Image of Edessa

According to Christian tradition, the Image of Edessa was a holy relic consisting of a square or rectangle of cloth upon which a miraculous image of the face of Jesus was imprinted — the first icon ("image").

In Eastern Orthodoxy, the image is known as the Holy Mandylion, a Byzantine Greek word not applied in any other context. The Keramidion is the name of a "holy tile" imprinted with the face of Christ miraculously transferred by contact with the Mandylion.

According to the legend, King Abgar of Edessa wrote to Jesus, asking him to come cure him of an illness. Abgar received an answering letter from Jesus, declining the invitation, but promising a future visit by one of his disciples. This legend was first recorded in the early 4th century by Eusebius of Caesarea, who said that he had transcribed and translated the actual letter in the Syriac chancery documents of the king of Edessa, but who makes no mention of an image. Instead, the apostle "Thaddaeus" is said to have come to Edessa, bearing the words of Jesus, by the virtues of which the king was miraculously healed.

The report of an image, which accrued to the legendarium of Abgar, first appears in the Syriac work, the Doctrine of Addai: according to it, the messenger, here called Ananias, was also a painter, and he painted the portrait, which was brought back to Edessa and conserved in the royal palace.

The first record of the existence of a physical image in the ancient city of Edessa (now Urfa) was in Evagrius Scholasticus, writing about AD 600, who reports a portrait of Christ, of divine origin (θεότευκτος), which effected the miraculous aid in the defence of Edessa against the Persians in 544. The image was moved to Constantinople in the 10th century. The cloth disappeared from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, reappearing as a relic in King Louis IX of France's Sainte Chapelle in Paris. It finally disappeared in the French Revolution.

The vicissitudes of the Edessa image between the 1st century and its location in his own time are not reported by Eusebius. The materials, according to the scholar Robert Eisenman, "are very widespread in the Syriac sources with so many multiple developments and divergences that it is hard to believe they could all be based on Eusebius' poor efforts" (Eisenman 1997:862).

The Eastern Orthodox Church have a feast of this icon on August 16 (August 29 in N.S.), which commemorates its translation from Edessa to Constantinople.

Read more about Image Of Edessa:  History of The Legend, Later Events, Links With The Shroud of Turin

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