Testimony #9: Muawwiya’s Public Acknowledgment of His Christian Beliefs

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Testimony #9: Muawwiya’s Public Acknowledgment of His Christian Beliefs


From “The Pilgrimage of Arculfus in the Holy Land (About the Year A.D. 670)” Trans. J. R. Macpherson, London 1889, p. 14f. = Adamnan, De Locis Sanctis I. xi:—“The Napkin with which the head of the Lord was covered in the sepulcher.

“As to the sacred napkin which was placed upon the head of the Lord in the Sepulcher, we learn from the narrative of the sainted Arculf, who inspected it with his own eyes.

“The whole people of Jerusalem bear witness to the truth of the narrative we now write. For on the testimony of several faithful citizens of Jerusalem, the sainted Arculf learned this statement which they very often repeated to him as he listened attentively: A certain trustworthy believing Jew, immediately after the Resurrection of the Lord, stole from His Sepulcher the sacred linen cloth and hid it in his house for many days; but, by the favor of the Lord Himself, it was found after the lapse of many years, and was brought to the notice of the whole people about three years1 before [this statement was made to Arculf ]. That happy, faithful thief, when at the point of death, sent for his two sons, and, showing them the Lord’s napkin, which he had at first abstracted furtively, offered it to them, saying: ‘My boys, the choice is now given to you. Therefore let each of you say which he rather wishes to choose, so that I may know without doubt to which of you, according to his own choice, I shall bequeath all the substance I have, and to which only this sacred napkin of the Lord.’ On hearing this, the one who wished to obtain all his sire’s wealth, received it from his father, according to a promise made to him under the will. Marvelous to say, from that day all his riches and all his patrimony, on account of which he sold the Lord’s napkin, began to decrease, and all that he had was lost by various misfortunes and came to nothing. While the other blessed son of the above-named blessed thief, who chose the Lord’s napkin in preference to all his patrimony, from the day when he received it from the hand of his dying sire, became, by the gift of God, more and more rich in earthly substance, and was by no means deprived of heavenly treasure. And thus this napkin of the Lord was faithfully handed down as an heirloom by the successive heirs of this thrice blessed man to their believing sons in regular succession, even to the fifth generation. But many years having now passed, believing heirs of that kindred failed, after the fifth generation, and the sacred linen cloth came into the hands of unbelieving Jews, who, while unworthy of such an office, yet embraced it honorably and, by the gift of the Divine bounty, were greatly enriched with very diverse riches. But an accurate narrative about the Lord’s napkin having spread among the people, the believing Jews began to contend bravely with the unbelieving Jews about the sacred linen cloth, desiring with all their might to obtain possession of it, and the strife that arose divided the common people of Jerusalem into two parties, the faithful believers and the faithless unbelievers.

Upon this, Mavias, {Muawiya} the King of the Saracens, was appealed to by both parties to adjudicate between them, and he said to the unbelieving Jews who were persistently retaining the Lord’s napkin, ‘Give the sacred linen cloth which you have into my hand.’ In obedience to the king’s command, they bring it from its casket and place it in his bosom. Receiving it with great reverence, the king ordered a great fire to be made in the square before all the people, and while it was burning fiercely, he rose, and going up to the fire, addressed both contending parties in a loud voice: ‘Now let Christ, the Savior of the world who suffered for the human race, upon whose head this napkin, which I now hold in my bosom, and as to which you are now contending, was placed in the Sepulcher, judge between you by the flame of fire, so that you may know to which of these two contending hosts this great gift may most worthily be entrusted.’ Saying this, he threw the sacred napkin of the Lord into the flames, but the fire could in no way touch it, for, rising whole and untouched from the fire, it began to fly on high, like a bird with out spread wings, and looking down from a great height on the two contending parties, placed opposite one another as if they were two armies in battle array, it flew round in mid air for some moments , then slowly descending, under the guidance of God, it inclined towards the party of the Christians, who meanwhile prayed earnestly to Christ, the Judge, and finally it settled in their bosom. Raising their hands to heaven, and bending the knee with great gladness, they give thanks to God and receive the Lord’s napkin with great honor, a gift to be venerated as sent to them from heaven; they render praises in their hymns to Christ, who gave it, and they cover it up in another linen cloth and put it away in a casket of the church.

“Our brother Arculf saw it one day taken out of the casket, and amid the multitude of the people that kissed it, he himself kissed it in an assembly of the church; it measures about eight feet in length. As to it let what has been said suffice.”

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