Sudarium of Oviedo

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The ark that contains the Sudarium of Oviedo.

The Sudarium of Oviedo, or Shroud of Oviedo, is a bloodstained piece of cloth measuring c. 84 x 53 cm (33 x 21 inches) kept in the Cámara Santa of the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo, Spain.[citation needed] The Sudarium (Latin for sweat cloth) is claimed by some to be the cloth wrapped around the head of Jesus Christ after he died, as mentioned in John 20:6-7

The small chapel housing it was built specifically for the cloth by King Alfonso II of Asturias in AD 840; the Arca Santa is an elaborate reliquary chest with a Romanesque metal frontal for the storage of the Sudarium and other relics. The Sudarium is displayed to the public three times a year: Good Friday, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross on 14 September, and its octave on 21 September.

Background and history[edit]

The Sudarium is severely soiled and crumpled, with dark flecks that are symmetrically arranged but form no image, unlike the markings on the Shroud of Turin. No such object is mentioned in accounts of the entombment of Jesus, but a face cloth is mentioned as having been present in the empty tomb in John 20:6-7. Outside of the Bible the Sudarium is first mentioned in 570 AD by Antoninus of Piacenza, who writes that the Sudarium was being cared for in a cave near the monastery of Saint Mark, in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

The Sudarium is presumed to have been taken from Palestine in 614 AD, after the invasion of the Byzantine provinces by the Sassanid Persian King Khosrau II. To avoid destruction in the invasion, it was taken away first to Alexandria by the presbyter Philip, then carried through northern Africa when Khosrau II conquered Alexandria in 616 AD and arrived in Spain shortly thereafter. The sudarium entered Spain at Cartagena, along with people who were fleeing from the Persians. Fulgentius, bishop of Ecija, welcomed the refugees and the relics, and gave the chest containing the Sudarium to Leandro, bishop of Seville. He took it to Seville, where it spent some years.[1]

In 657 it was moved to Toledo, then in 718 on to northern Spain to escape the advancing Moors. The Sudarium was hidden in the mountains of Asturias in a cave known as Montesacro until king Alfonso II, having battled back the Moors, built a chapel in Oviedo to house it in 840 AD. The most riveting date in the Sudarium's history is March 14, 1075. On this date, King Alfonso VI, his sister and Rodrigo Diaz Vivar (El Cid) opened the chest after days of fasting. This official act of the king was recorded and the document is preserved in the Capitular Archives at the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo. The King had the oak chest covered in silver and an inscription added which reads, "The Sacred Sudarium of Our Lord Jesus Christ."


The cloth has been dated to around 700 AD by radiocarbon dating.[2] Yet the cloth is reported to have resided in Spain since 631 AD.[citation needed] The laboratory used (via the National Museum in Madrid) said the later date may be due to an oil based contamination.[citation needed]

Using infrared and ultraviolet photography and electron microscopy, research by the private Centro Español de Sindonología, (Spanish Centre for Sindonology) purported to show that the Sudarium of Oviedo could have touched the same face as the Shroud of Turin, but at different stages after the death of the man.[citation needed] Dr. Alan Whanger, professor emeritus of Duke University, employed his Polarized Image Overlay Technique to study correlations between the Shroud and the Sudarium. Dr. Whanger found 70 points of correlation on the front of the Sudarium and 50 on the back. Researchers theorize that the Oviedo Cloth covered the face from the moment of death until replaced by the Shroud. The researchers cite purported bloodstains on both cloths, identifying them as belonging to the same type, AB,[citation needed] but no DNA testing has been carried out on blood samples from either cloth.

Pollen samples from both cloths share members of certain species – one example is the thorn bush Gundelia tournefortii, which is indigenous to the Mideast.[3] Pollen studies done by Max Frei of Switzerland have found specific pollens from Palestine are found in both relics, while the Sudarium has pollen from Egypt and Spain that is not found on the Shroud. Conversely, pollen grains from plant species indigenous to Turkey are imbedded in the Shroud, but not the Sudarium, supporting the theory of their different histories after leaving Jerusalem.

Joe Nickell claims that these studies are attempts made by Shroud of Turin advocates to prove the authenticity of the shroud. He however considers that

as with the Shroud of Turin the study of the Oviedo Cloth is obviously characterized by pseudo-science and possibly worse. The problems are symptomatic of the bias that can occur when analyses of a controversial object are conducted not by independent experts, chosen solely for their expertise, but instead by committed self-selected partisans who begin with the desired answer and work backward to the evidence. As a result, science has once again been perverted in the interest of zealotry[4]


See also[edit]



  1. ^
  2. ^ The Second International Conference on the Sudarium of Ovieto, April 2007, retrieved 16 Jun 2013.
  3. ^ Mark Guscin, The Oviedo Cloth. Cambridge: The Luttenworth Press, 1998. ISBN 07188-2985-9.
  4. ^ The Mystery Chronicles: More Real-Life X-Files, Joe Nickell, University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 2004

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]