The Templars & the Shroud

Were Two of the Greatest Enigmas of the Middle Ages Intertwined?

According to tradition, the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus. It resides in the Cathedral at Turin, Italy (and can be viewed online at its official web site: /en/welcome.htm). The prove­nance of the Shroud has now been established well enough to say with some certainty that it did indeed cover Jesus in the tomb.

Prior to its placement in the cathedral, the Knights Templars had possession of the shroud and kept it folded in a wooden container with a viewing window, so that the face of the Man in the Shroud was visible as an object of wor­ship for them. (They were, after all, the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.) The viewing window was framed with wooden latticework. This is based on the research of Frank Tribbe, whose book The Holy Grail Mys­tery Solved (Galde Press, 2003) builds on the work of Noel Currer-Briggs’ The Holy Grail and the Shroud of Christ. Tribbe’s more recent book Portrait of Jesus? (Paragon House, 2006) is an account of the shroud in history and sci­ence, and was published posthumously a year after he died at age 91.

According to Tribbe the term “Holy Grail” originated with the Templars and that the Old French word greille, which referred to the lattice frame or grillwork on the shroud’s container, was transliterated over time into the Eng­lish “grail.” (The transformed word’s meaning was corrupted, however, because “grail” etymologically means cup or bowl, and the various grail-story authors wrongly told the public that the Holy Grail is the cup of the Last Supper or a bowl which caught Jesus’ blood while he was on the cross.) The wooden frame itself was not holy, of course. Nam­ing it “the holy greille” was simply a shorthand way of referring to the tangible evidence of holiness which it dis­played—the cloth imprinted with the image of the risen Christ formed at the moment of resurrection. So the true Holy Grail, by this reckoning, is the Shroud of Turin.

The shroud itself is now, arguably, the most important religious relic in the world because it has been subjected to such rigorous scientific testing and its authenticity, we are told, has been established. Although a carbon-14 test in the late 1980s apparently showed that the shroud was no older than the 13th century—and therefore was a hoax— it has now been shown that those test results were badly flawed due to several factors. First, the piece of shroud used for testing was taken from what is now recognized as a 14th century “patch” or repair of the shroud, woven “invisi­bly”—i.e., not immediately visible to the naked eye. Second is the presence of biological material—mold or microor­ganisms—growing on the fibers of the piece of fabric tested. These materials skewed the C-14 data toward a more modern date.

New chemical tests move the age of the shroud back in time to the first century A.D. Furthermore, the weaving of the linen Shroud is now recognized as consistent with the weaving of first century Palestine but not 14th century Eu­rope. Moreover, new research has identified pollen grains on the shroud which could only have come from the vicini­ty of Jerusalem during the months of March and April—Passover time—when such vegetation is in bloom. For these and other research-based reasons, the shroud is now clearly established as an authentic first-century relic from the Near East, precisely as legend holds.

The Man in the Shroud

As for the image of the Man in the Shroud, research likewise indicates it is no hoax. The blood stains are real (type AB) and contain human male DNA. Tribbe notes in his just-published book Portrait of Jesus? that the closest science can come to explaining how the image of the Man in the Shroud got there is by comparing the situation to a con­trolled burst of high-intensity radiation similar to the Hiroshima bomb explosion which “printed” images of inciner­ated people on building walls. Shroud researcher Ray Rogers, a physical chemist from Los Alamos laboratory, said, “I am forced to conclude that the image was formed by a burst of radiant energy—light if you like.” In other words, the image is recorded on the cloth as if by a photoflash of brilliant light radiating from the body of the Man in the Shroud. Another researcher, Prof. Alan Adler of Western Connecticut State College, concluded that the shroud image could have been created only by a form of energy which science cannot name.

The image of the Man in the Shroud was venerated by the Templars because it visibly demonstrated the central fact of Jesus’ teaching: the conquest of death. The face-image was created by a mysterious—call it miraculous— process which science does not understand but nevertheless can recognize. The Templars understood it, however. At least, they understood that the shroud seemed to be mute testimony to the notion that Jesus transubstantiated him­self in the grave through an act equivalent to a self-controlled nuclear explosion which transformed his flesh, blood and bone into a body of light—the resurrection body—and thereby conquered death. He attained enlightenment to the ultimate degree; he actually became light and is now revered as the Light of the World. That was the object of Templar worship.

The Shroud of Turin Web site ( was created in 1996 by Barry M. Schwortz, the official docu­menting photographer for the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) since 1978. An orthodox Jew, Schwortz says he is still involved with the Shroud of Turin because “knowing the unbiased facts continues to convince me of its authenticity.”

The Sudarium of Oviedo

Additional confirmation of the shroud’s authenticity is the recent research on the Sudarium of Oviedo, an ancient bloodstained linen cloth the size of a small towel which is claimed to have covered the head of Jesus after his crucifix­ion (see John 20:5-7). Sudarium is Latin for “face cloth.” The cloth has been known historically as the Sudarium Do­mini and has always been associated with Jesus. It has been kept as a holy relic in the cathedral at Oviedo, in north­ern Spain, since the 8th century and dated back to the 7th century by historical documents. It seems highly probable, from other historical records, that it goes back to first century Jerusalem. Pollen on it comes from Palestine, Egypt and Spain, confirming the oral tradition that the sudarium was taken from Jerusalem through North Africa to Spain.

The sudarium is severely soiled and crumpled, with dark flecks which are symmetrically arranged but form no im­age, unlike the markings on the Shroud of Turin. Only disconnected bloodstains are visible to the naked eye, not a complete image of a face. When the sudarium was placed on the dead man’s face, it was in a folded-over condition. Counting both sides of the cloth, there is a fourfold stain in a logical order of decreasing intensity. The cloth was draped over the face temporarily, but apparently was removed in the tomb and placed aside. (The Gospels state exact­ly that.) Thus the sudarium was not in contact with the face of the man when the resurrection event occurred; per­haps that is why the image of a face is absent. Nevertheless, the bloodstains correspond precisely with those of the shroud and reveal typically Jewish features, a prominent nose and pronounced cheek-bones.

Research since the 1980s shows that the sudarium’s blood stains are type AB, matching those on the shroud. One type of pollen found on it is identical to that found on the shroud; it grows only east of the Mediterranean Sea as far north as Lebanon and as far south as Jerusalem. Scientific studies validate the ancient claim that the cloth had cov­ered the head of a long-haired, bearded man with bleeding scalp wounds who died in an upright position. Residue of what is most likely myrrh and aloe have been discovered in the sudarium, in accord with the Jewish burial custom of Jesus’s time. The sudarium and the shroud have so many bloodstains which match up—70 on the face side and 50 on the rear side—that the only possible conclusion is that the Sudarium of Oviedo covered the same face as the Shroud of Turin.

Both tradition and science indicate the sudarium was used to cover the head of the dead body of Jesus. No evi­dence points away from that conclusion except for one radiocarbon dating to the 7th century, and the researcher who obtained that age of the cloth acknowledges that his results are questionable. See various Web sites for research data and the 2001 book Sacred Blood, Sacred Image: The Sudarium of Oviedo by Janice Bennett (P.O. Box 2001, Little­ton, CO 80127-0005).

When the Templars were violently suppressed in 1307 by Phillip IV of France, the principal charge against the knights was the accusation that they worshipped the head of a bearded man. The charges against the Templars in­clude “adoration and worship of an idol—which was said to be the image of the true God.” The charges were trumped up by Phillip to disband the Templar organization so that he could take possession of the Templar treasure in their Paris headquarters and elsewhere. However, in an irony totally lost on their accuser, we now know that the principal charge was actually true! As noted above, according to Tribbe, the Templars had come into possession of the burial cloth of Jesus. It was central to Templary. Today, according to Tribbe, more than 80 Templar churches and asy­lums remain, and nearly every one of them contains an image of the face of Christ which is a drawn (via painting, mosaic inlay or sculpture) from the original image of the face of the man in the shroud. Yes, the Templars did indeed worship the head of a bearded man and call it the image of the true God.

The Templars sought to follow in the way which Jesus taught. However, because of their experience with the cor­ruption of the Old World, they apparently set in motion a long-term project for the creation of a new and uncorrupt­ed society in the New World. Over time, the suppressed Order of the Temple gave rise to modern Freemasonry and to the Freemasons who had such a strong role in the foundation and formation of America.

Is it possible that America is the result of a Templar/Masonic experiment intended to create a New Israel or New Jerusalem in the New World—not a Jewish nation but a universally God-centered society? John Adams and Ben Franklin spoke of that possibility. Here is the argument for that Templar project.

Several books about the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail indicate that the African kingdom of Mali should be credited with two momentous facts bearing profoundly on Euro-American history. According to Michael Bradley in his 1988 book Holy Grail Across the Atlantic and, building on that, William F. Mann’s 1999 The Labyrinth of the Grail, by the 14th century the emperor of Mali had ships going to the New World, and other Africans had crossed much earlier. Precolumbian stone statues in Central America of men with negroid features appear to testify to this extraordinary achievement.

Transatlantic travel could not have been done well without the development of a method to measure longitude. That means Africans solved the problem of determining longitude at sea long before Europeans did. However, the knowledge was lost and apparently had no influence on the solution developed by Europeans in the 18th century.

Why it was lost and why Malian seafaring culture declined are topics for research. The Bradley-Mann thesis con­tends that knowledge of longitude measurement was passed from Mali to Arabic culture, and thence to the Knights Templar, whose interactions with Arab Muslims in the Middle East were sometimes friendly rather than hostile. (Sufi mystics and Christian mystics would tend toward friendly contact, wouldn’t they?) The Knights Templar, in turn, kept that knowledge—and knowledge of a great land mass to the west—secret, using it for their own purposes.

Those purposes may have included voyages to the New World a full century before Columbus, through Prince Henry Sinclair of Scotland and Orkney. Sinclair’s forebears had granted shelter in Scotland to fugitive Knights Tem­plar when Phillip arrested Grand Master Jacques de Molay and hundreds of other knights, and suppressed the Tem­plar Order. The Sinclairs of Scotland were related to the St. Clairs of France, a Templar family. A fleet of Templar ships fled La Rochelle, France in 1307 on the eve of Phillip’s hostile action and sailed around Ireland to Scotland. (The fleet may have carried great Templar treasure; at any rate, when Philip entered the Treasury in Paris, it was empty.) Those exiled Knights Templar made Rosslyn Castle, the ancestral home of the Sinclairs just south of Edin­burgh, their center of operations.

Rosslyn Chapel was begun there in the mid-1400s and completed before the end of that century. Its floor plan is identical to that of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. It contains carvings of maize (Indian corn), aloe and other plants which are native to the New World. (For more on this see The Lost Treasure of the Knights Templar by Steven Sora and The Hiram Key by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas.)

How did knowledge of New World vegetation get to Scotland before Columbus? The probable explanation is this.

In 1398 Henry Sinclair led an expedition which reached Nova Scotia and the East Coast of America. (A 15th­ century text called The Zeno Diary recorded the event.) In Nova Scotia, there is a modern monument to Sinclair and the expedition; there is also a museum containing evidence of a nearby 14th-century Scottish settlement, including a 14th-century bronze cannon found there. In Westford, Massachusetts, there is an ancient engraving of a 14th century Scottish knight on a rock ledge which, experts say, indicates a Templar presence there also. The knight’s shield mark­ings identifies him as a member of the Gunn clan, which owed allegiance to Prince Sinclair. (Search the Internet for “Westford Knight.”) And in Newport, Rhode Island, the so-called Viking Tower likewise indicates the presence of the Sinclair expedition because it is based on 14th-century Scottish architecture and has nothing at all in common with Viking stonework. Templars in America by Tim Wallace-Murphy and Marilyn Hopkins (Red Wheel/Weiser, 2005) gives an excellent photo-illustrated summary of all this evidence, as well as commentary on the link between the Templar/Freemasons and the Founders of America.

It is speculated by Templar/Masonic scholars that because of their harsh experience with the political corruption of the Old World, the Templars conceived a secret plan for creating a new and better society in the American wilder­ness. Over several centuries, the Order of the Temple was transformed into Freemasonry (see John Robinson’s Dun­geon, Fire and Sword) and the plan was carried forward through Freemasonry and its influence over the founding of America. Francis Bacon, who was a driving force behind the creation of the Royal Society for scientific research and exploration, was connected to the Templar remnant. He also wrote The New Atlantis about a mythical land to the West, and his account of that land shows remarkable parallels to later historical developments in the New World, as if his book were a kind of coded blueprint for Masonic endeavors in the vast and virgin continent.

Is it mere coincidence that the first evidence of Freemasonry in North America appeared in Nova Scotia? A stone engraved on the top with a square and compasses—the premier Masonic symbol—was found on the shore of Goat Is­land in the Annapolis Basin in Nova Scotia, where Prince Henry Sinclair had first voyaged to the New World. In the center of the flat slab was the date 1606. (Dr. Charles T. Jackson of Boston wrote about it in 1829, calling it the “An­napolis Stone.” The stone is said to have become a part of a wall for a building; it was covered with cement and never found again.)

Perhaps there is a secret history to America, much like what has been alleged by Manly Palmer Hall in America’s Secret Destiny and by others who claim there is an occult (meaning hidden) or esoteric (meaning not publicly dis­closed) foundation to America. Perhaps, just perhaps, America is in part a Templar/Masonic effort to advance human society on the basis of secret knowledge and secret activities.

I am not qualified to judge the validity of the evidence mentioned above for a Templar project in America; I simply report it. However, if there is anything sacred about America, it is the idea that God is the author of our being and the source of our freedom, our sovereignty, our rights, our justice and our human dignity. The four references to Deity in the Declaration of Independence collectively express those ideas. They are very Masonic ideas, injected into the so­cial-political institutions and worldview of America by those Freemasons who were among its founders. Moreover, the fundamental value of America is freedom, the same value expressed in the prefix of Masonry. Was it purely chance, or has a hidden hand been guiding American affairs through the centuries and working through barely visi­ble means which carry the symbols and substance of Freemasonry?

If so, it is a benevolent counterbalance to the dark forces of the world seeking to destroy freedom and god-oriented society.


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