Who was Sister Egeria and why is she relevant?
Sister Egeria (circa A. D. 384) was probably a nun from Gaul or Spain. Not all historians agree on these details. The general but not universal consensus was that she was from Spain. Some argue that a nun at this time would never have taken such a costly and distant pilgrimage, which included Mt. Sinai, Jerusalem, Constantinople and significantly Edessa. Therefore, she must have been a wealthy lay person. But, others say, she addresses her letters to her sisters. But then again, some point out, it was common in those days to address fellow Christian lay people as sister or brother. But, if that is so, would she have written only to sisters and not to brothers, as well. Or were they, some say, familial sisters. This is historical detail that will probably always remain unresolved and completely irrelevant. She is best known as Sister Egeria.
Sister Egeria was given a three-day tour of Edessa by the Bishop of the city. We learn from her account of many miracles that saved Edessa from the Persians. And we learn that she was introduced to the legend of Abgar, even shown a copy of Abgar’s letter to Jesus. She wrote lengthy detailed accounts of her visit and we might think that had there been an image bearing cloth, she would have mentioned it. She didn't.
The historian Andrew Palmer, makes this point. In a three-day visit led by the bishop, she certainly would have been given an opportunity to see the image if it was there.
And Palmer also notes that, "She naïvely supposed that this version [of the letter of Abgar] was more complete than the shorter letter which she had read in a translation at home, presumably one brought back to the Far West by an earlier pilgrim."
She quotes the bishop of Edessa as saying, "Now let us go to the gate where the messenger Ananias came in with the letter [in this case the response from Jesus] of which I have been telling you." This implies that she did not see a letter from Jesus.
Where was the Image of Edessa. This gives credence to Jack Markwardt's theory that the image was in Antioch. However, it should be noted that Sister Egeria's letters are very damaged. The front and back and some of the middle are missing. In all likelihood, she did not see the Image of Edessa, as we can gather from reading what exists in full context.