The d'Arcis Memorandum on the Shroud of Turin

What are we to make of the d’Arcis Memorandum claiming that an artist painted the Shroud of Turin?

Knowing, as we do, that this was a time in the history of Christianity notorious for its unscrupulous market in fake relics, the bishop’s report seems to have a whiff of truthfulness to it. But the relic marketplace may also be the basis for doubting the veracity of the memorandum. Christian pilgrims were a source of revenue and people were flocking to Lirey rather than nearby Troyes. Pierre, interestingly, states that his intent was not competitive. Why? Did he realize that others were voicing suspicions about his motives? They were.

Medieval Christianity was a time of nearly unbridled commercial competition. And this lead to dishonesty.

Pierre claims that his predecessor, Bishop Henri de Poitiers of Troyes conducted an inquest in which a painter had confessed to painting the Shroud. Pierre doesn’t have first hand knowledge of this artist. The artist is unnamed. There is no evidence of such an inquest in contemporaneous documents.

Pierre states that Henri had the Shroud removed from the church because it was a fake, yet other documents dispute this. It was, according to other documents, removed from the church for safekeeping because of the war raging about the area.  The memorandum must be understood and assessed in the light of several of Christianity's documents of the same period and in the context of the political situation in the region. At least eight documents challenge the veracity of the d’Arcis Memorandum.

There are other problems as well. All existing copies of the memorandum are unsigned and undated drafts. The copy at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris includes a heading stating that it is a letter that Pierre intends to write. It is definitely a draft with Latin annotations in the margins. It is unlikely that it was ever sent to Clement as no properly signed or sealed copies of the document can be found in the Vatican or Avignon archives. No document of Clement refers to it, suggesting it was never received.

Numerous classicist and historians find the document questionable.

Also see: Chemically it is not a Painting  and  Shroud of Turin FAQ Question on Painting

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© 2004 Daniel R. Porter, Bronxville, New York