What happened in A.D. 944?
In 1994, four months before the co-emperor Romanus was deposed by his sons, the Image of Edessa arrived in the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. Because he was the regent emperor, Romanus is often given the credit for bringing the cloth to the city. The credit, however, belongs to a general of the Bzantine army, John Curcuas.
In 943, after successful campaigns against Arab forces in the north of Syria, Curcuas, moved his forces into the northern region Mesopotamia. He captured the cities of Nisibis, Amida and Dari. The cities were plundered and the citizens were taken as slaves. In the summer of 944 he reached the fortified walls of Edessa. Unable to capture the city, he laid siege to it. Edessa had at one time been part of the empire, but it fell to the Persian Sassanians in 609. It had been briefly retaken by the Byzantine army, but fell into Muslims hand in 638. It remained so for more than three-hundred years.
The very fact that the Image of Edessa, the image of the Legend of Abgar, was in a Muslim controlled city during the iconoclasm period that was started by Leo III around 726 and ran its course until 787 when the Second Council at Nicaea put an end to the movement with the support of the pope and the emperor Constantine VI and his mother, the empress Irene, may have saved the image-bearing cloth from destruction.
Curcuas offered to spare the city if it surrendered the Image of Edessa. But he was rebuffed because the Christian population of the city hesitated to surrender their priceless relic. Leaving a siege force behind, Curcuas continued raids throughout the region collecting loot and more prisoners. Finally, the Caliph of besieged Edessa agreed to surrender the cloth after Curcuas agreed to 1) a payment of silver, 2) freeing of hundreds of Muslim prisoners and 3) promising perpetual immunity from further attacks.
Various scholars have given different accounts of what the Image of Edessa was. It was the Veronica. It was the Holy Mandylion, now in a church in Genoa. But there can be little doubt, from a massive amount of historical evidence that has been amassed in recent years, that it was a full length burial cloth.
On August 15, 944, the prized relic arrived in Constantinople where it was received with great fanfare. Testimonies in that year and for many years after until the city fell to the Fourth Crusade, make it abundantly clear that it was a full length burial cloth with (at least one) full-body image of a man. Other evidence makes it abundantly clear that the image brought from Edessa is the Shroud now in Turin.
Larger view of the surrender of the Image of Edessa to Byzantine forces