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A copy of the shroud of 1571 in the Carmelite nuns of San José in Pamplona.


Published in

Diario de Navarra

Ricardo Fernández Gracia

Chair of Heritage and Art in Navarre

The Discalced Carmelites of St. Joseph of Pamplona jealously guard one of the very few 16th century copies of the Holy Shroud, preserved and venerated in Turin, despite the vicissitudes and forced transfers of the community from its historic headquarters at place del Castillo, which speaks of the nuns' appreciation for the piece.

The successive editors of the life of the convent's foundress, Mother Catalina de Cristo, contributed the news of her existence and journey, which is completed with some small details from other documentary sources. Twenty-five years ago, Jesús Arraiza and Gabriel Imbuluzqueta wrote about her in this same newspaper Diario de Navarra (April 4, 1996). Today, thanks to the programs of study of the Spanish Center of Sindonology, particularly those of Daniel Duque Torres, we can value and contextualize the piece more adequately.

Its history

The piece was a gift from the mayor of the citadel of Pamplona to the prioress of the Discalced Carmelites of Pamplona, Mother Catalina de Cristo. This is how the biographer of the latter, the nun of the same order, Leonor de la Misericordia (Ayanz y Beaumont, 1551-1620), a cultured woman, writer, delicate and creative, refers to it. The text, with hagiographic overtones, was published by Efrén de la Madre de Dios in 1982 and by Pedro Rodríguez and Ildefonso Adeva in 1995, on the latter occasion, with numerous notes and abundant critical apparatus. The original account is as follows: "He was in Pamplona by castellan of the citadel Don Fernando de Espinosa, nephew of Cardinal Espinosa. He and Doña Maria Fajardo, his wife, was great devotion they had taken to our mother, and it seemed good to them, because they gave him the best jewel they had in their house, which was the Holy Shroud that the Duke of Savoy was given by his hand coming from Italy in the time of his uncle the Cardinal was alive. It is one of the four or five that there are in Spain as it is natural. It is in the house of Pamplona and is sample Thursday and Good Friday, with great devotion of all that city". The fact of mentioning the cardinal indicates, with great probability, that the shroud was a gift to him, because of its high diplomatic and political significance, perhaps by the hand of his nephew, to whom it was donated by his uncle, before passing to the nuns.

In the inventory of relics of the community of Discalced Carmelite nuns it is noted as follows: "First of all the HOLY SHROUD or shroud of Our Redeemer Jesus Christ. This precious relic was given to the Venerable Mother Catalina de Cristo by Mr. Fernando Espinosa, a native of Castile and nephew of Cardinal Espinosa, to whom the Duke of Savoy gave it, coming from Italy, and it is one of the four or five that exist in Spain. Formerly this relic was placed on the grating of the choir between crystals and precious curtains, but at the present time it is conserved in a precious ark that is titled of the Relics, and it is only taken out to the public on Holy Saturday, and seven candles are lighted".

The donor and Mother Catherine of Christ

In the light of this last text and also of the previous one, it seems probable, as we have indicated, that the first addressee of the piece was Cardinal Diego de Espinosa y Arévalo (1513-1572), general inquisitor, regent of the Royal committee of Navarre, president of the committee of Castile and man of total confidence of Philip II, to the point that he asked for his cardinalate to name him regent, in 1567, when the monarch decided to go to Flanders personally before the aggravation of the problems in those lands. About this first line character there are works that clarify aspects of his life by professors José Antonio Escudero, González Novalín and Orella y Unzué.

When Don Diego was forty-four years old, in 1556, he was designated as regent of the Royal committee of Navarra and as such he had to elaborate the autos acordados, revise the so-called regional law Reducido and appoint the interim mayors of the Court. The king ordered him to make sure that no one went out to study outside the kingdom in order to ensure religious orthodoxy. In Pamplona he made friends with influential people such as the viceroy Don Beltrán de la Cueva, Duke of Alburquerque or the Bishop of Pamplona Diego Ramírez Sedeño de Fuenleal. He was also in contact with the general of the Jesuits, St. Francisco de Borja, who would favor his promotion in 1562 as councilor of Castile.

His nephew Fernando Espinosa, the recipient and donor to the nuns of the shroud, was born in 1541 and died in Pamplona in 1587. He was named first warden of the new citadel in 1572 and his correspondence with Philip II until his death, in relation to his person and the construction of the citadel, has been studied by Roldán Jimeno. Through the letters it is possible to verify the hard conditions under which he had to exercise his official document, the unfulfilled promises made, the lack of economic resources to continue the works, his illnesses, the death of three children, and even the impossibility of going to position of the inheritance of his uncle the cardinal.

The figure of Fernando Espinosa continued to be very present in the convent after his death, since the visionary nun Sister Francisca del Santísimo Sacramento (San Andrés [Soria], 1561-Pamplona, 1629) had several apparitions of Espinosa throughout 1619 and 1620, recorded in her manuscripts.

The nun who was the object of the donation, Mother Catalina de Cristo, is well known to us. She was one of the great disciples of St. Teresa of Jesus and founder of the Carmels of Soria, Pamplona and Barcelona. She was born in Madrigal de las Altas Torres (Avila, 1543), professed at the age of 30 in Medina del Campo (1573) and was chosen by Saint Teresa herself as prioress of Soria (1581), despite the resistance of the provincial, Father Gracián. This is how the saint relates the passage of the Soria foundation: "I began to bring the nuns that I had to take there (to the foundation of Soria) with me, which were seven, because that lady (Doña Beatriz de Beamonte y Navarra, the founder) would rather want more than less, and a freila and my companion and I". About her election for prioress wrote the mentioned father Gracián: "When it was about whom we would take for prioress to Soria, the Mother told me that she was thinking of taking Catalina de Cristo, who at that time was a turner in the Monastery of Medina del Campo. I was very frightened by her determination and said to her: "Jesus, Mother, how can you want to do such a thing? Don't you know that Catalina de Cristo does not know how to write, and reads very little, and knows nothing about business, nor is she ready to be able to enter into things of government? He answered me: My Father, be quiet, Catherine of Christ knows how to love God very much and is a great saint and has a very high spirit and has no need to know more for government. She will be as good a prioress as any.

Mother Catalina founded the Carmels of Pamplona (1583) and Barcelona (1588), and collaborated in the erection of the Italian one in Genoa (1590). She died in the odor of sanctity (Barcelona 1594). She was, undoubtedly, a gifted woman. Her strict observance and the fact that she was a living portrait of St. Teresa were the reasons for the extensive biography written about her by Mother Leonor de la Misericordia, who also obtained the disposition to transfer her incorrupt body to Pamplona, in April 1604. Carlos Ayanz y Beaumont (1555-1606), brother of the aforementioned Leonor, was in charge of guarding the body of Mother Catalina on the Barcelona-Pamplona trip. Carlos belonged to the order of the Sanjuanistas, served in Flanders and Malta to the monarchy, and was a good friend of the daughters of Saint Teresa in the Navarrese capital. He was the favorite of his sister Leonor, which led him to be buried in her convent in Pamplona.

The shroud in context

The date of the donation of the shroud oscillates between the arrival of the Carmelite foundresses in Pamplona, with Mother Catalina at the head, in 1583 and her departure to Barcelona in 1588, the city where she died in 1594 The shroud must have remained in Pamplona according to what her biographer says.

The Holy Shroud of the Carmelites of St. Joseph of the capital of Navarre is a piece of batiste of fine thread of 440 cms. long - 120 cms. on each side, since it is double -, by 100 cms. wide. All of it has a blue silk border. On the obverse side appears the frontal figure of Christ's body, painted in soft tones, with the wounds of the wounds in red. The head has almost completely lost the dots of blood, allusive to the crown of thorns. The shroud has suffered the consequences of the humidity to which it must have been exposed in another time. A text in French reads: "Cecy est le vray provtract du Sainct Svayre reposnat en el sainte chappelle dy chateav de Chamberi, 1571" (This is the true portrait of the Holy Shroud found in the holy chapel of the castle of Chamberi. 1571).

The copy of the holy shroud is, therefore, among the oldest preserved in Spain, according to the aforementioned Daniel Duque. The set of copies is attributed to a member of the clergy of the Sainte Chapelle de Chambéry, to which also correspond those of Guadalupe (1568) and Navarrete (1568), the replica of San Lorenzo del Escorial (1567) and the convent of the Augustinians of the Holy Sepulchre of Alcoy (1571). All of them were made when the relic was venerated in the chapel of Chambéry, whose owners were the Savoy family, until 1578, when it was transferred to Turin, where the famous chapel was erected with project by Amadeo Castellamonte and the decisive intervention of Guarino Guarini, starting in 1667.

It had come to the Savoy family in 1453, through a complex transaction. Louis of Savoy kept it in the historical capital of Savoy, Chambéry, in the chapel dedicated to St. Anne, erected a few decades earlier as a ducal chapel. Since 1471 it has been documented in various European cities such as Vercelli, Turin, Ivrea, Susa and Rivoli. It was kept wrapped in red silk in a box decorated with gold nails, lined with crimson velvet and locked with a gold key.

The cult to the holy shroud had been growing, especially since 1506, when Pope Julius II established the feast and official document in his honor for May 4. Since then, several replicas of the shroud have been made.