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The Mandylion

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The Mandylion
An image "not made by the hands of man"

Although the Veil of Veronica is believed by many Christians to be the one 'true likeness' of the Holy Face of Jesus, we know that from the earliest days of Christianity there existed another 'true likeness' which was called the Mandylion, and it seems certain that these two objects are not the same thing.

The 'Veronica', in spite of being a very mysterious portrait, still seems to be a representation of some kind, while early references to the Mandylion suggest that it was not a portrayal of the Face of Christ, but the actual Face itself, directly imparted to the cloth by some mysterious process - a "divinely made image, not made by the hands of man" (Evagrius, Syrian Historian 527-600AD).

The cycling images top left are icons almost certainly all painted from the same source, the Mandylion.

The History of the Mandylion

The Mandylion entered history very soon after the crucifixion of Jesus. The following list gives important dates and events, for which there is documented evidence.

30-50 AD There are oral traditions, and early written records of these traditions, describing how several years after the crucifixion of Jesus, one of the ‘seventy-two’ disciples, named Thaddaeus, went to the town of Edessa (now ‘Urfa’ in South East Turkey) at the request of the Syrian king, Agbar V. The king was very ill, with a kind of leprosy.
While Jesus was alive, Agbar had sent an envoy to him begging for help; the envoy returned with a promise that after his death, Jesus would send someone to cure Agbar. Thaddaeus duly arrived in Edessa, bringing with him a mysterious linen cloth, which bore the image of the Holy Face of Jesus. Looking on this image, Agbar was struck by a bright light, was completely cured and converted to Christianity.
57 AD After the death of king Agbar, his son Ma'nu began a persecution of the Christians in Edessa. The mysterious cloth was hidden away for safekeeping, most probably in a niche in the city walls above the West Gate.
For almost 500 years, the mandylion is not mentioned in any historical record.
525 AD The city of Edessa was almost destroyed by floods. Thirty thousand people died and almost every major building was damaged. During the rebuilding of the city, the linen cloth bearing the image of Jesus was discovered in the city walls. It was immediately identified as the mysterious Cloth, the mandylion, brought to king Agbar V by the disciple Thaddaeus around 30 AD.
525 AD "From this time on", says Ian Wilson, "a new, definitive, front-facing likeness of Christ appears in Art". (The Turin Shroud, p.288)
The holy relic remained in the cathedral of Hagia Sophia at Edessa until 944AD, and in spite of Moslem invasion in the 7th century, remained safe and in tact in its well protected wooden reliquary.
944 AD Edessa was captured by Christian Knights, the Crusaders, and the Mandylion was taken to Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire. It was installed in the Chapel of the Pharos, in the Imperial Palace.
945 AD The Emperor Constantine ascended the throne of Byzantium, and had a gold medal struck to commemorate the arrival of the Mandylion in Constantinople the previous year. He also instituted a Feast day in the Church, 16th August, to honour the Mandylion.
1146 AD Moslems invaded and captured Constantinople.
1204 AD Between 944 and 1204 AD, the Mandylion remained at Constantinople in the Chapel of the Pharos, and was kept safe, in spite of the Moslem capture of Constantinople in 1146 AD. In 1201 AD, the keeper of the holy relics at the Chapel of the Pharos recorded in his inventory of the Chapel’s treasures, ‘the sindon (i.e. burial shroud) with the burial linens’.
1203 AD Christian Knights (Crusaders) recaptured Constantinople. A French Knight named Robert de Clari recorded seeing the mandylion there, in the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae. He wrote:

"...the sydoine in which Our Lord had been wrapped, stood up straight every Friday so that the figure of Our Lord could be plainly seen there."

Clearly some sort of ritual took place in that Church, during which the purported burial shroud of Christ was made to stand upright.
1204 AD The Crusaders ransacked churches in Constantinople, and carried off many priceless artefacts and relics, to return them to their ‘rightful owners’, the Vatican in Rome and several other churches throughout Christendom.
In the confusion the Mandylion disappeared: the French Crusader mentioned above, Robert de Clari, recorded in his account of the events that ‘… neither Greek nor Frenchman knew what became of it.”
From this time, the Mandylion disappears from all historical records,
but the Shroud of Turin does not...
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