Are there issues with the Robert de Clari history?
Two issues emanate from Robert de Clari's Conquête de Constantinople. The first of these is the reference to Saint Mary of Blachernae. The shroud (the sindon, syndoine) was, by earlier accounts, not at Saint Mary of Blachernae, but at the relic treasury in the Pharos Church at the palace. Edgar Holmes McNeal, in his translation of Robert’s work suggests:
Robert seems to have confused the sudarium (the sweat cloth or napkin, the True Image of St. Veronica) with the sindon (the grave cloth in which the body of Jesus was wrapped for entombment).
It is just as possible that Robert confused the Pharos Church with St. Mary’s in the same way that any of us might confuse tourist sites we have visited years ago? Robert did not write Conquête de Constantinople until after he returned from the Crusades, sometime between 1206 and 1209. Or he might have confused what he saw at one place with what he saw somewhere else. This suggests another possibility, the Habitual Miracle.
Anna, the daughter of Alexios Komnenos, a significant scholar in her father’s court, wrote about a “habitual miracle” at St. Mary’s. On every Friday, a veil that covered an icon of the Virgin Mary moved up slowly to reveal Mary’s face. This has obvious parallels to the story of the shroud raising itself on Fridays. We could speculate endlessly about this, even wondering if St. Mary’s was not perhaps the church of secret levitating mechanisms. Was the shroud brought there for that reason? The hardest thing to imagine is that a napkin was confused with a burial shroud or that a napkin sized cloth would raise itself up to reveal a complete body.
Is it not just as possible, also, that the shroud was moved to St.
Mary’s, perhaps even moved from time to time. Might it have been moved
for the sake of its safety in times of war or moved for festival
And what is the sudarium, that McNeal mentions? Possibly it is many things. Was there another image, perhaps painted from the face on the tetradiplon-folded cloth in Edessa? There are other small facial image called the Image of Edessa. Or was it Veronica’s Veil, a completely different icon with a completely different legend? It is not implausible that there were among Constantinople’s vast treasury of icons and relics many such images with independent or confused legends even as there are today.
Dictionaries define sudarium (or sudarion in Greek) as a sweat cloth. And thus it seems plausible to call the facial imprint from the Legend of Abgar and the Legend of Veronica a sudarium. But the word is also widely used to describe the other cloth in the tomb: “and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” (John 20:7 NRSV)