Yet another theory about the shroud is that it is still not the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, but rather a cloth associated with the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay. This is argued by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas in their book The Second Messiah, where they draw upon suppressed Masonic traditions that surround the arrest and torture of de Molay.
The theory goes that when King Philip IV decided to strike on the Templars on October 13, 1307, the Inquisition stormed into the Paris Preceptory and caught Jacques de Molay and the Preceptor of Normandy, Geoffrey de Charnay right there and then. William Imbert (also known as Guillame de Paris), the Chief Inquisitor of France was personally charged by the King with the task of extracting a confession from de Molay by any means he considered necessary.
After hearing about the bizarre ceremonies of the Templars that involved the concept of a "living resurrection" (which arguably forms the basis for the ceremony used to raise Master Masons today), that was an insult to the 'true' resurrection of Jesus Christ, Imbert decided to make de Molay endure the same kind of torture that Jesus endured at the crucifixion, as his way of dispensing poetic justice. It probably took place in the central chapel of the Preceptory, where the Templars conducted their "obscene" ceremonies, where the skull, thigh bones, and shroud used in the resurrection ceremony were kept.
Jacques de Molay was then stripped naked, as with all victims of the Inquisition, tied to the doorway, and flogged with a multi-tailed whip that probably also was tipped with fragments of bone. They also probably nailed him to the door, probably with his right arm higher than his left one, as indicated by the blood flows on the shroud. His feet were also nailed to the floor, pinned with a single nail. He was fixed somewhat asymmetrically, causing his right shoulder to dislocate.
This horrible torture would probably have eventually broken even a strong man like Jacques de Molay, a 63-year old veteran of the worst wars in Palestine, and he would have confessed to his heresy. It would have resulted in horrible metabolic acidosis that would have cramped his muscles. This would have been further aggravated by the fact that he could not exhale efficiently, causing respiratory acidosis. It would have increased his body temperature to high levels and caused his blood pressure to drop dramatically, and filled his body with lactic acid, causing his muscles to freeze into a hard cramp. These conditions would have eventually killed the Grand Master if Imbert had allowed it to continue, but killing de Molay would have been unproductive. The confession he had extracted would be very useful if repeated in public at the court of the Inquisition. So they had him taken down.
The shroud that the Templars used in their resurrection ceremonies was taken and draped over de Molay after he was taken down, as a final gesture of poetic justice from Imbert. The men of the Inquisition then brought him back to the soft bed where he had been forcibly removed from earlier in the day. His morbid fluids, high in lactic acid, would have flowed all over his steaming body.
William Imbert was under strict orders not to kill the Grand Master, but he obviously had no intention of nursing the confessed heretic back to something approximating good health. Jacques de Molay had no family in the immediate area, but his right hand man, the Preceptor of Normandy Geoffrey de Charnay who was captured and tortured at the same time, had a brother in Paris, who was ordered to care for both men. Seven years later the two men would be fated to both roast over a slow fire for recanting their confessions.
The de Charnay family tended Jacques de Molay as best they could, but his scars never healed, as two years later he removed his shirt to show papal representatives how terrible his torture had been. The shroud that de Molay was wrapped in must have been stiff with blood and sweat, but as a useful piece of cloth, it would have been washed and put away by the family.
Years later, the family would have noted the image on the shroud. Which is actually the image of Jacques de Molay! I swear I am not making this up.
The Shroud's provenance is neatly explained by this theory. The family that exhibited the Shroud for the first time in the 1357 was precisely Geoffrey de Charney's family. It also fits neatly into the timeframe given by the radiocarbon dating, and ties in with the fact that the Shroud's likeness indeed resembles extant portraits of the last Templar Grand Master.
One of the theories for the creation of the image on the Shroud was advanced by Dr. Alan Mills of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, and ties into this theory of the Shroud. The theory is fully described in Dr. Mills' paper: "Image Formation of the Shroud of Turin", in Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 1995, 20(4), pp. 319-326. Dr. Mills noted that the Shroud image is remarkably similar to the faint yellow-brown markings of very old botanical specimens that have been kept dry and pressed in paper. These "plant pictures" share many characteristics with the Shroud image, including revealing a remarkable amount of detail in negative photographic images. The process that creates these markings, known as Volkringer patterns, is not fully understood, but it is believed that a lactic acid reaction is involved in the process.
Dr. Mills also recalled a phenomenon that had caused trouble for early makers of photographic plates, known as the Russel Effect. Spurious images on early photographic plates could have been produced by the proximity of materials like newsprint, resinous woods, aluminum, and vegetable oils. This image creation process is linked to the release of free radicals from those substances.
The theory advanced by Dr. Mills is that the crucified man in the Shroud would have experienced tremendous physical trauma that would have resulted in an increased buildup of lactic acid in his system. This lactic acid being excreted by the victim's body would have reacted with ordinary molecular oxygen in the air, producing free radical singlet oxygen. These single oxygen atoms would have traveled to the linen shroud covering the victim, releasing their excess energy into the fibers of the cloth and turning back into ordinary molecular oxygen in the process.
The singlet oxygen atoms would eventually cause a yellowing of the cloth, but this discoloration would not occur instantaneously. The initial energy release starts what is essentially a chain reaction that is like extremely slow scorching of the cloth. Over several years, if the cloth were kept in a dark place with plenty of oxygen, the darkening of the image would continue until all of the affected linen fibers were spent.
This led Dr. Mills to speculate about the creation of the Shroud, saying: "It's quite possible that the Saracens crucified a Crusader prisoner exactly according to the Gospel accounts as a cruel mockery of his faith." Knight and Lomas picked up on this theory and saw how well it tied into their theories about the connection between the Knights Templar, forgotten and suppressed rituals of Freemasonry, and the creation of the Shroud of Turin. They showed that all of the conditions necessary for Dr. Mills' theory of the Shroud's creation were all present in the circumstances of Jacques de Molay's torture at the hands of the Holy Inquisition, as they had gathered from historical facts about those events, and from suppressed rites of Freemasonry that recalled those events. To wit:
- Obviously there needs to be a large shroud woven of fine linen. The Templars would have used such a shroud in their ceremonies and one would certainly have been present in the Paris Preceptory.
- The shroud would have had to have been draped over the recently deceased (but unwashed!) body of a tortured man in a sealed, thermally stable place. This makes it unlikely that an actual dead man was deliberately wrapped in such a burial shroud, as corpses are usually washed before they are buried... The speculation is that this is exactly what William Imbert did as a final ironic touch after torturing Jacques de Molay nearly to death.
- The shroud should have been removed after 30 hours, which is probably what would have happened in the de Molay-Imbert torture theory.
- Finally, the shroud would have to have been kept in a dry, dark place for many years, which is probably what Geoffrey de Charnay's family would have done with it after they received into their care the tortured Grand Master
This is among the more interesting of the many theories about the creation of the Shroud, and gives many intriguing explanations for many of its peculiar features.