Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Holy Shroud of Oviedo

Whenever you come to Oviedo, in North Spain, you will be delighted by its classical culture, gastronomy and beauty, and also by the very important pre-romanesque complex that was built here as capital stop for the pilgrims on their Way to Saint James, a most important pilgrimage for Catholics during centuries in Europe.
And you will also be visiting the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour, in which  the most important relic is the HOLY SRHOUD OF OVIEDO:  a piece of cloth measuring approximately 84 x 53 cm. There is no image on this cloth. Only stains are visible to the naked eye, although more is visible under the microscope. The remarkable thing about this cloth is that both tradition and scientific studies claim that the cloth was used to cover and clean the face of Jesus after the crucifixion.
Such a cloth is known to have existed from the gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 6 and 7. "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…" John clearly differentiates between this smaller face cloth, the sudarium, and the larger linen that had wrapped the body.

The history of the sudarium is well documented, and much more straightforward than that of the Shroud. Most of the information comes from the twelfth century bishop of Oviedo, Pelagius (or Pelayo), whose historical works are the Book of the Testaments of Oviedo, and the Chronicon Regum Legionensium.
According to this history, the sudarium was in Palestine until shortly before the year 614, when Jerusalem was conquered by the king of Persia. It was taken first to Alexandria, then across the north of Africa. The sudarium entered Spain at Cartagena to Sevilla, and some years later Saint Isidore took it  to Toledo. It stayed in Toledo until the year 718. It was then taken further north to avoid destruction at the hands of the Muslims, who conquered the majority of the Iberian peninsula at the beginning of the eighth century. In Oviedo King Alfonso II had a special chapel built for the chest, called the "Cámara Santa", (Holy Chamber) later incorporated into the cathedral.
The key date in the history of the sudarium is the 14th March 1075, when the chest was officially opened in the presence of King Alfonso VI, his sister Doña Urraca, and Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as El Cid. A list was made of the relics that were in the chest, and which included the sudarium. In the year 1113, the chest was covered with silver plating, on which there is an inscription inviting all Christians to venerate this relic which contains the holy blood. The sudarium has been kept in the cathedral at Oviedo ever since.

The stains on the sudarium show that when the cloth was placed on the dead man's face, it was folded over, although not in the middle. Counting both sides of the cloth, there is therefore a fourfold stain in a logical order of decreasing intensity.
From the composition of the main stains, it is evident that the man whose face the sudarium covered died in an upright position. The stains consist of one part blood and six parts fluid from a pleural oedema. This liquid collects in the lungs when a crucified person dies of asphyxiation, and if the body subsequently suffers jolting movements, can come out through the nostrils. These are in fact the main stains visible on the sudarium.
The cloth was not wrapped entirely round the head because the right cheek was almost touching the right shoulder. This suggests that the sudarium was put into place while the body was still on the cross. The second stain was made about an hour later, when the body was taken down. The third stain was made when the body was lifted from the ground about forty five minutes later. The body was lying at the foot of the cross for about forty-five minutes before being buried. The marks (not fingerprints) of the fingers that held the cloth to the nose are also visible.
The experiments with the model head and the study of the stains also show that when the man died his head was tilted seventy degrees forward and twenty degrees to the right. This position further suggests that the man whose face the sudarium covered died crucified.
There are smaller bloodstains at the side of the main group. It would appear that the sudarium was pinned to the back of the dead man's head, and that these spots of blood were from small sharp objects, which would logically be the thorns that caused this type of injury all over Jesus' head.
The medical studies are not the only ones that have been carried out on the sudarium. Dr. Max Frei analysed pollen samples taken from the cloth, and found species typical of Oviedo, Toledo, North Africa and Jerusalem. This confirms the historical route described earlier. There was nothing relating the cloth to Constantinople, France, Italy or any other country in Europe.
If you wish, you can watch this Spanish multimedia presentation about :

An international congress was held in Oviedo in 1994, where various papers were presented about the sudarium. Dr. Frei's work with pollen was confirmed, and enlarged on. Residues of what is most probably myrrh and aloe have also been discovered, mentioned directly in the gospel of john, 19:39-40, "Nicodemus came as well...and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes...They took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, following the Jewish burial custom."
The stains were also studied from the point of view of anthropology. The conclusion was that the face that had been in contact with the sudarium had typically Jewish features, a prominent nose and pronounced cheekbones.
All the studies carried out so far point in one direction, with nothing to suggest the contrary the sudarium was used to cover the head of the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth from when he was taken down from the cross until he was buried.

The sudarium alone has revealed sufficient information to suggest that it was in contact with the face of Jesus after the crucifixion. However, the really fascinating evidence comes to light when this cloth is compared to the Shroud of Turin.
The studies on the sudarium and the comparison of this cloth with the Shroud are just one of the many branches of science which point to both having covered the dead body of Jesus. The history of the Oviedo cloth is well documented, and the conclusions of this for the dating of the Shroud need no further comment.

To learn more:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Spain Highlight: Sanctuary of Loyola: Shrine of St Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus.

Lying among mountains and gardens in the middle of the Basque Country, we find the humble Holy House surrounded by the Sanctuary of Loyola.

The Shrine and Basilica of Loyola is a monumental and religious complex built around this birthplace of Ignatius of Loyola , founder of the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits.

In 1491, a family of minor nobility welcomed its 13th child, who would one day change the world. Ignatius of Loyola, whose real name was Iñigo López de Loyola, was the son of the Lord of Loyola, Beltrán Ibáñez de Oñaz and Marina Sánchez de Licona, member of an important family.

San Ignatius, turned from Lopéz de Loyola, a soldier, into to the priesthood by his visions. He was living in around the Court, as described by himself, in dissipation and laxity when he was called to the war. While in the battle against the French around Pamplona, a cannon ball broke his leg. He was taken to Loyola, where his leg had to be rebroken and reset.

During the following period he read the lives of Christ and the Saints, and he was radically transformed. Then all of a sudden, he became conscious that the knight dreams were to make him dry and dissatisfied, while the ideas of the saints braced and strengthened him with joy and peace. Next it dawned on him that the former ideas were of the world, the latter God-sent; finally, worldly thoughts began to lose their hold, while heavenly ones grew clearer and dearer. One night as he lay awake, pondering these new lights, "he saw clearly", so says his autobiography, "the image of Our Lady with the Holy Child Jesus” at whose sight for a notable time he felt a reassuring sweetness, which eventually left him with such a loathing of his past sins. His conversion was now complete. Everyone noticed that he would speak of nothing but spiritual things.

He founded the Brotherhood of Jesus, or Jesuit order, whose radical interpretation of Catholicism left its mark on both the New and Old World.
The Society of Jesus became a powerful institution that was very influential in the Catholic Church. Ignatius, its founder, was named a saint and his birthplace became a place of worship.
In the seventeenth century the house where he was born was given to the jesuits, they built there, near the birthplace of its founder, a religious complex, of which the highlight is its basilica.

A place of pilgrimage and wonder for the devout and secular alike, San Ignatius' former home has been transformed with Chirriguerresque flair into a grand compound.
In addition to the basilica and shrine, there is an art museum displaying some of his belongings and writings, as well as religious objects collected over the centuries. We will present you some other information in coming entrances. 

In the year 2011, more than 3.000 young catholics meet in Loyola, in the “Magis 2011”, preparing themselves for the “World Youth Day”.

To learn more:
Sanctuary of Loyola oficial page:


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Our Lady of Pillar in Zaragoza (1/3): The very first Shrine to Virgin Mary, Her only Apparition prior to her Assumption.

Zaragoza, (Saragossa), founded by Caesar Augustus, was a capital city of the Roman Empire in the territory of Hispania, roman name of Spain. St. James the Apostle came to teach the Good News to the country, around 40 years after Christ. And he came to Zaragoza. It is here, where the first Shrine to Our Lady has been ever built.
This is the only apparition of Our Lady we have heard of taking place prior to her Assumption. The year when this apparition occurred was c. 40 or 41 AD.
For twelve years before Our Lady’s Assumption into heaven the people of Spain were venerating Our Lady as Our Lady of the Pillar.
According to Sr. Mary Agreda, Our Lady was 55 years of age and living in Ephesus when this happened and she was 67 years when she was Assumed into Heaven, as it is told in The City of God.

This is how it happened:
While Our Lady was living in Ephesus, before her Assumption, Jesus appeared to her and asked her to go with the angels to see St. James who was in Zaragoza at the time. She was to tell James that Jesus wished him to return to Jerusalem to be martyred.
St. James the Apostle was sitting here on the bank of the Ebro River, discouraged and heartsick at his lack of success in bringing Christianity to the region. The Virgin Mary appeared to him. She was atop a pillar of jasper carried by the angels and she was holding a small wooden statue of herself.
Our Lady gave the message to St. James. She reassured him that his efforts would not be in vain and asked him to consecrate a church in her name on the site where the apparition took place.  
She gave the pillar and image to James requesting that they were to be used on the altar, to mark the spot where she had made her appearance.
Saint James built a small chapel for her, which later was replaced with the Basilica on the same spot. As Mary promised, St. James was indeed successful in bringing Christianity to Spain, and the place of his encounter with the Virgin became a holy place. 
Mass began to be celebrated at the little church and people began to venerate Our Lady through the image left there by her and the angels. The little church, built 2000 years ago is still the same.  Only they soon began building a larger church over it to accommodate the thousands that grew into millions of pilgrims that journey there each year.  It is an awesome sight to behold, and it does take your breath away.

The pillar that had been fashioned by the Angels is still there and has been venerated and kissed by the faithful for almost 2000 years.  When you visit the Chapel of our lady of Pilar, you will see the tiny image resting on the Pillar brought over by Mother Mary and the Angels.  And if you go to the back of the Chapel as our Blessed Pope John Paul II did, you too can kiss the Pillar.  Many other holy men and women came too... we will tell you more soon.

Think about it!  The people of Spain were venerating the Mother of God under the title of Our Lady of the Pilar for at least 12 years before She was Assumed into Heaven. And it happened in Zaragoza, at the Basilica of Our Lady or the Pillar. 

References to learn more:
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