Wednesday, June 20, 2018

`I would like to point out an important mistranslation of a French expression in your post'

© Stephen E. Jones[1]

Mario, this is my belated reply in a separate post to your comment of 14 May under my 2014 post, "Lirey (1): Turin Shroud Encyclopedia." Your words (including where you quoted me) are in bold to distinguish them from mine.

Dear Stephen,

I would like to point out an important mistranslation of a French expression in your post. You wrote

"That would also explain Geoffroy II's explanation that the Shroud was "freely given" to his father and Geoffroy II's daughter Marguerite's explanation that it was "conquis par feu" ("conquered by fire"), i.e. obtained by conquest in battle, by her grandfather Geoffroy I."

The translation of "conquis par feu messire Geoffroy de Charny, mon grant père," (it is essential to gave the full quote to translate "feu" correctly) is unrelated to "fire". It is a well-known idiom in French that "feu", placed before the name of a person, is an adjective meaning "deceased". See for example for an explanation.

Thanks. You have explained that "feu" in this context does not mean "fire." (However see below that it could have been a deliberate double-meaning by Marguerite de Charny of "fire" and "deceased"). But you have left unexplained what she meant by "conquis." According to my wife's French-English dictionary, the "Concise Oxford Hachette French Dictionary" (2009), at page 127, "conquis" has an arrow to "conquérir," which in turn means, "to conquer," "to capture," "to win," "to win over." So the meaning is still that the deceased Geoffroy I de Charny (c. 1300–1356) possessed the Shroud by, or through, conquest.

The alternative, that Geoffroy I's granddaughter Marguerite de Charny (c. 1393-1460) "obtained the Shroud through the death of Geoffrey de Charny ... her grandfather":

"... the canons of the church in Lirey petitioned Marguerite to return the Shroud to them, as it belonged to them. Marguerite refused and in a deposition stated that the Shroud was "conquis par feu messier Geofroy de Charny." This is a curious phrase which has caused a degree of puzzlement to historians. An explanation has been suggested by Patrick Farrell of Rossshire in Scotland. His suggestion is that feu refers to Geoffrey de Charny and is the same as in the well-known phrase feu le roi, vive le roi, meaning `the king is dead, long live the king'. The derivative of feu in this sense is not `fire' but the Latin word fatutus meaning deceased. In this context conquis means no more than `obtained'[2]. The meaning of Marguerite's phrase would therefore seem simply to be that she obtained the Shroud through the death of Geoffrey de Charny; in other words it was hers by right of inheritance"[3].
is literally false since Marguerite did not inherit the Shroud from her grandfather, who died ~37 years before she was born. And it is meaningless if she meant that she inherited it from her father Geoffroy II, who in turn inherited it from his father Geoffroy I, since that would not have been in dispute by the canons of Lirey.

Marguerite therefore must have meant that her grandfather Geoffroy I de Charny's possession of the Shroud was his by right of conquest[4] and therefore not something that her late husband, Humbert de Villersexel (1385–1437) could have given away to the canons of Lirey:

"Following these ructions in 1389, interest in the cloth died down until 1418. During these years France was ravaged by war and invasion, and under the circumstances the canons of Lirey decided (or were compelled) to confide their treasures, including the cloth, to Humbert de la Roche-Saint Hyppolite [Humbert de Villersexel, Marguerite's second husband] on 6 July 1418 who gave them a receipt for `ung drap ou quel est la figure ou represéntation du suaire Nostre Seigneur Jesucrist, lequel est en ung coffre armoye des armes de Charny' (A cloth on which is a figure or representation of the shroud of our Lord Jesus Christ in a chest engraved with the arms of Charny') [see below]. Humbert died twenty-five years later in 1443 [sic], before he could return the shroud to Lirey. After vainly asking his widow Marguerite de Charny to return it, the dean and canons sued her in the Parlement of Dole. She replied that her late husband's receipt for the relics did not bind her in matters concerning 'le sanct suaire, lequel piece fut conquis par feu messire Geoffroi de Charny, mon grant père', and further, the relics in question would not be safe at Lirey, because it was vulnerable in these troubled times of war"[5].

[Above (enlarge)[6]: The bottom `third' of the Lirey pilgrim's badge showing the reliquary [chest] in which the Shroud was then kept. The coat of arms shields of Geoffroy I de Charny are on the right of the reliquary and that of Jeanne de Vergy is on its left[7]. See my 13Apr18.]

I therefore agree with the late Dorothy Crispino (1916-2014) and Ian Wilson that Marguerite was being deliberately ambiguous:

"... on 19 September 1356, at the disaster of Poitiers, Geoffroy de Charny was killed, holding aloft the Oriflamme until he fell. ... That the preux chevalier did receive the Shroud in connection with a battle seems implied in the statement of his granddaughter, Marguerite de Charny, who claimed that the Shroud was `conquered' by the late messire de Charny.4 A slightly different account was recorded in a Bull of Clement VII (1390) in which Geoffroy II attests that the Shroud was given to his father sibi liberaliter oblatam; freely or generously presented to him. The statements given by Geoffroy II (1389 & 1390) and by his daughter Marguerite (1443) are not necessarily incompatible. They might both be correct, each one but a glimpse of the whole story. They do agree in this: that the Shroud was personal property, legitimately acquired, and legitimately held by Geoffroy's heirs. Neither Geoffroy II nor Marguerite makes any mention of the place, the donor, the circumstances; these are still totally unknown. ... 4. Fossati's amputated quotation, `Conquis par feu' gives the impression that the Shroud had been taken in the fire of battle. The complete phrase, given by Perret, reads that the Shroud `Fut conquis par feu messire Geoffroy de Charny;' 'feu' in French have [sic] the two meaning of 'fire' and late, lately deceased'"[8].

"As for Margaret de Charny's already quoted 'conquis par feu' remark, this seems to have been almost deliberately enigmatic, as if she was either ignorant, or unprepared to divulge what she knew, of the real truth"[9].
That real truth was that Marguerite's ancestor, Othon de la Roche (c.1170-1234) had looted the Shroud during the 1204 Sack of Constantinople, and so the Shroud was the property of the Byzantine Empire (c. 330–1453), which then still existed (until 1453), and if the de Charnys admitted that truth then the Byzantine Emperor John V Palaiologos (1332–1391), who was then living in Chambéry, France, would demand it be returned, creating a diplomatic crisis for Pope Clement:
"The de Charnys could not divulge the provenance of the Shroud or openly declare it to be the true Shroud of Christ, because it was not rightfully theirs - or any other Westerner's. They would have risked having it confiscated. It was preferable to pay lip-service to the idea that it was a copy, maintain possession of the cloth and look for a future opportunity to promote its cause. The Shroud's problematic provenance also explains why Pope Clement VII permitted displays of the cloth to continue (to the dismay of Pierre d'Arcis), but only if it was publicly proclaimed to be 'a figure or representation of the Shroud of Our Lord', not the real thing. As a relative of the de Charnys, Clement almost certainly knew the cloth's provenance, but he could not allow it to be recognized as the true Shroud of Christ, for fear of causing a diplomatic incident. The Shroud was a cultural treasure that meant as much to the Greek emperors of Byzantium as the Elgin Marbles do to Greeks today, and it had been stolen from them in a looting campaign as brazen as any perpetrated by Napoleon or the Nazis. Nearly two centuries after the Fourth Crusade, the Sack of Constantinople was still an extremely sore point in Byzantium, and, if John V Palaiologos, the Byzantine emperor at the time, had heard that the priceless Sindon was being displayed in France, he would have made moves to recover it. Pope Clement would have been put on the spot, and the anticipated reunion of the Roman and Byzantine Churches, which was being actively discussed at the time, would have been put in jeopardy. Clement, then, had good reason not to acknowledge the real identity of the Shroud and to enjoin perpetual silence on Bishop d'Arcis as well"[10].
See my 02Apr16, 15Aug17 and 03Jul18.

The document "Pour scavoir la vérité", which you use I believe to state that Philip VI gave the Shroud to Geoffroy, states that the gift was due to Geoffroy's attempt to regain Calais. Why to claim otherwise? What is disproving that claim about Calais? I do elsewhere but I cannot see any reference in my 2014 post that your comment was under to the document "Pour scavoir la vérité" ("To know the truth"), except in footnote 50 above, where it is not about King Philip VI having given the Shroud to Geoffroy I. From memory I have only stated it in my post of 24May15 where I fully explain my reasons for thinking that. I do not claim that the "To know the truth" was correct in its claim that Philip VI gave the Shroud to Geoffroy I after the 1349 Battle of Calais. In fact I claim that Philip VI gave the Shroud to Geoffroy I (or had promised it to him) in 1343. See my 10Feb18 post.

Why do you think that the Shroud was in Besançon before 1349? There are no traces of a shroud with an image before 1523, as given by the documents of the chapitre of Saint-Jean still available today. There is also nothing about Besançon in my 2014 post that your comment was under, but I only just now realised that you are referring to my comment of 4 January 2015 under that post and above your comment. It would have helped if you had made that clear. Blogger only sends me the comment in isolation, it does not show me the previous comments under that post and I can't be expected to remember what I wrote in a comment 3½ years ago! As for why I think the Shroud was in Besançon in 1349, I am following (albeit not exactly-I propose that Geoffroy I had, or was promised, the Shroud ~6 years before 1349) Shroudie historian Dan Scavone's `missing years 1204-1355' Besançon theory (as I am sure you are aware):

"There are other suggested itineraries for the Shroud between Constantinople and Lirey, some quite plausible. All suffer from the same total lack of documentation in the form of direct reference to the Shroud. My personal choice -- though I would not object if Wilson's turned out to be correct -- is the infamous Besançon theory. I can only present it in outline. Its strength is that only the city of Besançon in Franch-Comte claimed to possess the Shroud from 1208 to 1349. The Templars did not, the Toucy family did not, the Smyrna and Cyprus leaders did not, Mary Margaret did not, the Hungarian royal family did not. The pertinent aspects of this thesis are that Burgundian knight Othon de La Roche acquired the Shroud after the Fourth Crusade. Its presence in Athens, where Othon became Lord in 1205, is indirectly attested by Nicholas of Otranto in 1205-6 and directly in a letter of Theodore of Epirus date August 1, 1205. Later Othon sent it home to the custody of the Bishop of Besançon. In 1349 the Cathedral of St-Etienne burned down and the Shroud disappeared. As most readers know, about 1353-55 the Lirey Shroud made its entrance in history from mysterious, or at least unknown, origins. Arguably, Jeanne de Vergy, of a prominent Besançon family, the new wife of Geoffroy I de Charny, appropriated the cloth and delivered it to Lirey and Geoffroy. True, there are no records of the Shroud so early (1208) in Besançon: but it is also true that the cathedral and its records were destroyed by fire in 1349 and French revolutionaries destroyed remaining religious records along with a painted copy of the Shroud in 1793. Today, town records go back only to 1412. If adequate records do not exist in Besançon, the reader should note again that the Shroud is not recorded anywhere from 1208-1355"[11].

"It is important to understand here that all the writers, from Chifflet to Vignon, who insist that Besançon never had the Turin Shroud because the replacement was only 8 feet long and held only a frontal image (which could be seen until 1793) are missing the point and wasting ink. ... Of course the 1375 cloth was not the real Shroud (already well-documented in Lirey by the D'Arcy memorandum)! The thrust of the Besançon case must go to its possession before 1349, for which there is actually some documentation in the report of Nicholas of Otranto and in the letter of Theodore of Epirus of August 1, 1205 which places the Shroud in Athens (not a copy, as some suggest). From Athens and Othon the long- enduring `smoking gun' of Besançon tradition says the cloth was sent to their city. Granted, the case for Besançon is virtually, an argument from silence, but not absolutely so, as we now see. If the Shroud was not in Besançon, it was somewhere else, in silence -- entirely and absolutely unattested by any document. All theories [about where the Shroud was between 1204 and 1355] are argumenta e silentio" (emphasis original)[12].

"On Besançon and other plausible theories for the Shroud from 1204 to 1355 The hypothesis, herein elaborated, which identifies the Turin Shroud in its early Lirey period (1355-1390) with the cloth previously used in the Easter liturgy at the Cathedral of St. Etienne at Besançon in the 13th and 14th century, has been thoroughly scrutinized by a number of excellent scholars of the Turin Shroud, among whom are Edward Wuenschel, Paul Vignon, and Paul de Gail. Their success in refuting the Besançon hypothesis (in its several forms) has appeared very strong, but never conclusive. Wuenschel was completely devoted to the Besançon possibilities until dissuaded by Vignon. The Besançon hypothesis has remained tantalizingly attractive. Indeed, de Gail complains at the persistence of modern scholars in entertaining the Besançon connection. Up to the present moment, all other theories -- many are very plausible -- of the Shroud's whereabouts, from its `disappearance' from Constantinople around 1204 until it came into the possession of Geoffroy de Charny in the 1350s, remain absolutely devoid of supporting documentation. Indeed, not one person or group to whose possession the Shroud as been imputed during this period has ever claimed to possess or even to know the existence of the Shroud in any known document? Meanwhile the Besançon theory has recently acquired a more reassuring collection of supporting evidences If the Shroud was not at Besançon where it has been claimed from ca. 1208 to 1349, it was somewhere else, absolutely unattested and undocumented" (emphasis original, footnotes omitted)[13].

"Even the present fresh approach to the Besançon thesis cannot produce certainty, but it has the merit of the following points. 1) It does not directly contradict any documentary evidence about the acquisition of the Shroud by Geoffroy I de Charny, for such documentation does not exist. Indeed, it may explain his mysterious ownership. 2) It establishes a possible location for the Shroud from 1204 to about 1349, and from 1349 to 1355. 3) This thesis can provide an account of the Shroud's departure from Constantinople and its arrival in the west. Finally, it corrects some imprecise interpretations of the available source material from Constantinople, Troyes, and Besançon. In short, the Besançon thesis is at the same time as plausible and as tenuous, as attractive and as frustrating, and as full of conjecture as any other hypothesis ..."[14].

"About ten years ago I reintroduced the often-voiced and as often resisted theory of the Shroud's sojourn in Besançon, a city straddling medieval France and the German Holy Roman Empire. ... the facts available today, some I personally uncovered, are much stronger than what was commonly known two generations ago when Vignon persuaded Wuenschel away from the same theory ... Documents that are stronger than most that deal with the Shroud point to Othon de La Roche, high-ranking knight of the Fourth Crusade, as receiving the fiefdom of Athens as his reward for service - and also the Constantinople Shroud. He was a native knight of Franche-Comte, capital city, Besançon. This city alone has claimed the Shroud during the 150 `lost' years, but its presence there is much debated. Let me summarize here the positive elements of this Besançon theory. In 1349 the St. Etienne (St. Stephen) Church burned down. The shroud lodged there was lost. In 1353-1354 Jeanne de Vergy, of a prominent Besançon family, wed Geoffroy I de Charny. One of the Vergys customarily held the post of seneschal of Besançon. We know only from the 1389 memorandum of Bishop d'Arcis that this Geoffroy I possessed the Shroud in Lirey by 1355. Geoffroy went to his death in 1356 never having announced this himself. Sometime later, Jeanne's family crest of appeared next to Geoffroy's on the Seine Medallion. She was his second wife, and her family's arms there is significant, suggesting a share in the Shroud's ownership. In 1376, when Jeanne's cousin Guillaume de Vergy was Bishop in Besançon, the city's lost shroud mysteriously reappeared there. Its authenticity was `proved' by raising a corpse back to life. This new shroud was a copy (the original is well-attested for twenty years already in Lirey) ... It had only the frontal image and was clearly only a painting. In 1389 d'Arcis had said an artist of `about thirty-four years' prior had admitted making the Lirey image. ... As a final note, in Besançon, on the frontier between France and Germany, the Vergys were in the party that wished the city to be a part of France. It would follow from the reconstruction thus far that Jeanne took the Shroud after the fire (1349-50) to King Philip VI, thus saving it for France, and he made it his wedding gift to his Porte-oriflamme Geoffroy I and his new bride. A text of 1525 that begins `To Know the Truth' (pour scavoir la Verite) and found at Lirey stated that `Philip had the Shroud,' and Dubarle has also accepted its implications: the Shroud as a royal gift to Geoffroy I. This hypothesis must yet pass sindonic peer-review. We know that the documents pertaining to a shroud in Besançon do not clearly go back to Othon, Franche-comptois knight who surely received the one in Constantinople in 1204; we also know that the archives of Besançon were destroyed once in the 14th c. fire and again during the French Revolution, when the second shroud was declared (rightly) to be an artwork and was torn into strips for bandages. Today the Besançon archives begin only in 1412, meaning that all or nearly all documents before that no longer exist. We are asked to accept here the smoking gun- evidence"[15].
There is more on this in Scavone's other writings, but it would make this post too long. Again note that I diverge from Scavone in his claim that Jeanne de Vergy personally took the Shroud out of the burned St. Etienne's Cathedral, Besançon in 1349. Rather, I claim that the de Vergys (presumably Bishop Guillaume [William] de Vergy) had transferred the Shroud to King Philip VI in c.1343 to prevent it being captured in an English invasion, and that the Besançon Cathedral fire of 1349 was an accident, which however enabled the de Vergys to `cover their tracks'.

Best regards,
-- Mario Latendresse

1. This post is copyright. I grant permission to quote from any part of it (but not the whole post), provided it includes a reference citing my name, its subject heading, its date, and a hyperlink back to this page. [return]
2. Wilson, I, 1998, "`Conquis par feu' - Another Shroud Mystery Solved?," BSTS Newsletter No. 48, December. [return]
3. Oxley, M., 2010, "The Challenge of the Shroud: History, Science and the Shroud of Turin," AuthorHouse: Milton Keynes UK, p.66. [return]
4. Petrosillo, O. & Marinelli, E., 1996, "The Enigma of the Shroud: A Challenge to Science," Scerri, L.J., transl., Publishers Enterprises Group: Malta, p.183. [return]
5. Currer-Briggs, N., 1995, "Shroud Mafia: The Creation of a Relic?," Book Guild: Sussex UK, p.35. [return]
6. Latendresse, M., 2012, "A Souvenir from Lirey," [return]
7. Wilson, I., 1979, "The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Jesus?," [1978], Image Books: New York NY, Revised edition, p.224D; ; Maher, R.W., 1986, "Science, History, and the Shroud of Turin," Vantage Press: New York NY, p.96; Wilson, I., 1986, "The Evidence of the Shroud," Guild Publishing: London, p.5; Wilson, I., 1998, "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, p.127; Antonacci, M., 2000, "Resurrection of the Shroud: New Scientific, Medical, and Archeological Evidence," M. Evans & Co: New York NY, p.150; Tribbe, F.C., 2006, "Portrait of Jesus: The Illustrated Story of the Shroud of Turin," Paragon House Publishers: St. Paul MN, Second edition, p.42; Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, p.221. [return]
8. Crispino, D.C., 1981, "Why Did Geoffroy de Charny Change His Mind?," Shroud Spectrum International, No. 1, December, pp.28-34, 29, 34. [return]
9. Crispino, D.C., 1981, "Why Did Geoffroy de Charny Change His Mind?," Shroud Spectrum International, No. 1, December, pp.28-34, 29, 34. [return]
10. de Wesselow, T., 2012, "The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection," Viking: London, pp.182-183. [return]
11. Scavone, D.C., "The History of the Turin Shroud to the 14th C.," in Berard, A., ed., 1991, "History, Science, Theology and the Shroud," Symposium Proceedings, St. Louis Missouri, June 22-23, 1991, The Man in the Shroud Committee of Amarillo, Texas: Amarillo TX, pp.171-204, 198. [return]
12. Scavone, 1991, p.200. [return]
13. Scavone, D.C., "The Turin Shroud from 1200 to 1400," in Cherf, W.J., ed., 1993, "Alpha to Omega: Studies in Honor of George John Szemler," Ares Publishers: Chicago IL, pp.187-225, 188-189. [return]
14. Scavone, 1993, p.190. [return]
15. Scavone, D.C., 1998, "A Hundred Years of Historical Studies on the Turin Shroud," Paper presented at the Third International Congress on the Shroud of Turin, 6 June 1998, Turin, Italy, in Minor, M., Adler, A.D. & Piczek, I., eds., 2002, "The Shroud of Turin: Unraveling the Mystery: Proceedings of the 1998 Dallas Symposium," Alexander Books: Alexander NC, pp.58-70, 66-67. [return]

Posted: 20 June 2018. Updated: 13 July 2018.

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