Hidden in a Cathedral in the town of Oviedo, in the north of Spain, is a piece of cloth measuring approximately 84 x 53 cm. Unlike the Shroud of Turin, this cloth does not have a clear image but rather just a few stains can be observed. So why is this piece of cloth so important?
Legend has it that this piece of cloth was used to cover and clean the face of Jesus following his crucifixion. Indeed, this cloth is mentioned in the gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 6 and 7. These verses read as follows:
“Simon Peter, following him, also came up, went into the tomb, saw the linen cloth lying on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloth but rolled up in a place by itself.”
John clearly differentiates between this smaller face cloth, the “sudarium”, and the larger linen that had wrapped the body.
The Sudarium’s History
Unlike the Shroud of Turin, the Sudarium’s history is clearer and more straight forward as it has been well documented through the ages. Most of the information comes from Pelagius (sometimes called Pelayo), the twelfth century bishop of Oviedo. Pelagius wrote two historical works – the Book of the Testaments of Oviedo, and the Chronicon Regum Legionensium.
According to these books, the Sudarium was originally in Palestine until about 614 A.D.. Jerusalem was attacked by the Persian king, Chosroes II and to avoid it falling into enemy hands, it was taken first to Alexandria by presbyter Philip. It remained there for about 2 years before Chosroes conquered alexandria in 616 A.D.. People fled the Persian invasion, with many going to Spain at Cartagena.
The refugees presented various relics, including the chest , or ark, containing the Sudarium to the bishop of Ecija, Fulgentius who passed it on to the bishop of Seville, Leandro. It remained in Seville for a number of years, until the time of Saint Isadore.
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