In the year 1199, the Teutonic Knights wearing the black cross superimposed on their white surcoats thundered across the pages of history. Jerusalem had fallen and the need for such an order seemed to have lost its relevance yet this new order of knights was formed with the blessing of the pope. It was a military Christian order combining the rules of the Templars with the Hospitallers, the Order of St. John, and their role was to colonise and to Christianise the German east. The Teutonic Knights worked in close association with the German burghers and both protected and participated in trade. Because the Order was free from feudal ties and the influence of lords it became an elite body, unconditionally loyal to the Emperor. Entire territories were entrusted to the administration of its knights and the Teutonic Grand Master belonged to the inner circle of the Emperor’s advisors.
The Nazi Order of the SS intentionally bore a striking resemblance to the Teutonic Knights.
In 1937, Otto Rahn, who died two years later in unusual circumstances, sent a special consignment to Heinrich Himmler. Rahn had studied the sacred geography in the Montségur area and believed that his most important find was the Holy Grail. Yet Adolf Hitler, in a last ditch attempt to save the Third Reich, later sent men into the Montségur region of France in his own desperate search for the Grail. The year was 1944; a year that Hitler believed marked a significant turn in historical events, a change that took place every seven hundred years. He also asserted that, according to German legend, a hidden treasure would rise to the earth’s surface, and he connected this treasure with the Grail.
The fulfilment of the promise of the Grail was brought to pass in 1944, but not in the manner that Adolf Hitler had anticipated.
The last Reich is unfolding even now, right before our eyes, but this time we are dealing with a Reich not conceived openly in ritual and power, but one that eats into our midst, with stealth.
It was not the first time since Chaim Freiberg’s death some thirty years ago, that Michael Segal wished he were still around. Except for a handful of souls who chose to use it as a reference in their study of the Turin shroud, his own book was long since published and forgotten but Michael had never lost his fascination for the subject. Freiberg would have brought his level-headed approach to the present report and between them they might have reached a conclusion.
The issues defied any logical answer. Why had the Roman Catholic Church twice chosen to release findings pertinent to the Turin shroud on the anniversary of the suppression of Order of the Templars? First the STURP findings on 13th October 1978 and now, exactly ten years later, this present report on the carbon 14 dating. Obviously the Mother Church was speaking but exactly what was being said was more difficult to discern.
Segal’s book, written during the second world war, had been one of the earliest investigations undertaken but since then there had been a number of significant advancements in the study of the shroud, not the least Dr. Max Frei’s report on the pollen samples. Frei, a Swiss criminologist of international repute noted for his work on the analysis of microscopic substances, was granted permission in 1973 to collect dust samples from the linen cloth. The result was an extensive list of pollens, among them plants typical to the area around the Dead Sea, specifically adapted to the high salt content of the soil, and species indigenous to the area around Edessa, modern day Urfa, as well as to Constantinople, or Istanbul. His results had gone a long way towards strengthening Michael’s theory that Edessa’s Mandylion concealed the full length shroud under its tapestry backing.
Gabriele looked into the room. “I know you need time alone,” she said, “so I’ve arranged to meet the girls in town for lunch. There’s a cold meal for you in the fridge.”
“Ever the diplomat,” he laughed. “Come and give me kiss before you go.”
He put his arms around his wife and looked down at her with affection. Her blond hair was now grey but the curls were as irrepressible as ever and, to Michael, she was as lovely as when they first met.
“Enjoy your day, and give our grand-daughters my love.”
He heard the door close behind her and settled back to his desk littered with dozens of clippings and copious notes.
The carbon dating report, which set the time of the cutting of the flax for the shroud between the years 1260 – 1390, made nonsense of Frei’s findings – and of his own less scientific study. Interestingly, only three of the initial seven laboratories chosen to perform the tests were ultimately given the go-ahead; England’s Oxford University, a lab in Zurich and one in the United States. Typically, Michael thought, the Catholic hierarchy had proffered no reason for the exclusion of the others. This report placed a firm lid on the subject. The single conclusion that could be drawn from the carbon 14 dating was that the shroud was a clever fake.
Michael Segal returned to his own body of more circumstantial evidence and to Max Frei’s data, which clearly, if not conclusively, demonstrated that the linen cloth had followed the route from Israel via Edessa and Constantinople to France and Italy. What Renaissance forger could have foreseen the need to source fabric in Israel for the manufacture of his fake? And what of the documented presence of the shroud in Constantinople in 1201, well before the cloth was said to have been made? The keeper of the relic collection in the Pharos Chapel had declared its presence, claiming that it ‘wrapped the mysterious naked dead body after the Passion’. Could he have stated that the body of Christ was naked except for the evidence of the image on the shroud?
Two years later, a Frenchman, Robert de Clari who, as part of the Fourth Crusade, had been brought to Constantinople on a Venetian ship prior to the attack on the city wrote:
“There was another of the churches which they called, My Lady St. Mary of Blachernae, where was kept the sydoine in which Our Lord had been wrapped, which stood up straight every Friday so that the figure of Our Lord could be plainly seen there…”
These and other testimonies clearly suggested the existence of a shroud, which bore the image of Christ, before the carbon 14 dating evidence said it could have existed.
Was it then possible that someone had tampered with the shroud samples or the dating results?
The Vatican’s go-ahead for the shroud’s testing had been given in October 1987 and specified that the tests were to be carried out by technicians who knew nothing about the identity of the cloth until after the experiment was complete. A centimetre wide strip, eight centimetres in length had been cut from the linen cloth and three strips of 1.3 centimetres were submitted for testing on April 21st 1988. But although the findings under the accelerator mass spectrometer would have been received almost immediately, they were withheld for several months.
There were two possible ways that any ‘fixing’ might have taken place, Michael surmised. Either the samples were switched and replaced by a cloth known to be of a far later dating, or the lab technicians were persuaded to provide a different date. The former, presumably, would have been simpler to arrange than the latter. The question remained, why? What would the Roman Catholic Church possibly have to gain by deliberately manipulating the dates of arguably its most sacred relic?
And there, for a long time, Michael Segal was stuck. He ambled into the kitchen made himself a cup of strong coffee and fetched his lunch from the refrigerator although it was still only 11.00 o‘clock and ate the cold chicken and salad absentmindedly.
If the Catholic Church believed that the shroud of Turin was genuinely the burial cloth of Christ, it would surely not be in their interests to do anything to undermine that belief. Yet the deliberate nature of the release of two sets of reports, ten years apart, on the date of the attack on the Templars, had the immediate effect of disassociating the shroud from the time of Christ, setting it in a different time frame. The first even before the carbon 14 dating had taken place, as though, years before, they anticipated the test and its result.
Why, what was their game? Was the research of those outside the Church moving too close to the truth of the real nature of the shroud? Had they stumbled unwittingly to the edge of a new discovery? Or was the intention of Catholic hierarchy to draw adherents to a new faith, one no longer founded on the old tenets of belief in the death and resurrection of Christ but on the mysteries surrounding the Templars and the continuance of the Order beyond the time of their demise? Relic worship had, apparently, been designed to drawn devotees of Catholicism into a belief in Christ; had the focus subtly shifted?
Perhaps, Michael Segal thought, as he drained the last of his coffee, the true face of Catholicism is about to be revealed. The Catholic faith, like the shroud of Turin, rested upon an iconic reflection of Christ Jesus. If the Turin shroud, the Catholic representation of his death and resurrection, was discovered to be based on a false premise, the emphasis could always be shifted to suit the new face. Those faithful souls which had followed the teachings of Rome could find that their foundation, built on an indistinct image of Christ Jesus, had shifted like sand. They would be worshipping the one Twice Born.