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Documento: Nicolotti, Dal Mandylion di Edessa alla Sindone di Torino (recensione)
Messo in linea il giorno Venerdý, 19 dicembre 2014
Pagina: 1/1

Nicolotti, Dal Mandylion di Edessa alla Sindone di Torino (recensione)

Recensione di Andrea Nicolotti, Dal Mandylion di Edessa alla Sindone di Torino: metamorfosi di una leggenda, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso. 2011.

Tratta da «The Catholic Historical Review» 100/2 (2014), pp. 319-320.

Andrew N. Palmer
Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen

The Shroud of Turin, a unique icon presenting itself as Christ’s burial-sheet, is now probably, thanks to the publicity so successfully sought by Ian Wilson, the best-known object of Christian devotion in the West; the icon of the Mandylion of Edessa, Christ’s “image not made by hand,” enjoys comparable fame among the Orthodox and has been identified with other towel-icons venerated in Genoa and Rome; the icon of Veronica’s Veil, a western mutation of the Mandylion, has become one of the Stations of the Cross. Carbon 14 tests have dated the Shroud to the fourteenth century. This is confirmed by the evolution of the loom and by the fact that the Shroud cannot be traced back beyond the second half of that century, when it is first signaled in the church of Lirey in Champagne. Yet the rumor persists that science and scholarship have conspired to discredit a genuine relic that may even be evidence of the Resurrection. Those who make this claim support it with pseudo-science and pseudo-scholarship. Andrea Nicolotti deplores the irresponsibility of the media and the gullibility of the literate public. He argues that serious historians ought not to ignore pseudo-history, but should take the pains to refute it; that they ought to disseminate more widely an understanding of the differences between hypothesis and certainty as well as between evidence, interpretation, conjecture, and speculation. If his books reach the public outside the “ivory tower” of university discourse, they will certainly supply arguments to those who have all along been unconvinced by the self-styled “sindonologists,” without feeling able to refute their supposed proofs. In this way the genre of these two books is somewhat similar to that of the catechisms that flourished among Christian communities in the Islamic Middle East, which taught Christians what to say in reply to the classic Muslim arguments against Christianity. Nicolotti does not, of course, simplify things as much as these question-and-answer tracts do. After all, he is not trying to reach the man in the medieval street, but the modern reader who borrows Wilson’s Shroud of Turin (Garden City, NY, 1978) from the public library and is all the more impressed by this book because it has all the trappings of scholarship. Confronted with the thirteen centuries in which no relic resembling the Shroud was known anywhere in the Christian world, Wilson suggests that it was there all along but incognito. According to him, the Shroud was folded, leaving only the face visible. The rest, for some reason, was carefully concealed, so that the cloth appeared to be about the size of a towel. This gave rise to the legend that it was in fact a towel used by Jesus to dry his face, leaving the imprint of his features there—the Mandylion of Edessa, as described in the Greek Acts of Thaddaeus. This icon was translated from Edessa to Constantinople in 944 and probably taken in 1204 to Western Europe, where, according to Wilson, it was unfolded and so “emerged” as the Shroud in fourteenth-century France. Wilson’s book, simultaneously published in the United States and France, enjoyed a success and inspired several other sindonologists. A popular refinement of his theory—to which Nicolotti devotes the second book—identifies it with an “idol” allegedly venerated in secret by the Knights Templar in the thirteenth century. The hypothesis that the Shroud was folded rests on the use of the Greek word tetrßdiplon to describe the towel on which Jesus dried his face. A nineteenth-century English translation rendered this word as “doubled in four” (this reviewer translates this as “a length of folded cloth with four layers”). In his Mandylion (which boasts sixty-one illustrations, many of them in color) Nicolotti points out that Byzantine Greeks, who knew this text and probably understood this rare word better than we do, never suspected that it meant a single folded cloth eight layers thick; they always depicted it as a towel. Besides, Wilson’s theory requires the Shroud to have been folded three times, not four.


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