The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 16)

16 – The Mandylion

I would now like to declare quite honestly that the object of veneration upon which he legends of the Holy Grail were based was not, in fact, the cup used at the Last Supper, but was rather a ‘Turin Shroud’ like piece of material which sported the so-called image of Jesus Christ. The truth, however,  is all rather tangled up in layers of proper history & later romancing, so the best thing to do is to present the information in chronological order;

1 – Joseph of Arimathea is associated with the burial shrouds of Jesus – c60AD

 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. (Matthew 27:57-60)


The Burial of Jesus
The Burial of Jesus

2 – The remains of Saint Thomas are removed from India & taken to Edessa 

It must be here noted that one of the apostles, St Thomas, was in fact described as Jesus’ twin. In the 50s & 60s AD he was active in India, where he was martyred at Mylapore, Chennai. The Acts of Thomas describe how the apostle’s body was wrapped in, ‘beautiful robes and much and fair linen’ before being buried in a royal tomb. Two centuries later, the relics of Thomas were removed from India. A text known as ‘The Passio’ tells us, ‘The Syrians begged of the Roman emperor Alexander, then on his victorious return from the Persian war against Xerxes [Ardashir], and petitioned that instructions should be sent to the princes of India to hand over the remains of the deceased [Apostle] to the citizens. So it was done; and the body of the Apostle was transferred from India to the city of Edessa.

This is significant moment of diversion, for the remains of Thomas were stored in Edessa’s Royal palace, known as the ‘Britio Edessenorum,’ a citadel built by King Abgar of Edessa. A thousand years later, a memory of this event transmogrified into the legend of Joseph of Arimathea taking the grail to Britain. During this process, the material which housed the blood of Christ (or rather his twin) became the vessel which stored the blood of Christ (or rather his twin). There is even a 5th century Russian manuscript which states that Jesus’ blood dripped from his crucified person onto the burial shroud itself. Support for the Brito-Britain change comes from a mention by Bede of the so-called King Lucius of Britain,w ho never existed at all, & was in fact  Agbar Lucius Aelius Megas Abgar IX of Edessa.




The Icon of Edessa 

The Mandylion, also known as the icon of Edessa, is a long-lost piece of material said to have the face of Jesus (or his twin). That it arrived in Edessa with the remains of Thomas can be observing just a single philochisp. Firstly, let us analyze a 4th century hymn by Saint Ephraem of Syri. It is a curious piece, which is pitched from the perspective of the Devil, as in;

‘The merchant brought the bones:nay, rather! they brought him. Lo, the mutual gain! ‘But the casket of Thomas is slaying me, for a hidden power there residing, tortures me.

The merchant who brought the remains of Thomas to Edessa is mentioned in an early Syrian ecclesiastical calendar:  ‘3 July, St. Thomas who was pierced with a lance in ‘India’. His body is at Urhai [Edessa] having been brought there by the merchant Khabin.’ Jerome gives the merchant a slightly different name; ‘Judas Thomas the Apostle, when [Our Lord] sold him to the merchant Hâbbân that he might go down and convert India.’ Habban is extremely similar to a certain Hannan, said to have painted a picture of Jesus for the King of Edessa. the tale appears in a text known as the Doctrine of Addai.

When Hannan, the keeper of the archives, saw that Jesus spoke thus to him, by virtue of being the king’s painter, he took and painted a likeness of Jesus with choice paints, and brought with him to Abgar the king, his master. And when Abgar the king saw the likeness, he received it with great joy, and placed it with great honor in one of his palatial houses.

The palatial house, then, would be the Britio Edessenorum. I believe that somewhere in all of this lies the true source of the icon of Edessa – which is the blood-stained burial linen of Jesus’ twin brother, Thomas. Clement of Alexandria, in his Hypotyposes, states that the tomb of St-Jude Thaddeus was in the Britio Edessenorum. Now then, Jude Thaddues is quite an obscure saint, & I believe that it was actually Saint Thomas who is being reffered to, who was known as Didymus Judus Thomas, in the Gospel of Thomas. Indeed, the two men & Edessa are all placed together by  Eusebius, bishop of Ceasaerea (early 4th century) who wrote;

Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, under divine impulse sent Thaddeus, who was also numbered among the seventy disciples of Christ, to Edessa, as a preacher and evangelist of the teaching of Christ.



3 – Liberarius is the governer of Edessa

We have seen how Liberarius, the MVM for Thrace, was also Eleuther & the Liberalis of the Yarrow stone. At this critical conjecture, the only way to make all the evidence hold together in harmony is to have Liberalis take the Mandylion from Edessa to Scotland, where it was housed at ‘Galafort’ & ‘Corbenic,’ i.e. Galla Law &  Penicuik. That he was the govenor of Edessa in 525 gives him the perfect chance to help himself Herman Goering style to the treasures of the city.  We know from the Annales Cambrae & the Historia Brittonum that his father, Arthur loved Christian relics, & even housed an image of Mary at Stow-on-Wedale, downstream from Galla Law.


4 – The Mandylion is taken to Saint Catherines Monastery, Sinai

A few years later, his son Peredur/Pharas the Herulian then returned the Mandylion to Sarras/Mount Sinai, alongside Bouzes/Sir Bors. One of the earliest copies of the Mandylion was cleaned up in 1962, revealing a 6th century layer, whose iconography points to the reign ofJustinian. This suggests that the Mandylion was taken to Saint Catherine’s in order to be copied by the highly artistic  monks of the monastery. Support comes through 14th century iconography found on Templar-built churches in Cyprus, such as the Church of Panagia Phorbiotissa at Asnou.  Here, the Mandylion is suspended over two visions – one of Moses receiving the laws, & also the Burning Bush – events which happened at Sinai. There are also depictions of Christ’s transfiguration, thought also to have occurred at Sinai, & to which event St Catherine’s is dedicated. In the book ‘Approaching the Holy Mountain,’ we are told;

Take the famous tenth century diptych showing the disciple Thaddeus & King Abgar who receives the Mandylion, represented in the features of Constantine Porphyogennetos, who had transferred the Mandylion from Edessa to Constantinople in 944. A row of monastic saints below make makes it propbale that the two wings of what may have been a tryptich are regions to be seen within the localism characteristic of Sinai.’

Approaching the Holy Mountain also shows how St. John Climacus, the 6th century abbot of St Catherines,  created a piece of art called ‘The Ladder’ in which; ‘the tablets have been transformed into two of the most venerated images of Christ in the byzantine world, the Mandylion (an imprint of the saviour’s face on cloth) & its arch copy, the keramion, a miraculous reproduction on a tile… what is shown is a transfiguration, the metamorphisis of the stones into the living face of Christ which can also be seen behind & between the Mandylion & Keramion in a ghost-like sketch on blue ground.’


Esposizione S. Mandylion

The Mandylion returns to Edessa

According to Evagrius, the Mandylion was miraculously used to ward off a Persian siege of Edessa in 544, brought out by the citizens of the city in order to counter a Persian mine built to destroy the walls of Edessa;

In this state of utter perplexity, they bring the divinely wrought image, which the hands of men did not form, but Christ our God sent to Abgarus on his desiring to see Him. Accordingly, having introduced this holy image into the mine, and washed it over with water, they sprinkled some upon the timber; and the divine power forthwith being present to the faith of those who had so done, the result was accomplished which had previously been impossible: for the timber immediately caught the flame, and being in an instant reduced to cinders, communicated with that above, and the fire spread in all directions.

Fifty years before Evagrius, & contemporary to the events, Procopius fails to mention the Mandylion at Edessa: putting the miracle down to a ‘letter’ of Jesus, of which he gives the following details;

A letter sent by Jesus to a certain King ‘Augarus’ of Edessa. which has Jesus finishing off by stating the city would never be taken by ‘barbarians.’ This final portion of the letter was entirely unknown to those who wrote the history of that time; for they did not even make mention of it anywhere; but the men of Edessa say that they found it with the letter, so that they have even caused the letter to be inscribed in this form on the gates of the city instead of any other defence.

The conclusion we should draw here is that the Mandylion returned to Edessa after 544, but before 590, when Evagrius was writing.  It was Evagrius, then, who acted upon a factochisp  – like a philochisp but with factual information – & associated the miracle of Edessa with its more famous image of Jesus, rather than the letter.


The Mandylion is actually a full-length shroud

Gino Zaninotto unearthed a crucial piece of evidence appertaining to the Mandylion, in the Vatican library. The 10th century  Codex Vossianus  describes an 8th-century account of an imprint of Christ complete body being found on a canvas kept in a church in Edessa. A certain Smera stating. ‘King Abgar received a cloth on which one can see not only a face but the whole body.’

The Mandylion is taken to Constantinople

On August 15, 944, the Mandylion arrived in Constantinople to great fanfare. It was placed in the Byzantine version of the Tate gallery – the Theotokos of the Church of Our Lady of Pharos – alongside many other sacred Christian relics, of which the Fourth Crusader, Robert de Clarie, tells us; ‘Within this chapel were found many precious relics; for therein were found two pieces of the True Cross, as thick as a man’s leg and a fathom in length. And there was found the lance wherewith Our Lord had. His side pierced, and the two nails that were driven through the midst of His hands and through the midst of His feet. And there was also found, in a crystal phial, a great part of His blood. And there was found the tunic that he wore, which was stripped from Him when He had been led to the Mount of Calvary. And there, too, was found the blessed crown wherewith He was crowned, which was wrought of sea rushes, sharp as dagger blades. There also was found the raiment of Our Lady, and the head of my Lord Saint John Baptist, and so many other precious relics that I could never describe them to you or tell you the truth concerning them.’


The Mandylion is removed by the Knights Templar

In1204, during the 4th Crusade, Constantinople was sacked by the treasure-hungry Crusaders. Among these were the Knights Templar, who ransacked the Pharos Chapel. The following year (1205) Theodore Angelos wrote to Pope Innocent III, ‘The Venetians partitioned the treasures of gold, silver, and ivory while the French did the same with the relics of the saints and the most sacred of all, the linen in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death and before the resurrection. We know that the sacred objects are preserved by their predators in Venice, in France, and in other places, the sacred linen in Athens.



The Mandylion is taken to France

The Templar, Othon de la Roche, was known as the ‘Lord of Athens’, & it is almost certain the Mandylion was in his possession in Athens in 1204. Some time later, it made its way to the south of France, a movement which can be discerned by following clues found in the earliest writers of the Grail story, all of whom, by the way, were connected in some way to the Templars.

(i) Robert De Boron tells us that the secret of the grail was taken to the Vales of Avaron;

Tell him that at his destination he should wait the son of Alain, &
that he cannot pass from life to death until the one has come who will
read him the letter & explain the power of your vessel.

The mention of the letter is interesting, & may refer to the Edessan letter written by Jesus to Agbar. Aveyron department, by the way, is extremely famous for being a Templar hotbed, containing many wonderful walled towns.



(ii) Wolfram von Eschenbach placed the grail in France at a place called Montsalvat, adding the grail was guarded by the  ‘Templiesen.’ This ileads us to the charming village of Montsalvy, found in the department known as Aveyron, i.e. De Boron’s Avaron. We can now see how later poets presumed Avaron was actually Avalon in Glastonbury.



(iii) The grail was said to have been kept in a castle, & there is a ruined castle which towers over Montsalvy which goes by the name of Mandalrulfen – a wonderful semantic match for the Mandylion.

(iv) Sir Lancelot, who first appears in the Grail Romances of the early 13th century, is based upon a top Templar called Alain Martel, from the Lot region of France, which gives us;

(A)Lain ce Lot

Martel is only 40 miles from Montsalvy, & Sir Lancelot did indeed hold court in the area.




The Grail Ceremony


What seems to have happened at the castle is a ceremony in which the Mandylion formed the climax of a series of iconic revelations. Think masonic lodges & grandmasters, hoods on-heads & & stuff like that. The word grail seems now to derive from the Latin ‘gradalis,’  ‘by degrees,’ which connects to the gradually unfolding exhibition during the grail ceremony, a ritualistic procession, where a series of ‘holies’ are brought before the initiate, almost all of which conclude with a vision of Jesus. One of the texts, known as the Grand St. Graal, lists many of these, including;


A holy dish of blood,
Nails of the Crucifixion,
The Cross,
The vinegar sponge
A scourge,
A man’s head,
Bloody swords,
Christ himself,
A bloody lance head
A red man

What has happened is that the grail ceremony seems to have been conducted about the holy relics taken from Constantinople. Among them is a dish – which would later become the vessel of Christ – & also Christ himself, i.e. the Mandylion.  Dr Barbara Frale found a vital piece of evidence a few years back in the Vatican, when she unearthed a 1287 description of a Templar ceremony by a certain Arnaut Sabbatier. Conducted somewhere in the south of France & with only a few witnesses in attendance, Arnaut was shown a long piece of linen cloth sporting a bearded man, & was asked to kiss its feet. Afterwards, they conducted a mass with a bearded male head.

Dr Barbara Frale - pretty cute
Dr Barbara Frale – pretty cute



That was the last time the Mandylion was seen in that part of the world – it was time to take it to its final resting place…





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