The Tradition of the Image of Edessa

Mark Guscin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The Image of Edessa was an image of Christ, which according to tradition was of miraculous origin. It was taken from Edessa (mod. Sanliurfa, Turkey) to Constantinople in 944, and disappeared from known history in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It generated, however, a vast amount of literature and hundreds of copies in churches all over the Byzantine world. This thesis is a study of the literature, paintings, icons and other aspects related to the Image of Edessa. It examines how it was used as a tool to express Christ’s humanity and for various other purposes, and how some of the related literature became completely decontextualised and was used as a magical charm, especially in the West.
The thesis comprises an Introduction, six Chapters (1-6) and Conclusions. The Introduction presents the aims, scope, approach and structure of the thesis. Chapter 1 is a detailed critical survey of the historical sources. Chapter 2 is devoted to an analytical study of one of the most important texts, traditionally known as Epistula Abgari, including previously unpublished versions. Chapter 3 contains an analysis of the references to the Image and how it is dealt with in the huge body of literature concerning St Alexis. Chapter 4 examines the terminology used to describe the Image in the sources and analyses its physical characteristics. Chapter 5 investigates the Image of Edessa and the Abgar correspondence in the West, the Image’s relationship with the Veronica story and its use as a magical amulet. Chapter 6 explores the paintings and icons of the Image, also based on my fieldwork in churches and monasteries in the sphere of Byzantine influence. The General Conclusions summarise the findings of the research and suggest areas for further investigation. Appendix I contains a new edition and translation of the Narratio de imagine edessena, and Appendix II presents a chronological table showing the development of the tradition of the Image over the course of the centuries. The thesis is accompanied by a DVD with facsimiles of manuscripts, icons and other archaeological evidence cited therein.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Dendrinos, Charalambos, Supervisor
Award date1 Apr 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

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