History of the Sudarium of Oviedo: How It Came From Jerusalem to Northern Spain in the Seventh Century A. D.

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The Oviedo Sudarium is a little known object that has been in Spain since the early seventh century. Quite apart from the debate as to whether it could be the sudarium mentioned in the gospel of John, the cloth forms part of the history of Spain and the Pilgrims’ Road to Santiago – Oviedo was a frequent detour on the route to Compostela, precisely so that pilgrims could visit the sudarium (or at least the ark it was kept in) and other articles that had come from Jerusalem at the time of the Persian invasion in AD 614.

This book tells the detailed history of the Sudarium’s movements from Jerusalem to Spain and its history within the peninsula, how it was affected by the invasion of Ad 711 and how it eventually came to form part of the heritage of the city of Oviedo and the principality of Asturias. Many texts are here translated into English for the first time (The Book of Testaments, the corpus pelagianum, the story of the possessed girl) and many texts are edited for the first time (the first critical edition of the story contained in the group of manuscripts Valenciennes 30, Brussels II 2544 and Cambrai B 804, the first comparison of the texts in the Book of Testaments and those in the corpus pelagianum).

Apart from the history of an object that is worthy of study in itself, the book sheds light on the history of the Pilgrims’ Road to Santiago, and the general medieval history of Spain.


"this book is part of a growing wave of interest which over the last few years has looked into the knowledge and explanation of the possible authenticity of certain significant relics, especially the Sudarium of Oviedo and the Shroud of Turin. The author’s other previous studies also form part of this corpus. Historical research is carried out at the same time as investigation in other scientific fields, all absolutely compatible with each other. This book is the result of a patient effort, regardless of certain conclusions that are open to debate, always an enriching aspect of all serious scientific work ... The author takes us through all the available sources, from the gospels and immediately subsequent writings, resulting in a credible history for the cloth. It is a genuinely arduous task to check all the available manuscripts individually, but the result of having done so is that now for the first time we have a translation of the story as told in Cod. Valenciennes 99, and the long tale written in Valenciennes 30, Cambrai B-804 and Brussels II 2544, of great interest for the medieval history of the Oviedo relics and although known, of difficult access. There is a good critical edition of the second of these texts in an Appendix to the book, along with the most relevant texts studied throughout. The core of the historical contribution of the book is complemented by references to other fields of the applied sciences and the study of the Sudarium together with the Shroud of Turin, so intimately linked to it, reaching the final conclusion that both cloths seem to have been used on the same corpse and it would appear that this corpse was that of Jesus of Nazareth.

Mark Guscin’s work will deservedly be included in the recent historiography about a fascinating topic that will doubtless produce further studies in the future, among which this book will occupy a place of honour." (from the Commendatory Preface) Juan Ignacio Ruiz de la Peña, Professor of Medieval History, University of Oviedo

"There is one person above all others, and without any doubt, who should write the book about the famous Oviedo cloth for readers of English—that is Mark Guscin. It is no exaggeration, figure of speech, or simple pun to say that Dr. Guscin knows this most precious relic inside and out. He has searched the evidentiary documents concerning the Oviedo Sudarium in the world’s libraries and archives. He has amassed a collection of texts and art that, up to this moment, comprises the entire known history and a dossier of cogent scientific information regarding the nature and dating of the cloth itself and, most significantly, its bloodstains. It is this last that elevates Oviedo’s Sudarium to almost the highest rank among the extant relics that may have been intimately associated with the Passion of Jesus, the Western world’s most important religious figure ... The data personally accumulated by Mark Guscin provides many fresh insights conducive to the Oviedo cloth’s authenticity as the “soudarion” in Ch. 20 of John’s Gospel. Mark’s newly uncovered documents have immensely enhanced the known history of this cloth. His translations and interpretations of these texts will appear in print for the very first time in his monograph ... For these and many more reasons I can enthusiastically endorse the book Mark has conceived." - Daniel C. Scavone, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Southern Indiana

"Dr. Guscin's study is therefore a daring one, fearless in the face of evident difficulties, and it is also an honest investigation. It is not apologetics; rather it just presents what has been found. The final product can only be described as brilliant. The history of the cloth and the oral tradition going back to the times of Christ are now supported by written documents of considerable age with references that lead us to believe the cloth existed in the first centuries of the Christian era. As the author himself says, regardless of whether or not the cloth is the Sudarium of Jesus, there are enough documents to prove that the arrival of the linen in Spain is much more than a venerable tradition. We are talking about documented history. The merit for this is mainly due to Mark. His work deserves a careful reading with no bias. We are truly grateful for his work." - Jorge-Manuel Rodríguez, Lecturer, University of Valencia, Spain

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
1 Pelagius of Oviedo and the Book of Testaments
2. Pelagius of Oviedo and the corpus pelagianum
3. Valenciennes 99
4. Valenciennes 30, Brussels II 2544 and Cambrai B-804
5. The Silos Chronicle
6. Lucas de Tuy
7. A comparison of the different sources
8. The Sudarium of Oviedo and the Sudarium of Jesus of Nazareth
Appendix I Antonini Placentini Itinerarium XII
Appendix II Liber Testamentorum f. 1v – 3r
Appendix III The corpus pelagianum
Appendix IV Codex Valenciennes 99
Appendix V Critical Edition of Cod. Valenciennes 30, Cambrai B-804 and Brussels II 2544
Appendix VI Monachis Silensis Chronicon 28
Appendix VII Lucas de Tuy, Chronicon Mundi
Appendix VIII The Letter of Osmund, Bishop of Astorga
Appendix IX Codex Toledo 14-25
Appendix X Concilium Bracarense IV
Appendix XI Visigothic Kings of Spain from 586 to 711
Appendix XII Kings of Asturias / León up to Alfonso VI
Appendix XIII Emperors of Byzantium from 518 to 717

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