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The ark that contains the Sudarium of Oviedo.

The Shroud of Oviedo: A Legendary Cloth Connected to the Death of Jesus


The Sudarium of Oviedo, also known as the Shroud of Oviedo is one of the most important relics of Christianity. It is believed to be a cloth which was wrapped around Jesus’ head after his death. The shroud is currently the greatest treasure in a cathedral of Oviedo, Spain.

The Shroud of Oviedo is located in the chapel of St. Michael, also known as the Holy chamber of Oviedo, which nowadays belongs to the city's cathedral. In the early medieval period it was a separate pre-Romanesque church located next to the Tower of San Miguel. The chamber, which was built in the times of the fall of the Visigothic kingdom, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1998. The chamber was built during the 9th century as a palace chapel for King Alfonso II of Asturias. It was destroyed in the 14th century and then replaced with the present day Gothic Cathedral of Oviedo.

The Cloth of Jesus Christ

The Sudarium of Oviedo is a piece of cloth measuring 84 x 53 cm (33 x 21 inches). According to the Bible (John 20:6-7), it's a piece which was wrapped around the head of Jesus.

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.

The shroud is displayed to the public only three times a year. It is severely soiled and crumpled, with dark flecks which don’t form any image. Thousands of pilgrims arrive in Oviedo on Good Friday, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross on September 14, and on its octave on September 21.

The Sudarium of Oviedo.

The Sudarium of Oviedo. (Mark Guscin)

The shroud of Oveido was mentioned for the first time in 570 AD by Antoninus of Piacenza, who wrote that it was located in the monastery of St Mark, in Jerusalem. The history of the shroud’s travels starts in Palestine in 614, when it was taken to Alexandria after the invasion by the Sassanid Persian King Khosrau II. When his army arrived to northern Egypt, the presbyter who took care of the shroud carried it from Alexandria to Spain. It then traveled through Cartagena, Seville, and in 657, arrived in Toledo. It finally reached Oviedo circa 840 AD. In March 14, 1075, King Alfonso VI, his sister, and Rodrigo Diaz Vivar (known as El Cid), opened the chest with the shroud and named it by an official act as "The Sacred Sudarium of Our Lord Jesus Christ."

Science Doesn't Provide the Answer People Expect

Carbon 14 testing is the most popular method for dating ancient artifacts. The tests of the Sudarium were performed on three samples snipped from it in April 1988. The results suggest that the shroud dates between 1260 and 1390 AD. According to these results it is impossible that the shroud is an original that belonged to the times of Jesus - but there is much controversy over the dates provided. 

Christ Pantocrator mosaic in Byzantine style, from the Cefalù Cathedral, Sicily, c. 1131.

Christ Pantocrator mosaic in Byzantine style, from the Cefalù Cathedral, Sicily, c. 1131. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Even in scientific communities, the results of the tests are not believed to be reasonable. It seems that the shroud may have gotten dirty in a fire in 1532 – making the carbon testing completely useless. The cathedral was also bombed by terrorists in 1934, which could have influenced the date of the shroud as well. Carbon testing is convincing only if the samples don't contain dirt not connected with the times when it was made. It is a typical problem for dating ancient textiles. If the sample was not influenced by substances from other centuries, the result of the test is valid. Many researchers do not accept the results of the carbon 14 tests because the sample wasn't clean.

Searching for the Origins of the Shroud

The story of the shroud of Oviedo has as many enthusiasts as critics. Many people believe that this is a piece of textile which really covered the face of Jesus, but science is still looking for proof to confirm this. A Swiss pollen expert, Max Frei, tried to find botanical evidence. When he studied the shroud he found two species of pollen which were typical for the area of Palestine. He also found a pollen sample from the north of Africa, which is consistent with the legends about the travels of the cloth.

In 1994, during the First International Congress on the Shroud of Oviedo, researchers decided to test the blood and lymph samples which are still on the cloth. The results showed that the person who was covered with the cloth had an AB blood type. They also found that the pattern on the textile suggests that the cloth covered the face of a bearded man. Unfortunately, it was impossible to read something more from the artifact because there is no way to compare it with human remains or other artifacts which belonged to the man.

The Shrouds which cover a Mystery

The Shroud of Oviedo is one of the most famous textiles apart from the Shroud of Turin, another legendary cloth connected with Jesus. It is unknown if the two textiles belonged to the same man, if they’re original, and if they are really connected with Jesus.

Perfect fit of Sudarium of Oviedo (right) to the face on the Shroud of Turin (left)

Perfect fit of Sudarium of Oviedo (right) to the face on the Shroud of Turin (left) The Shroud of Turin

Nonetheless, both of the shrouds continue to be strongly connected to Christianity. Over the centuries, the Sudarium of Oveido became a popular motif in Spanish and Portuguese literature and medieval songs and poems. Although, it is unknown if it original or not, it remains a popular reason for pilgrimages to Oviedo. Thus, the legend surrounding the Sudarium is what makes it one of the most important relics of the world.

Featured image: The ark that contains the Sudarium of Oviedo. Source: Public Domain

By Natalia Klimczak


Mark Guscin, The Oviedo Cloth, 1998.

Andrè Marion, Gerard Lucotte, Tunika z Argenteuil i Całun Turyński, 2008.



In the above article you have wrongly attributed the image and the words under it, "Perfect fit of Sudarium of Oviedo (right) to the face on the Shroud of Turin (left)" to Dan Porter's Shroud Story blog.

But if you click on that link under "Shroud Story" you will see a link in the words, "Stephen Jones continues his critique of Charles Freeman’s "The Turin Shroud and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey,"".

If you click on that link you will see that the image and words are mine in my The Shroud of Turin blog posts of July 28, 2012, "My critique of Charles Freeman's "The Turin Shroud and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey,"

It would be appreciated if you changed the "Shroud Story" reference and link to "The Shroud of Turin" blog and embed the link to my post in which the image and words originated.

Thank you.

Stephen E. Jones

Oops. The article runs off the rails where it reaches the subheading:

Science Doesn't Provide the Answer People Expect

Beyond that point, it starts discussing the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud of Turin, NOT Oviedo.

I guess we all mistakes.

What's with all the talk about 'crutches'? You can't possibly mean 'churches'? If so, then your apparent lack of education discredits your comment much more cogently than any comment of mine could ever do.

While I completely agree with you about the whole god thing being a fairytale, I cannot agree with you about banning it and the world would be a better place, If there was no religion (and I can't understand why there still is in the 21st century)man would just find some other reason to kill each other

Your problem with the Jesus of Nazareth story is that you fail to distinguish between message and its mode of telling. If you have a message and you want people to get the message, you have to tell it in a way they will understand. People in the day understood the passion of a father for his firstborn son, and that is why the message was delivered in that form. As far as the historical Jesus is concerned, there was a man, Jesus of Nazareth, who preached. The are independent contemporary references to him. Beyond that, it is a matter belief. Even if it was proven he was crucified by the Roman authorities, what you want to make of the story is your business.


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