Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The Christ "Pantocrator" Icon

at St. Catherine's Monastery Sinai

and the Shroud of Turin

In 544 AD, a cloth bearing an image of Jesus was discovered hidden above a gate in Edessa's city walls. Six years later, an icon was produced at St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai.

There are startling similarities between the icon and the image we see on the Shroud of Turin. There are, perhaps, too many similarities for it to be a mere coincidence.

  • The general placement of facial features including eyes, nose and mouth. In fact, when a transparency of the Shroud face is superimposed over the icon, there are no significant variations.

  • The hair on the left side (your right) falls on the shoulder and swoops outward. The hair on the other side is shorter.

  • The eyes are very large.

  • The nose is particularly thin and long. The face is gaunt.

  • There is a gap in the beard below a concentration of facial hair that is just below the lower lip.

  • The neck is particularly long.

It is particularly interesting to note that starting about this time a dramatic change took place in the way Jesus was portrayed on coins, icons, frescos and mosaics. Before this time, Jesus was usually portrayed in storybook settings such as a young shepherd or modeled after the Greek Apollo.

After the discovery of the Edessa Cloth, images of Jesus were suddenly full-frontal facial images.

Transparency of High Contrast Shroud Face

Superimposed Over the

St. Catherine's Icon

By placing a high contrast transparency over the Christ Pantocrator icon we see the symmetry patterns, particularly for the nose.

Some things stand out as differences:

  • The outer hairline on the left side (your right) of the Shroud face seems more compressed towards the face. The hair seems to fall straight down. But this is due to an anomaly of dark bands on each side of the visible hair. Studies of the banding effect on the Shroud of Turin's image suggest that the hairline is indeed much closer to what we see on the Pantocrator icon.

  • The beard on the Pantocrator icon is not forked as it appears to be on the Shroud. Banding studies do not suggest an explanation for this difference.

  • The mustache on theicon face is narrower and falls down while the mustache on the Shroud is clearly broad and straight across. Banding studies do show that the mustache on the Shroud's face is much more like the icon than was previously thought.

The image below was produced by filtering out banding. Yellow lines represent improved identification of the angle of the mustache and the tentative hairline edge. This corresponds more closely with the shape of the hair on the icon.