Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 20 October |
Saint of the Day: St. Paul of the Cross
Aleteia logo
home iconChurch
line break icon

Holy Tunic of Argenteuil, Seamless Garment, To Be Displayed in 2016

AFP/Martine Archembault AG

La Sainte Tunique du Christ est exposée dans la Basilique Saint-Denys d'Argenteuil (Val-d'Oise), le 14 avril 1984. AFP PHOTO MARTINE ARCHEMBAULT

Elizabeth Scalia - published on 10/12/15

Reputed relic of Christ's Passion, exhibited every 50 years, makes special appearance for Year of Mercy

In honor of the Year of Mercy decreed by Pope Francis — which begins on December 8, 2015 — Stanislas LaLanne, Bishop of Pontoise and “Guardian of the Holy Tunic” has announced that the Holy Tunic of Argenteuil – purported to be the seamless garment worn by Christ on Calvary – will be exhibited to the public for a very brief time: from March 25 to April 10, 2016.

This tunic was originally documented as being seamless and of-a-piece, fitting the description found in the Gospel according to John (Jn 19:23-24):

“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,” in order that the passage of scripture might be fulfilled [that says]: ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.’ This is what the soldiers did.”

The relic is known to have arrived in France in the year 800, when the Empress Irene of Constantinople — hoping to marry Charlemagne, and thus unite their empires — presented the garment to him as a coronation gift. The marriage never happened, as Irene was soon dethroned, and Charlemagne entrusted the tunic’s safe-keeping to his daughter, Théodrade, then Abbess of the Monastery of the Humility of Our Lady of Argenteuil.

During the Norman invasion, the nuns sealed the tunic behind a wall, where it remained until the middle of the twelfth century. By then, the monastery had come under the ownership of the Benedictines of St. Denis, who, in 1131, held a solemn viewing for King Louis VII. Saint Louis also venerated the relic, twice, in 1255 and 1260. In 1544 Francis I had the village of Argenteuil fortified to protect the tunic from theft.

During the French Revolution, the integrity of the Z-twist-patterned woven tunic was lost as the parish priest of Argenteuil — hoping to protect the unique garment from confiscation by the government — cut it into several pieces, burying some, and entrusting other pieces to parishioners. The priest, jailed for two years, attempted to patch the relic back together, but some parts of the tunic were never found.

While minimal testing has been done on the cloth, it has been determined that the blood stains found within its fibers are type AB, as with the Shroud of Turin, and that the two relics share similar pollens.

In the modern era, the tunic has been displayed every fifty years, so this exception for the Year of Mercy is noteworthy. The tunic — having been stolen in 1983, and then recovered — was last given exposition in 1984, drawing at that time approximately 80,000 pilgrims. As the 2016 display will occur during the 150th anniversary of the Basilica of Saint Denis, and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diocese of Pontoise, Father Guy-Emmanuel, rector of the basilica, is expecting more than twice as many pilgrims to venerate the relic.

Translated from the French by Elizabeth Scalia, with additional research added.

Elizabeth Scalia is Editor-in-Chief of the English edition of Aleteia

Year of Mercy
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
difficult people
Zoe Romanowsky
How to love people you don’t really like
saint teresa of Avila
Zelda Caldwell
Now there’s a computer font based on St. Teresa of Avila’s handwr...
Agnès Pinard Legry
Three brothers ordained priests on the same day in the Philippine...
Philip Kosloski
How the violence in ‘Squid Game’ can impact your soul
Philip Kosloski
A scientist describes the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima
Kathleen N. Hattrup
A martyr’s last letter to his mother
Theresa Civantos Barber
How following Christ is like falling in love
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.