The Shroud of Turin is among Christianity’s most prized relics and has arguably caused more debate among academics than any other. It was said to have once been wrapped about Jesus Christ’s body after crucifixion.
However, a historian has now come forward with his belief it is actually a tablecloth – made in Burton. Anthropologist David Akins says the image on the relic is not an image of Christ, but the face of the Fisher King. According to Arthurian legend, he was a mythical wounded leader, whose disabilities meant he could only fish, who was the last guardian of the Holy Grail.
And David says the linen, housed at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Turin, was never used to wrap a body. He maintains it once encased an alabaster pillar with the Fisher King’s image carved on it, Staffordshire Live reports.
To see all the biggest and best stories first, sign up to read our newsletters here
The traces of gypsum – an important element in alabaster production – prove that, says David. And that pillar was made in Burton, the centre of alabaster production long before the Staffordshire town became famous for beer.
According to David, what’s more, the cloth is impregnated with fish and vegetable matter. This, and its dimensions – 13 feet long, three feet wide – suggest it was once a tablecloth. The traces of blood are from monks who created the pillar artwork, put there in an attempt to pass off the shroud as a holy relic.
The scientific world is in for a rude awakening. The Shroud of Turin is, in fact, the Shroud of Burton. Even more startling, it is the Tablecloth of Burton, David claims. Recent analysis has already put the skids under the Christ links, showing the cloth is medieval in origin. Now David has scrutinised the individual particles and uncovered a trail, he says, that leads back to Burton Abbey.
He has already made global headlines by unearthing links between the abbey, crack medieval fighting force The Knights Templar, who fled there from France, and their plundered treasure, including the Holy Grail.
Now he claims to have cracked history’s greatest whodunnit?
David said: “Burton was renowned for its alabaster craft throughout the medieval period and the Abbey was full of artisans and craftsmen turning out statues and effigies for centuries. It was a veritable production line – only made possible due to the rare deposits of alabaster and gypsum in the local mines.
“At the time of the Knights Templar exodus from France in 1307 it was the alabaster industry that led the way at Burton Abbey – and, as such, it is almost beyond doubt that, after the Templars brought their hoard to Burton, they would have created a statue in memory of the event.
“To the medieval mind there could only be one possible symbol of the fabled hoard and the Holy Grail – and that was the Fisher King. At some point after 1307, when the hoard arrived in Burton, I believe the skilled local craftsmen of Burton Abbey set about carving a life size statue of the Fisher King to house within the abbey.
“This statue, no doubt, had pride of place at Burton Abbey for years until Abbot Ibstock rebuilt the abbey church in 1350. This date is critical as during the construction work many fine statues and effigies in the abbey would have been placed into storage.
“They would have been wrapped in cloth and linen to protect them and, no doubt, stored in the abbey’s vaults and cellars. “It is highly likely the statue was left slumbering in the vaults of the abbey for over a decade – or at least until the new abbey church had been completed.
“Then it was retrieved and placed back on display. However, when the monks came to unwrap it, they noticed that the alabaster had reacted with chemicals in the mustiness of the cellar and left an image of the Fisher King on the old linen cloth. This is where the story of the Turin Shroud begins.
“No doubt one of the monks noticed a similarity between the features of the Fisher King impregnated onto the cloth and those of Jesus Christ and came up with a plan to present it as the shroud of Christ himself. Rumours of the Templar treasures at Burton would have abounded at the time and it is, therefore, no great leap to see how people would have accepted it as coming from the Templar hoard – and being, to all intent and purposes, genuine.
“The shroud of Christ would have commanded an exceptionally high price as a relic in the 14th century. I believe the quick-thinking monks saw an opportunity to make a fortune and decided to sell the cloth to the highest bidder.
“It is possible that the statue of the Fisher King was destroyed at the same time – just in case someone spotted the likeness between it and the supposed image of Christ. With the statue gone and the cloth being promoted as the Holy Shroud, the monks would have had in their possession a unique – but accidentally created – relic that they could easily pass off as genuine.
“However, there was a twist. The outline of the statue needed enhancing – there were no traces of blood on the head where the crown of thorns would have sat, no blood traces where the spear had pierced his side and, critically, no nail wounds visible on the cloth.
“To remedy this the monks of Burton Abbey almost certainly enhanced the image of the Fisher King – using their own blood! This would have been easy for them to obtain as Burton Abbey was famous for bloodletting.”
David believes a buyer was found in Florence: The abbey had been part of the Florentine wool trade for years.
Now for the science that supports David’s theory.
“The presence of gypsum in the shroud confirms, in my mind, that the cloth was indeed originally used to wrap up a statue of the Fisher King in Burton-on-Trent where the minerals alabaster – and particularly gypsum – originate. This can be the only explanation for finding it on a shroud.
“Many different kinds of pollen were found on it from all over the world, and one scientist even noted the DNA of a marine sea worm! It is a real mystery as to how such a diverse range of organic material could have ended up on Christ’s shroud. Well, a mystery, that is, until you look at it in the terms of Burton Abbey.
“Once you accept that this was an old linen cloth used to wrap up a statue for storage purposes then things are more easily explained. I believe the Shroud itself was actually an old tablecloth from Burton Abbey which had been replaced some time earlier.
“A fish and plant-based diet was typical for an Abbey at this time and the wide variety of plant species – identified by scientific analysis – point to the trade in herbs and spices from around the world. These were foodstuffs that could only have found their way onto a medieval table of some importance – such as the table in a manor house or abbey.
“The theory is further supported by the radiocarbon dating of the shroud which puts it between 1260 and 1390. This fits the timeframe perfectly.
“The tablecloth could have been made around 1260, allowing use for around 10 years in the abbey before being discarded and later used to wrap the statue for storage purposes. The shroud is first recorded officially between 1353-57 on mainland Europe, which also ties in with the rebuilding of the old Abbey Church by Abbott Ibstock between 1340-1350.
“If the statue had been wrapped in the linen cloth in 1340 and left in a damp cellar for some 15 years, then there would have been enough time for the alabaster and gypsum features of the statue to imprint themselves upon the linen.”
David’s search for the real “smoking gun” continues.
He explained: “It is also possible that the statue which created the image is still buried somewhere in the grounds of Burton Abbey today -and if found would be the confirmatory proof as it could be matched to the image on the shroud.”
Close scrutiny of the cloth’s image prove it is the Fisher King, David insisted. He was famously known as the “Wounded King”. The legend states he was wounded in the groin and thigh and waited for a gallant knight to heal him.
David said: “Importantly, the craftsman had given the original statue an extended and larger-than-life right hand. It is completely impossible for this to have been a real or biological hand, anatomically speaking.
“This over-emphasised right hand was carved big enough to cover the groin of the Fisher King, so that it could hide his wound. This was the most critical part of the story of the Fisher King and instantly recognisable to any Medieval mind.
“The hand covering the groin not only clearly points to the Fisher King – it also proves that the imprinted image was not that of a real man. Even more telling is the fact that the fingers extend to cover the thigh of the Fisher King – again very visible on the shroud.
“This means that the wounds of both the groin and thigh have been covered by the craftsman. The feet are somewhat twisted and have been interpreted as the position of Christ’s feet while hanging on the cross, although it is, of course, far more likely that the sculptor was merely emphasising the immobility of the Fisher King.
“The question also has to be why Christ’s body would have been wrapped in a shroud with his hands covering his genital or groin area. Why would that have been necessary – even if it had been anatomically possible? It would have been incredibly difficult to ‘pose’ a dead body in that position and completely pointless.
“The inescapable conclusion is that this was an obvious depiction of the key figure from Arthurian legend and not the Messiah.”
To read all the biggest and best stories first sign up to read our newsletters here.