The history prior to its arrival in France is not continuous and therefore critics have alleged it is the work of a medieval artist.
However the discovery of a key document in 1993 (Hungarian Pray Manuscript dated from 1192) confirms that the Shroud was in Constantinople and was stolen by Crusaders during the 4th Crusade. This bridges the gap between 1204 and 1356 when the Shroud’s whereabouts was in question. Some say it was in possession of the Knights Templar who participated in the 4th Crusade and were said to venerate a mysterious image.
This finding is monumental because it validates a historical trail to at least to the year 544 when the “Image Not Made By Hands” was discovered in Edessa (southern Turkey) and became the genesis for all Byzantine and Orthodox icon images of Christ that followed. Many scholars now believe the Shroud and the Edessa Image are one and the same.
Two coins were minted in 692 under the reign of Emperor Justinian II. They were the first coins ever minted with an image of Christ and appear to be based on the Shroud image as indicated by 180 matching points of congruence between the Shroud image and the coin image.
In 944 the cloth was taken from Edessa to Constantinople. The sermon delivered by Gregory the archdeacon of the Hagia Sophia clearly describes a full body image on the linen.
In the 11th century, Greek chronicler John of Skylitzes painted a picture of the same event as part of an illustrated manuscript. It clearly shows the General of the Army presenting a long linen cloth with an image on it to Emperor Romanus I.
Following the 4th Crusade when troops from Venice and France looted and burned the city, a letter of protest was written to Pope Innocent III. The letter documents this horrific event and what was stolen including, “Most sacred of all, the linen in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death and before his resurrection”. These and other historical clues provide a history stretching nearly 1500 years.
There is also the Legend of King Abgar that may stretch the history all the way back to First Century. It is a story of how a cloth with an image on it was sent to Edessa from Israel at the time of Christ. Jude Thaddeus, one of the 70 Apostles was said to have taken it to him after Abgar’s request for Jesus himself to come. Abgar was dying of leprosy and upon beholding a mysterious image he was healed, became a Christian and commanded that all pagan idols be burned.