The Shroud of Turin... the controversy around this relic of Catholic mysticism is known throughout the world. The mythical clothe that wrapped Christ after the crucifixion is a prized possession of the Vatican, which believes that the cloth is in fact the very same one discovered by Peter folded neatly in Christ's empty sepulcher. On the cloth, an image of the Christian Messiah is "burned" on to the cloth, apparently cast on by a brilliant shine of light said to have been given off as Christ rose from the dead. Over the years it changed hands a few times, always taken care of (as it was the stuff of Kings), but at some point in the twelfth century, the Church kind of lost track of it for about two hundred years or so. But Sunday, the Church of Rome finally filled in the blanks on those two hundred years. And as though it were out of an overhyped thriller starring Tom Hanks, it all comes back to the legend of the Templar Knights.
The Catholic Church acknowledged that the Templar Knights were the caretakers of the Shroud of Turin during the two hundred years that the Church lost track of it. In a story in Britain's Times Online, the Catholic Church admits that the once outlawed order of Knights were in facts the caretakers of the Shroud, having gotten their hands on it after the fall of Constantinople sometime around 1204 AD.
Of course the irony of this admission is that during the time that the Knights would have been the possessors and caretakers for one of the Vatican's most prized treasures, they were also persecuted, tortured, and ultimately put to death for being heretics.
The story of the Templars is an interesting one. Started in 1119 AD by French nobleman Hugues de Payens, the Order had a commission to protect the pilgrims from attack on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In 1129, due to official sanctioning by the Vatican in their charge and successful fundraising by loyal noblemen looking to buy their way into Heaven by maintaining control of the Holy Land, the Templars gained power and control. During the four European Crusades into the Holy Land, the Templar played a key role in many of the battles (as well as many of the atrocities committed in the name of the Christian God). But after the Crusades, the Templars found themselves persecuted. Wealthy and arrogant, the Templars had many enemies (as many of Europe's wealthy families owed the Templars money), and one of their enemies- King Philip of France- used some of his influence to have the group disbanded by the church.
On Friday, October 13th, 1307, Philip ordered the Knights to be hunted down. Those captured were then tortured and forced to confess to heresy. The Grand Master and his First Lieutenant were burned at the stake for their crimes (It is important to note that both Philip and Pope Clement died within a year of this treason). But before passing, in 1308, Pope Clement V absolved the Knights of any wrong doing.
The Templar legend goes on to say that a few of the Knights managed to escape the sweep and took with them much of the Templar treasure and relics that the Knights had managed to collect on their many adventures, among them the Shroud of Turin. And while the Church regained ownership of the Shroud of Turin in 1538, the mystery behind it's where about until then have been locked in mystery... until now.