The National Széchényi Library in Budapest is the home of a collection of medieval documents known as the Hungarian Pray Manuscript, or Codex Pray. It was named after György Pray who discovered it in the year 1770 and had been compiled at the Boldva monastery in northern Hungary between 1192 and 1195.
The manuscript includes various illustrations, including one with two scenes depicting the tomb of Jesus. The upper scene shows the body of Jesus lying in the tomb. He is being anointed by Nicodemus and there are two additional figures represented in this scene, who are believed to be Joseph of Arimathea and the apostle John. The lower scene depicts Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary the mother of James entering the tomb. Here they see an angel who tells them that Jesus had risen.
Almost all medieval paintings of similar scenes show Jesus with a loin cloth covering the pelvis. In contrast, this illustration is unusual for the period as it depicts Jesus as completely naked. The right hand crosses the left, covering the groin and whilst the fingers of the hands are long and slender, no thumbs are visible.
These features represent exactly what is seen in the image found on the Shroud.
Perhaps the most unusual features found on the Pray Manuscript illustration are the zigzag patterns and the sequence of four circles arranged in the shape of a letter ‘L’.
Both of these motifs are very unusual features. It’s hard to understand why the artist who illustrated the Pray Manuscript would have decorated one part of the Shroud with a herringbone pattern when the other part was adorned with crosses, a more appropriate choice of decoration. It’s even harder to explain why the artist would have added four circles arranged into an ‘L’ shape, an irregular pattern which certainly doesn’t enhance the artistic appearance of the painting.
it seems highly likely that the inspiration for the zigzag pattern and the arrangement of circles came from having viewed the Shroud. The zigzag pattern captures the essential character of the Shroud weave in a simple but effective way, whilst the ‘L’ shaped arrangement of four circles matches the ‘poker-holes’ so closely that it’s difficult to perceive of any other credible explanation for their presence.
These remarkable similarities are unlikely to be purely a coincidence. The unusual depiction of the naked figure of Christ with missing thumbs and hands crossed as seen in the Shroud, combined with the representation of the herringbone weave and the 'poker-holes' makes it hard to avoid the conclusion that the Shroud must have already existed in the period 1192 to 1195 when the Pray Manuscript was produced.
The Radiocarbon dating of the Shroud concluded with a 95% confidence that it dated to the period 1260 to 1390 AD. Clearly, the visual evidence found in the Pray Manuscript indicates it already existed over sixty years earlier than the lower limit of that date range.
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