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The Shroud of Turin: 7 Intriguing Facts

April 9, 2020 in History

By Becky Little

The controversial shroud that is claimed to have once covered the body of Jesus first appeared in the 1350s and is now available for online viewing.

The Shroud of Turin is a 14-foot linen cloth bearing an image of a crucified man that has become a popular Catholic icon. For some, it is the authentic burial shroud of Jesus Christ. For others, it is a religious icon reflecting the story of the Christ, not necessarily the original shroud.

More than 600 years after it first appeared in historical records, the Shroud of Turin remains an important religious symbol for Christians around the world.

1. The shroud first surfaced in medieval France.

The earliest historical records of the Shroud of Turin place it in Lirey, France during the 1350s. A French knight named Geoffroi de Charny allegedly presented it to the dean of the church in Lirey as Jesus’ authentic burial shroud. There’s no record of how de Charny got his hands on the shroud, nor where it was during the 1300 intervening years since Christ’s burial outside Jerusalem.


2. The pope soon declared it was not an actual historic relic.

After the church of Lirey put the shroud on display, the church began to draw a lot of pilgrims, and also a lot of money. However, many prominent members of the church remained skeptical of its authenticity.

Around 1389, Pierre d’Arcis—the bishop of Troyes, France—sent a report to Pope Clement VII claiming an artist had confessed to forging the shroud. Furthermore, d’Arcis claimed the dean of the Lirey church knew it was a fake and had used it to raise money anyway. In response, the pope declared the shroud wasn’t the true burial cloth of Christ. Still, he said the Lirey church could continue to display it if it acknowledged the cloth was a man-made religious “icon,” not a historic “relic.” Today, Pope Francis still describes it as an “icon.”

3. De Charny’s granddaughter was excommunicated for selling it to Italian royals.

In 1418, when the Hundred Years’ War threatened to spill over into Lirey, Geoffroi de Charny’s granddaughter Margaret de Charny and her husband offered to store the cloth in their castle. Her husband wrote a receipt for the exchange acknowledging that the cloth was not Jesus’ authentic burial shroud, and promising to return the shroud when it was safe. However, she later refused to return it, and instead …read more


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After War, Pandemic and Recession, Americans Voted in 1920 for 'Normalcy'

April 9, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

Weary from cataclysmic world events, the U.S. electorate chose a mild-mannered candidate promising quieter times.

Lashed by a squall of historical events over four harrowing years, exhausted Americans longed to catch their collective breath as Election Day approached.

The four years leading up to the presidential election of 1920 had delivered a ghastly confluence of war, pestilence, terrorism and unemployment. As soon as World War I finished taking the lives of 100,000 Americans, a global influenza pandemic stole another 650,000 more. Race riots, labor strikes and a string of anarchist bombings—including one that slaughtered 38 people on Wall Street—rocked American cities following the war. The American economy was far from roaring in 1920 as unemployment soared and stock prices plummeted. Americans bitterly divided over whether to join the League of Nations, and fears of the spread of communism after the Russian Revolution sparked the Red Scare and Palmer Raids. A cheating scandal had tainted the national pastime with accusations that the “Black Sox” had conspired with gamblers to fix the 1919 World Series. Even the heavens appeared to offer little salvation as a cluster of nearly 40 tornadoes struck from Georgia to Wisconsin on Palm Sunday in 1920, leaving more than 380 dead.

READ MORE: Why the Second Wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu Was So Deadly

The ‘best of the second-raters’

President Warren G. Harding, right, pictured with Calvin Coolidge, his Vice-President and successor, circa 1923.

Against this turbulent backdrop, the Republican Party gathered in Chicago in June 1920 to select its nominee to succeed President Woodrow Wilson, who had suffered a debilitating stroke months earlier. Seeking to regain the White House, Republicans settled on a dark-horse candidate, Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio, on the tenth ballot. “There ain’t any first-raters this year,” declared Connecticut Senator Frank Brandegee. “We got a lot of second-raters, and Warren Harding is the best of the second-raters.” A small-town newspaper publisher from a swing state in the American heartland who bridged the party’s progressive and conservative wings, Harding was a safe choice who could deliver just the sort of political comfort Americans craved.

Harding promised nerve-wracked voters anything but radical change. In a May 1920 speech in Boston, he declared, “America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but …read more