Friday, January 20, 2017

The date of Ian Wilson's tetradiplon = `doubled in four' Shroud experiment

Copyright © Stephen E. Jones[1]

I had been thinking of Ian Wilson's experiment in which he found that

[Above (enlarge): From my 2012 post, "Tetradiplon and the Shroud of Turin." The full-length Shroud of Turin (1), is doubled four times (2 through 5) [ignore my white join in the 3rd doubling], resulting in Jesus' face within a rectangle, in landscape aspect (5), exactly as depicted in early copies of the Image of Edessa, the 11th century Sakli church, Turkey (6) and the 10th century icon of King Abgar V of Edessa holding the Image of Edessa, St. Catherine's monastery, Sinai (7).]

a photograph of the Shroud, when "doubled in four" (the meaning of the Greek word tetradiplon, which in all of known ancient Greek literature was only used of the Mandylion/Image of Edessa[2]) with the face of the Shroud man uppermost, results in the man's face in landscape aspect, exactly as it is in ancient copies of the Mandylion/Image of Edessa!

So I emailed Wilson on 11 December, under the subject line, "Re: What was the date of your `Secondo Pia' discovery?," as follows[3]:


You have written that you made the discovery "some twenty years ago" (in 1991 - 20 = 1971):

"Here the interesting feature is that in the original Greek text of this quotation the word translated as `towel' is `tetradiplon', meaning a cloth `doubled in four'. It is a most unusual word, occurring in the entire corpus of Greek literature only in regard to the `holy face' of Edessa, and it prompted me some twenty years ago to try `doubling in four' a photograph of the `shroud', just to see what might emerge. The result was more than astonishing. Doubled, then doubled twice again to give four times two folds, the `shroud' face appeared disembodied on a landscape aspect cloth exactly as conveyed by the copyists of the Edessan `holy face' pre-1204 [fig. 16]. From this and similar evidence I deduced that the `shroud' had been one and the same as the `holy face' of Edessa, which explained its otherwise unrecorded pre-fourteenth century history. Why it had not been described as a `shroud' during the Byzantine era (Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, p.141)
"more than a quarter of a century ago" (in 1998 - 27 = 1971):
"Why should the cloth of Edessa have been described as 'doubled in four'? Inevitably this can only have had something to do with the way the cloth was once folded. It provided my cue, more than a quarter of a century ago, to experiment with what might happen if one tried folding the Shroud in four-by-two folds, as the word seemed to suggest [fig. 18]. When I tried this with the aid of a photograph, the revelation was something akin to Secondo Pia's discovery of the hidden negative. To my utter astonishment, the Shroud face appeared strangely disembodied, on a landscape-aspect cloth, exactly as it appears on the pre-1204 Edessa cloth copies, such as at Sakli, Gradac and Studenica, some of which I did not even know of at that time." (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.152).

[Above (upper - enlarge): Fresco of the Image of Edessa/Mandylion (10th/11th century)[4], Sakli church, Goreme, Turkey[5]:

"This particular painting dates no later than the mid eleventh century - a full two centuries earlier than the earliest date [1260] attributed to the Shroud by radiocarbon dating. And for the artist who created the painting, the original cloth he was depicting was already very old"[6].
And (lower - enlarge): 12th century[7] fresco of the Image of Edessa/Mandylion in the Church of the Annunciation, Gradac, Serbia[8]. Compare these with the enlargement of "5. Fourth doubling"[9] below (the burn marks and patches parallel to the face are from the 1532 fire).]

that when you took a full-length photograph of the Shroud and folded it in half with the man's face uppermost, then folded it in half again with the man's face uppermost, and folded it in half again with the man's face still uppermost (I am using my own words as I do it myself as I write) it leaves the man's face "disembodied, on a landscape-aspect cloth, exactly as it appears on the pre-1204 Edessa cloth copies ..." And looking at it from the side, as it was evidently possible to do with the Edessa Cloth, fastened to a board, it is indeed four doublings!

You described your discovery as a "revelation ... something akin to Secondo Pia's discovery of the hidden negative" and I totally agree. This was one of the great moments in Shroud history. It was experimental proof that the Mandylion was the Shroud `four-doubled'. I still get a thrill when I do it, so I can hardly imagine what it must have been like for you the first time.

The only problem is that you have never, as far as I know, ever stated exactly when and where it was that you made your most important discovery.

Would you please tell me when and where it was, so that I may at an appropriate time, share it with readers of my blog, and hence with Shroud posterity?

Thanks and regards,


Wilson replied on 12 December[10]:

Dear Stephen,

Many thanks for this – an interesting question! Yes it was a very real and indeed a very moving moment, though the exact date was one that I never recorded, not least because at the time I had absolutely no idea of all that might subsequently flow from it.

To the best of my recollection it would have been around the summer of 1966, probably early evening, and at my parents’ home in south London. I was staying there after having recently left a job that had been based in Oxford (with Oxfam), and whilst doing a three month stint of ‘Shroud history’ researches at the then Reading Room of the British Museum. I know that I had earlier (when still living in Oxford), purchased volume VIII of Roberts and Donaldson’s Ante-Nicene Fathers, which has translations of the New Testament Apocrypha. And it was whilst reading the ‘Acts of the Holy Apostle Thaddaeus’ in this that a footnote at the bottom of page 558 ‘Lit., doubled in four’ struck my attention.

It was so early in my researches that I did not even have to hand any readily usable full length photo suitable for performing the folding experiment. But I had a very strong feeling that it was going to work, so at the time hastily improvised by cutting out a photo from a newspaper article. Then the moment that I saw the result there was what I can only describe a quite extraordinary feeling of ‘thrill’ – an all-encompassing tingling of the spine and incredibly humbling realisation that this was something that had to be significant.

Ever since I have been trying to prove that significance – not without a few setbacks along the way! I am still working very hard on the Charny researches – and be assured that from this some very interesting new historical findings will eventually emerge...

Wishing you and yours every happiness and blessing at this Christmastime, and for 2017,


So there you have it. This "one of the great moments in Shroud history" and "experimental proof that the Mandylion was the Shroud `four-doubled'" was by Ian Wilson in the Northern "summer of 1966" (i.e. June-August 1966) at south London.

As posted in the "Editorial and Contents," Shroud of Turin News, December 2016, the paragraph and footnote on page 558 of volume VIII of Roberts & Donaldson's "Ante-Nicene Fathers," specifically "Acts of the Holy Apostle Thaddaeus." is:

"And Ananias [Abgar V's courier], having gone and given the letter, was carefully looking at Christ, but was unable to fix Him in his mind. And He knew as knowing the heart, and asked to wash Himself; and a towel 4 was given Him; and when He had washed Himself, He wiped His face with it. And His image having been imprinted upon the linen ...
4 Lit., doubled in four."
In the Greek, "towel" is tetradiplon, i.e. tetra "four" + diplon "doubled," and "linen" is sindon, a large linen sheet[11]. The earliest Greek manuscript of the Acts of Thaddaeus which mentions an image of Jesus having been imprinted on a tetradiplon which was also a sindon, dates from the 9th/10th century, and derives from a 6th/7th century original[12]. So the above is proof beyond reasonable doubt that the Shroud was already in existence as the Mandylion/Image of Edessa `four-doubled' in the 6th/7th century, at least six centuries before its earliest 13th century radiocarbon date!

1. This post is copyright. Permission is granted to quote from any part of this post (but not the whole post), provided it includes a reference citing my name, its subject heading, its date and a hyperlink back to this post. [return]
2. Wilson, I., 1979, "The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ?," [1978], Image Books: New York NY, Revised edition, p.307 n.16; Drews, R., 1984, "In Search of the Shroud of Turin: New Light on Its History and Origins," Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham MD, p.36; Wilson, I., 1986, "The Evidence of the Shroud," Guild Publishing: London, p.112; Iannone, J.C., 1998, "The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence," St Pauls: Staten Island NY, pp.104-105; Wilson, 1998, pp.152-153; Antonacci, M., 2000, "Resurrection of the Shroud: New Scientific, Medical, and Archeological Evidence," M. Evans & Co: New York NY, pp.132-133; Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., 2000, "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," Michael O'Mara Books: London, pp.110-111; Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, pp.140-141. [return]
3. Jones, S.E., 2016, Email to Ian Wilson, "Re: What was the date of your `Secondo Pia' discovery?," 11 December 2016 7:51 PM. [return]
4. Scavone, D.C., 1989, "The Shroud of Turin: Opposing Viewpoints," Greenhaven Press: San Diego CA, p.75; Wilson, 1991, p.136; Wilson, 1998, pp.150-151; Wilson & Schwortz, 2000, p.109. [return]
5. Wilson, 2010, plate 22b. [return]
6. Wilson, 2010, p.112. [return]
7. Pfeiffer, H., 1983, "The Shroud of Turin and the Face of Christ in Paleochristian, Byzantine and Western Medieval Art: Part I," Shroud Spectrum International, Issue #9, December, pp.7-20, 8; Bulst, W., 1989, "Some Important Dates in the Early History of the Turin Shroud," Shroud News, No 54, August, pp.10-17, 14; Wilson, 1991, pp.136, 175. [return]
8. "Gradac: Annunciation: Fresco, northwest view of the Holy Mandylion," Index of Christian Art:, Princeton University, N.D. [return]
9. Extract from Latendresse, M., 2010, "Shroud Scope: Durante 2002 Vertical," [return]
10. Wilson, I., 2016, Email to Stephen Jones, "Re: What was the date of your `Secondo Pia' discovery?," 12 December 2016, 8:08 AM. [return]
11. Scavone, 1989, p.82; Scavone, D.C., 2002, "Joseph of Arimathea, The Holy Grail & the Edessa Icon," BSTS Newsletter, No. 56, December; Guscin, M., 2009, "The Image of Edessa," Brill: Leiden, Netherlands & Boston MA, p.146; Wilson, 2010, p.140-141. [return]
12. Ruffin, C.B., 1999, "The Shroud of Turin: The Most Up-To-Date Analysis of All the Facts Regarding the Church's Controversial Relic," Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington IN, pp.54-55; Scavone, 2002; Guscin, 2009, p.145; Wilson, 2010, p.140; de Wesselow, 2012, p.186. [return]

Posted: 20 January 2017. Updated: 21 February 2022.


Kyle said...

Do you know the significance of the "domino-esque" patterns of 3 and 4 dots in the "Fresco of the Image of Edessa/Mandylion (10th/11th century)"? Perhaps the 4 represents 4 folds? I wonder if elsewhere in the church there are a 1 and a 2.

Stephen E. Jones said...


>Do you know the significance of the "domino-esque" patterns of 3 and 4 dots in the "Fresco of the Image of Edessa/Mandylion (10th/11th century)"? Perhaps the 4 represents 4 folds? I wonder if elsewhere in the church there are a 1 and a 2.

The short answer is "no".

The long answer is, see: "The Sakli depiction of the Image of Edessa, one of the earliest-known depictions of the Image of Edessa as an actual Christ-imprinted piece of cloth [see right], features the face of Jesus flanked by three roundels on one side, four on the other. Again, is there some connection?" in "Nicholas of Verdun: Scene of the Entombment, from the Verdun Altar," by Ian Wilson, BSTS Newsletter, No. 67,June 2008.

Stephen E. Jones