According to an article in the timesonline.uk today,
Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives, said the Shroud had disappeared in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, and did not surface again until the middle of the fourteenth century. Writing in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Dr Frale said its fate in those years had always puzzled historians.
However her study of the trial of the Knights Templar had brought to light a document in which Arnaut Sabbatier, a young Frenchman who entered the order in 1287, testified that as part of his initiation he was taken to “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access”. There he was shown “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times.
Dr Frale said that among other alleged offences such as sodomy, the Knights Templar had been accused of worshipping idols, in particular a “bearded figure”. In reality however the object they had secretly venerated was the Shroud.
The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth that appears to have been used to wrap the body of a man who had been crucified, and ghostly images appear of a man with a bearded face. In spite of almost immediate pronouncements by the Catholic Church that it was a fake, the faithful believed that the image was of Jesus, and continue to do so today. Chemical analysis and carbon dating techniques used in 1988 provided results that the markings were paint and that the cloth dated from the 14th century, but those results were almost immediately called into question. The Shroud is, today, the property of the Vatican, which has always refused to declare it to be the authentic image of Christ.
The Knights Templars have been implicated in the Shroud’s history before this announcement by Barbara Frale. First, it was in the possession of the family of Geoffrey de Charney, Templar Preceptor of Normandy, who was burned at the stake along with Grand Master Jacques de Molay in 1314. Geoffrey’s nephew, Geoffri de Charney, apparently had the Shroud, and upon his death, his widow, Jeanne de Vergy, first displayed it in public in 1357.
Author Ian Wilson has claimed in The Shroud of Turin: Burial Cloth of Jesus? that the Templars may have found the preserved head of Jesus, and that the Shroud was used to wrap it up in. In which case the Shroud really does authentically reveal the face of Christ.
Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight, on the other hand, claim that the Shroud, in fact, displays the face and features of none other than Jacques de Molay. They make the argument in their book The Second Messiah that the last Grand Master of the Templars was tortured before his execution, and the Shroud displays the blood of his wounds and the long hair and beard that fit his description. Further, using the carbon dating results from a 1988 test of fabric from the Shroud which place its origin between 1260 and 1380, the time frame fits the period of de Molay’s imprisonment and torture. They conclude that the Shroud was wrapped around de Molay after he bad been brutally worked over, but was still alive.
A completely different theory should interest fans of The Da Vinci Code. Clive Prince and Lynn Picknett’s book, Turin Shroud: In Whose Image? makes the claim that the image was actually a hoax created by none other than Leonardo Da Vinci himself, using a primitive photographic chemical process and a pinhole camera.
For more, see The Templar Code for Dummies.