The Castle of Ray-sur-Saône
Othon de la Roche
and the
Shroud of Turin

The castle of Ray-sur-Saône in Haute-Saône, Franche-Comté, France.
© Mario Latendresse, 2015

The hypothesis that Othon de la Roche acquired the Shroud of Turin, during the conquest of Constantinople in 1204, has been proposed for many centuries (See references [1-5] below). We read that due to its great services during the 4th crusade, Othon was given the Shroud in 1204, kept it in Athens, and that it was brought back at the castle of Ray-sur-Saône or to the castle of his father.

But that hypothesis can be shown to be false. The misconception sprang from a lack of knowledge about the original documentary sources.

One of the primary source is the manuscript 826 of the archive of the municipal library of Besançon, the capital of Franche-Comté [1]. The manuscript contains two dissertations, written by different authors in the 18th century, one pleading for the authenticity of the Shroud of Besançon and the other pleading the opposite. The first dissertation supposedly has strong arguments demonstrating the provenance of the Shroud of Besançon from Constantinople, through Athens under the ownership of Othon de la Roche. In 1902, this scenario was reused by Dom François Chamard to create a provenance of the Shroud of Turin [2]. Since then, many have cited Dom Chamard as a source for Othon's involvement with the Shroud. Meanwhile, the primary source of Dom Chamard, the dissertation in favor of the authenticity of the Shroud of Besançon, remained unpublished and without the identification of its author nor of its dating. That was until recently when it was shown that the dissertation had no solid foundation [6,7]. The author of that dissertation falsified sources and referenced documents which does not contained the quotations he reported. Nicolotti also established with certainty that its author was Pierre-Joseph Dunod, who is also known to have written other fanciful historical documents.

Many other authors have cited the manuscript 826 or Dom Chamard as a source to support the hypothesis that Othon de la Roche acquired the shroud of Christ in 1204, but because Chamard depends mainly on manuscript 826, and manuscript 826 is known to have no proper foundation, that supports is essentially non existent.

But other historical documents and artifacts supposedly confirm the manuscript 826, two of which are a family tradition supporting the presence of a shroud of Christ at the castle of Ray-sur-Saône, which was owned by Othon de la Roche and a small coffer (see Figure 2, below), still displayed in one tower of the Castle, that would have been used to bring back that shroud from Greece. The “family tradition” is often cited but without any references. In any case, we will see that there is no such family tradition and that the coffer has no supporting evidence.

In fact, count Hubert de Salverte published, in 1936, a monograph on the ancestry of the castle of Ray-sur-Saône [8]. He goes as far back as the 11th century and includes Othon de la Roche, who became owner of the Castle when he married Isabelle, baroness of Ray, in 1205. The castle stayed in the Ray family, until it was passed to the Marmier family, then to count Hubert de Salverte in 1931, who was the father of countess Diane de Salverte, the last owner of the Castle who ceded it to the department of Haute-Saône in May of 2015 [9]. On page 20 of [8], we can read what Hubert de Salverte had to say about Othon and the Shroud.

Othon rapporta du siège de Constantinople deux importantes reliques de la vraie Croix, dont l'une est encore conservée dans l'église de Ray-sur-Saône.
[Othon brought back from the siege of Constantinople two important relics of the True Cross, one is still preserved at the Ray-sur-Saône church.]

On veut qu'il ait eu également dans sa part le fameux Saint Suaire, dit de Turin (1), longtemps vénéré à Besançon et qui est aujourd'hui la propriété des Ducs de Savoie.
[Some wants that he also had in his part the famous Holy Shroud of Turin (1), long revered in Besançon and is now the property of the Dukes of Savoy.]

(1) See reference [2] in Section References below.

The expression “On veut qu'il ait eu” leaves no doubt that Hubert de Salverte does not think that Othon received the Shroud of Turin. He attributes this idea to Dom François Chamard. Consequently, we can readily see that a 20th century owner of the castle of Ray-sur-Saône did not know any family tradition supporting the claim that Othon de la Roche was involved with the Shroud of Turin.

Hubert de Salverte does not even mention the coffer, which is still on display at the Castle, that supposedly would have been used to bring the Shroud from Greece. If he had known that such a coffer existed, he would have mentioned it, because it is the most appropriate moment to do so. In other words, the knowledge that the present coffer displayed at the Castle would have been used to bring a shroud of Christ from Greece is very recent and is unsupported by any family tradition.

Moreover, Jean Richardot, the librarian of the Castle and a good friend of the Countess Diane de Salverte, confirmed in a private email and telephone conversion that he had not seen any reference to a shroud (suaire) in the archives of the family. Richardot does not know either any family tradition about a shroud of Christ being at the Castle nor any family tradition about the coffer. He could not confirm who put on display the coffer at the Castle.

Figure 2. This small coffer is displayed in one tower of the castle of Ray-sur-Saône. The label reads “Coffret du XIII siecle dans lequel fut conserve au chateau de Ray le linceul du Christ rapporte par Othon de Ray du siege de Constantinople 1206.
Photographs kindly provided by Jean Richardot, librarian of the Castle.

The photograph of Figure 2 shows that the coffer has been labelled using an “embossed plastic tape”. Such labelling was done using a device invented at the end of the 1950 [10]. We can likely date this labeling after that date, which is very recent compared to the life of the Castle. This is coherent with the silence of Hubert de Salverte in his monograph: no such coffer was known in 1936. Therefore, the coffer does not appear to have a real family tradition. Its appearance could be related to the first public visits of the Castle.

In summary, there is no known family tradition supporting the presence of a shroud of Christ at the castle of Ray-sur-Saône, neither in the family archives. There is also no family tradition or document supporting the authenticity of the coffer, still on display at the Castle, which would have been used to transport a shroud of Christ. It is still to be determined who in the Salverte family labeled and placed the small coffer on display.

Note: for photographs of the interior and exterior of the castle of Ray-sur-Saône, see references [9,11] and the web page Castle Ray-sur-Saône from this website.

[1] Pierre-Joseph Dunod, Dissertation pour l'authenticité du Saint Suaire de Besançon, Ms 826, municipal archives of Besançon, 1714.
[2] Dom François Chamard, Le Linceul du Christ/ Étude Critique et Historique, H. Oudin, Paris, 1902.
[3] Daniel C. Scavone, Besançon and other hypotheses for the missing years: the Shroud from 1200 to 1400, Shroud Science Group International Conference, Ohio State University, Blackwell Hotel, 14-17 August, 2008.
[4] Gérald Barbet, Othon de la Roche/ Chroniques sur l'étonnante histoire d'un chevalier Comtois devenu Seigneur d'Athènes, Fortis, 2012.
[5] Alessandro Piana, Othon de la Roche and the Shroud/An hypothesis between History and Historiography, Workshop on Advances in the Turin Shroud Investigation (ATSI), Bari, Sept 4, 2014.
[6] Andrea Nicolotti, Le Saint Suaire de Besançon et le chevalier Othon de la Roche, Franche-Bourgogne, 2015.
[7] Mario Latendresse, Le Saint Suaire de Besançon/ Dissertations pour et contre son authenticité, BoD, 2015.
[8] Comte Hubert de Salverte, Historique du Château de Ray/ transmission par le sang du XIe au XXe siècle, Sequania, Besançon, 1936.
[9] Video on the donation of the castle of Ray-sur-Saône. View of the inside, short description of its history (no mention of a shroud), June 2015.
[10] Dymo Corporation and the Embosser.
[11] Photographs of the castle of Ray-sur-Saône, the village, and the church of the village..