The Knights Templar secretly cared for the Shroud of Turin after the Crusades for more than 100 years, the Vatican announced today, apparently clearing up the mystery of the shroud's lost years. The medieval order venerated the cloth, protecting it from heretical groups and initiating members by asking them to kiss the relic, which is said to bear the image of Jesus Christ on the cross, the Times of London reports.
The shroud vanished after Constantinople fell in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, and only re-emerged in the mid-1300s, a Vatican researcher said. She solved the mystery by unearthing the testimony of a young Frenchman who had to kiss the cloth three times to join the Knights in 1287. King Philip of France and the church later disbanded the group amid charges of sexual immorality and corruption.