In the first centuries following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there was little consistency in the way He was depicted by artists. He was often portrayed as clean-shaven with short hair but in the middle of the sixth century, a stylised portayal of Christ began to appear in Byzantine art. The emergence of this archetypal style coincided with the discovery of the Image of Edessa and it has informed the way artists have depicted Christ ever since.
Several historians have concluded that the catalyst for this sudden emergence of a stylised representation of Christ was a desire to faithfully reproduce a trusted representation, such as a recently discovered acheiropoietos (not made by hands) image.
The earliest known example of this representation is found in St. Catherine's monastery in Sinai. This image, known as Christ Pantocrator dates to approximately 550 AD and shares several features in common with the face of the Man of the Shroud, including:
One of the first scientists to closely study the Shroud was a French biologist named Paul Vignon. He noticed that a number of facial features seen on the Shroud were consistently found in Byzantine paintings, frescoes and mosaics of Christ. He spent many years studying hundreds of these icons and comparing them with the face seen on the Shroud, before publishing his findings. These included a list of fifteen specific facial characterics that appear to have been inspired by the Shroud, which are today commonly referred to as Vignon markings.
The extraordinary similarities between the Shroud facial features and those found in early Byzantine portrayals is evidence that the Shroud existed before 550 AD, the date when the St. Catherine's Monastery Christ Pantocrator icon was produced.
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