A frequent Papers reader, once in training to be a medieval historian, has weighed in on the questions regarding the Templars removing the Shroud of Turin from Constantinople in 1204. I’ll present his comments, with some editorial cleanup, below:
I’m pretty confident there were not any Templars at Constantinople in 1204… if I recall correctly, the various sources of the 4th Crusade are easily available and don’t mention the Templars or the Shroud at all.
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/4cde.html (a quick summary)
http://www.crusades-encyclopedia.com/primarysourcesfourthcrusade.html (variety of links to primary sources)
I think the Templars were far to busy dealing with the loss of Jerusalem in 1194 to much about with some wayward Norman looters and their Venetian friends.
Various relics were uncovered during the Crusades (the Holy Lance in Antioch during the 1st Crusade for example), so it is unlikely that something as important as the burial shroud of Christ would be unmentioned in the sources…
It looks like the notion the Shroud was in Constantinople comes not from the primary sources directly, but by inferences drawn from certain comments by Robert of Clari (one of the main sources) about a handkerchief belonging to St. Veronica. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shroud_of_Turin (see the middle portion starting with the Image of Edessa). I buy the argument that people interpreting this cloth to the the Shroud are wrong; the Byzantines were intermittently gripped by waves of anti-iconography and having something like this around would either A) be a big damn deal and made a big deal of or B) have been destroyed in one of these anti-icon frenzies.
I hate to always play the skeptic, but I can’t take the Turin Shroud seriously, let alone claims like these.
We don’t have anything definitive yet, and I hope that Frale comes forward with a more in-depth explanation soon.