached a sermon in which he said:
"But Jesus, undergoing the passion of his own free will, believing that human nature fears death – indeed death comes upon the very nature that was made to live – taking this linen cloth he wiped the sweat that was falling down his face like drops of blood in his agony. And miraculously, just as he made everything from nothing in his divine strength, he imprinted the reflection of his form on the linen. ... This reflection, however – let everyone be inspired with the explanation – has been imprinted only by the sweat from the face of the originator of life, falling like drops of blood, and by the finger of God. For these are the beauties that have made up the true imprint of Christ, since after the drops fell, it was embellished by drops from his own side. Both are highly instructive – blood and water there, here sweat and image. Oh equality of happenings, since both have their origin in the same person. The source of living water can be seen and it gives us water, showing us that the origin of the image made by sweat is in fact of the same nature as the origin of that which makes the liquid flow from the side" (My emphasis)The mention by Gregory of "blood" is a significant advance on the Edessan explanation of the Mandylion's image being due to Jesus' sweat having been imprinted on a towel during His ministry. Gregory must have noticed blood on the Mandylion/Shroud and attempted to explain it away as having been imprinted on the cloth in the Garden of Gethsemane when:
"his [Jesus'] sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44).But that would not explain his reference to "drops from his own side" and "blood and water" which occurred after Jesus' death on the cross:
"one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water." (John 19:34)So Gregory presumably undid the Mandylion's fastenings on the night of 15 August to examine it more thoroughly and discovered that behind it was the full-length Shroud!
This is consistent with a depiction (below) in a work by Greek historian John Skylitzes (c. 1040s—1101) of Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (c. 870–948) receiving the Mandylion in Constantinople, and behind it is a full-length Shroud!:
Guscin later retreated from this implication:
"Originally agreeing with Dubarle's translation, I had understood that paragraph meant that it was the Image itself that was embellished with blood from Christ's side, although I now think this interpretation cannot be defended either from the Greek text or from the internal logic of the text. If the Image had indeed been embellished with blood from Christ's side, this could only have taken place after his death on the cross, whereas Gregory's text clearly states that the Image was formed before the crucifixion and the resulting contradictions are excessive even for a Byzantine mentality."But then as Fanti pointed out, "otherwise the side wound detail would have no reason to be mentioned":
"Zaninotto underlines the unexpected element in this work, also not required for the structure of the story: the detail of the side wound is senseless since the tradition sets the image formation after [sic "before"?] the crucifixion. ... By consequence we can observe that the image described by Gregory the Referendarius is the relic ... otherwise the side wound detail would have no reason to be mentioned."And it ignores what Gregory said about: "[Jesus] ... imprinted the reflection of his form on the linen," not just His "face," and that Gregory by his, "and by the finger of God," tacitly admitted that his "falling like drops of blood" did not explain "the reflection of his form on the linen." So Guscin was right the first time:
"Gregory's lack of inquisitive spirit about the origin of the image and the side wound is most frustrating, yet no matter what he did or did not think about the origin of the blood from the side, one thing is clear – according to this sermon, the Image of Edessa had a bloodstain from the wound inflicted on Christ's side, and therefore contained a full body image. No amount of contrived pseudo-translations or explanations can get away from this simple fact" (my emphasis)!
1. This post is copyright. Permission is granted to extract or quote from any part of it (but not the whole post), provided the extract or quote includes a reference citing my name, its subject heading, its date, and a hyperlink back to this post. [return]
2. Guscin, M., 2004, "The Sermon of Gregory Referendarius," Shroud.com. [return]
3. Guscin, M., 2007, "Addendum to Translation of Sermon by Gregory Referendarius," Shroud.com. [return]
4. Fanti, G. & Malfi, P., 2015, "The Shroud of Turin: First Century after Christ!," Pan Stanford: Singapore, p.57. [return]
5. Guscin, 2004. [return]
Posted: 30 July 2015. Updated: 27 August 2015.