A purported image of the face of Jesus is to go on display at the British Museum in June as part of a major exhibition of Christian relics.
The relic the Mandylion of Edessa usually takes pride of place in the Pope's private Matilda chapel in the Vatican. It is rarely seen in public, and is one of the earliest images of the face of Jesus
The Mandylion of Edessa is believed to have been created after King Agbar of Edessa, now the Turkish city Urfa, asked an unknown painter to go to the Holy Land to paint Jesus. According to legend, the painter was unable to capture Christ's image because he was so dazzled by the light shining from his face. Instead, Christ wiped his face on a towel after washing himself and left an image behind. When the cloth was returned to Agbar, it is believed to have cured him of leprosy.
Some believe the Vatican object is the original; others claim it is a copy created in the fifth century. It is thought to have once been on display at Constantinople's Imperial Palace and transferred to the Vatican in the 14th century.
The British Museum has acquired permission to exhibit the Mandylion in Britain for the first time. The cloth will be the centrepiece of the museum's Treasures of Heaven exhibition, showcasing assorted Christian relics.
"This is one of the most extraordinary loans in recent memory," said the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor. "The exhibition is all about trying to represent the universal human desire to reach out and touch the absolute."
Now this is an exhibition that is a must-visit. Getting the Mandylion is a major coup. I wonder what other treasures will be on display. Sadly none of the dozen or so holy prepuces are still in existence…