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The Tunic of Argenteuil

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The Holy Tunic of Argenteuil is the tunic of Jesus-Christ referred to in St John 19, 23-24 like a 'seamless tunic, woven all of a piece from top to bottom,' of purple brown colour, that the Roman soldiers drew lots for. It constitutes, with the Shroud of Oviedo and the Shroud of Turin one of the three relics of Christ's Passion. The Holy Tunic had been woven by Virgin Mary, which makes it also a Marian relic

Legend has it that Pontius Pilate bought back the tunic of Christ and resold it to Christians. The tunic then reappeared in 590 A.D. only when three bishops would have found it in Jaffa (current Tel Aviv, Israel) and brought it back to Jerusalem. That would have been Peter who, expelled from Jerusalem, brought the relic to Jaffa on the journey narrated in Acts 9, 43. While it is uncertain that Empress Helena found the tunic back during her famous journey to Jerusalem, it is certain that it was transferred to the Galata district of Constantinople because of the Byzanto-Persian War of 602-628. Two centuries later, Empress Irene, as she wanted to get closer to the pope, then decided to offer it to Charlemagne about the year 800 A.D. -- either on the occasion of the imperial coronation or in view of a possible matrimonial alliance between the Frankish Empire and the Byzantine one. By 803 in any case, Emperor Charles entrusted the tunic to the Benedictine women monastery of Argenteuil, whose daughter Theodrade was the prioress. Charles, previously, had donated to his daughter that monastery founded in 656 A.D., already as a Benedictine women monastery. Theodrade (785 A.D.-circa 850 A.D.) was the eldest of the children that Charles had gotten from his marriage with Fastrade, his fourth wife, and the 12th child of the king generally. At the time of the Viking invasions, Theodrade took refuge at the abbey of Munsterschwarzach, founded in northern Bavaria, in Schwarzach, on the shore of the Main river, by Fastrade in 780 A.D. and abbesses of which were traditionally chosen in the Carolingian family. Theodrade applied there the reform of Benedict of Anian. The abbey of Argenteuil was held from Charles on the condition that she returned after to the abbey of St-Denis

Since the time of Theodrade, the tunic always remained in Argenteuil. Hidden in a wall of the abbey church by 850 A.D. to protect it from the Nordmen, it remained there for several centuries and was rediscovered by monks in 1154. Its presence in Argenteuil was authenticated by a monstrance in the year 1156 A.D. Along the centuries, it received the visit of many Kings of France as the parish priest of Argenteuil, during the French Revolution, cut it into pieces to prevent its confiscation or even destruction. From the four pieces buried in the garden and the rest entrusted to parishioners, he found back only a part, after two years of imprisonment. The pieces of material found were sewn onto a support fabric. In 1862, the Basilica of St-Denys of Argenteuil was built on the site of the abbey and it was raised to the rank of minor basilica in 1898. The holy tunic is usually kept rolled in a reliquary installed in a side chapel and only a very small part of the garment is visible. During monstrances the tunic is deployed in a vertical reliquary. Apart from the question of the Shroud of Turin's authenticity, it looks like that the one of the tunic of Argenteuil is more proved. The tunic is made of sheep wool, it was woven, in the 1st century A.D., in a single piece, on a primitive weaving loom and according to the technique practiced at that time in Syria and northern Palestine. The garment at last is stained with group AB blood on the back and shoulders --group AB which on a other hand, is also that of the traces on the Shroud of Turin. Many debates surround the whole history of the tunic. Since 1894, a monstrance of the tunic occurs every 50 years as that took place, in fact, in 1934 and 1984 and then which should take place by 2034. A exceptional monstrance took place in 2016 through the decision of the Bishop of Pontoise. A restoration of the tunic and its support then occurred. The chapel dedicated to the Holy Tunic is accessible at the basilica's opening hours. Christ's 'seamless tunic,' generally, is the symbol of the Roman Catholic Church unity as Argenteuil, on a other hand, housed Eloise and that Claude Monet painted a part of his work there

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 9/14/2017. contact us at
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