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August 15th 944 was a day of great jubilation and excitement for the citizens
of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, for on it one of the most precious relics,
the famous mandylion bearing the imprint of the face of Christ, came to the end
of its long journey from Edessa, to be escorted in solemn procession into
Constantinople; the following day the relic was taken in procession to the great
church of the Holy Wisdom, and then finally found its resting place in a chapel of
the imperial palace. An annual commemoration of the image, on 16th August,
was inserted into the liturgical calendar.1
Earlier in the year of 944 the Byzantine
Emperor, Romanos I, had managed to reach an agreement with the Muslim
authorities that they would be willing to hand it over in exchange for 200 Muslim
prisoners and 12,000 pieces of silver.2
Probably not long after its arrival in
Constantinople, the mandylion was portrayed on an icon that...