The St Martins Press edition, New York, 1990

      The St Martins Press edition, New York, 1990

This novel was published as The Image of Our Lord in 1989 by Barrie & Jenkins in London, and in 1990 by St Martins Press in New York. In 1990 it was also published in a Spanish translation by Editions Martinéz Roca, Barcelona, with the more alluring title El Último Templario. While the two English language editions sold fairly well and then disappeared, Martinéz Roca published further editions in 1995, 1999, and in 2003 the novel saw a new edition (and cover) by Planeta DeAgostini, also in Barcelona, and even a newsstand edition published in Mexico.

This suggests that something was wrong, and in fact we discovered later that many potential readers were probably deterred by the English title, which makes its sound like a book about religion rather than a medieval thriller. The Spanish title is better, and after reading the translator's work I found that he (Pablo di Masso) had improved in several ways by cutting redundancies and sharpening the text. So in 2016 I propose to published an edited version in English as an e-book, with the new title The Last Templar and the Turin Shroud. That explains better what the novel is about.

A dark, entangled, eerily insinuating first novel concerning the labyrinthine power-politics of the 14th century Roman Catholic Church, and the intricate knot of conspiracies among clashing clerics and kings. At the centre here is the humbly born Cistercian friar (he will become Pope Benedict X11) who grows in authority – as well as in cynical wisdom – as he searches for what would become known as the Shroud of Turin.
— Kirkus Reviews, 4 January 1991

The facts about the so-called Turin Shroud are now simple. In the 1980s three independent analyses, using radio-carbon dating, by laboratories in Tucson, Oxford and Zurich, established that it was faked in the Middle Ages. It seems likely that it was made by some process which involved the laying of a cloth over a bas-relief figure in the supposed position of Jesus Christ in his tomb. Like many other good quality stuffs of the time, the material used may well have come from the Holy Land (Tyre or Damascus), thus explaining the presence of eastern pollens discovered in an earlier scientific analysis. The three-dimensional aspect discovered by the photographer Secondo Pia in 1898, and brought out by computer enhancement at NASA, was presumably accidental. 

             The more explicit Spanish cover, 1990

            The more explicit Spanish cover, 1990

The shroud made its first appearance in history in the possession of Geoffroi de Charny at the tiny village of Lirey, which nestles invisible from nearby roads in a quiet fold in low hills twelve miles south of Troyes, just off the N77 after Bouilly. To house it, de Charny built in that village a wooden collegiate church now replaced by a simple stone chapel — from 1353 to 1356, the year of his own death. It was first put on public show in Lirey by de Charny or his widow some time between 1356 and 1370. From that moment its history is well-documented: as stated in the epilogue, it remained in the possession of the Lirey-Charny family until it passed into the hands of the Dukes of Savoy, in 1453. It was then housed in Chambéry until 1578, when it was moved to the cathedral of Turin. However, as early as 1389 Bishop Pierre d'Arcis of Troyes declared it to be a fake in a memorandum written to Pope Clement VII, preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. He described it as `cunningly painted . . . by a clever sleight of hand' and refers to belief in it as `a delusion and abominable superstition'. On 13 October 1988 his judgement was confirmed when Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero of Turin formally announced, with papal approvai, that radio-carbon dating had shown the cloth on which the image of Christ seems to appear was manufactured between 1260 and 1390. 

Thus only three real, and related, problems remain: who made it, where, and in exactly which year? 

The novel elaborates the belief that it was brought to Europe by the Templars, and may even have been the source of the mysterious face which they were said to have worshipped - an example of which my be seen in the ex-Templar church at Templecombe, in Somerset. The hypothesis is based on the extraordinary Berardi family who lived in Central Italy in the thirteenth century, one of whom, Count Gualtiero di Ocre, was chancellor to the Emperor Frederick II, and another of whom, Thomas Berard, rose to become Master of the Temple in London and then Grand Master of the Order (1256-73). many of the sites used in the story, apart from Paris and Avignon, are still-surviving monasteries and castles once belonging to the Berardi. But it is written as a thriller, with some unusual twists deriving from facts that were much stranger the fiction.

The relic could sway the balance of power in struggle for control of the church. Burman has woven an and interesting and suspenseful tale based upon his speculation on the provenance of a prominent medieval relic.
— Library Journal, 15-4-1991
El último templario, sólo él conoce todos los secretos de la Orden. La Inquisición no ha conseguido arrancar el secreto mejor guardado de la historia al único superviviente templario. Nicolás de Lirey será el encargado de la investigación, pero para lograr su objetivo deberá sortear las trampas tendidas por el Vaticano, el rey Felipe el Hermoso y una oscura secta llamada Opus Christi.
— La Casa del Libro

                              The monastery of Santo Spirito, in which some key scenes of the novel are set

                             The monastery of Santo Spirito, in which some key scenes of the novel are set