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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Quest For The True Cross (2002)

"It was an agonizingly painful death, but a common one in the Roman Empire."
- narrator

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: May 21, 2003

Stars: Carsten Peter Thiede, Matthew D'Ancona
Other Stars: Martin Biddle
Director: Justin Cartwright

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 50m:08s
Release Date: April 22, 2003
UPC: 012236130406
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

This Discovery Channel presentation is based on the book Quest For The True Cross by theological researcher Carsten Peter Thiede with Matthew D'Ancona, and focuses on the attempted verification and authentication of what many believe to be is a section of the cross that Jesus Christ was crucified on. Supposedly a piece of the cross's headboard, or titulus, the hunk of wood (known as "titulus cruces"), slightly larger than a video tape, resides in the Church of Santa Cruces in Rome and is the center of hotly contested theological debate.

Thiede is the director of the Institute for Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, Germany, and has written a number of books on the subject of authenticating various archeological finds in relation to biblical events, and his fervent and dogged pursuit of studying the alleged piece of Christ's cross is likely his career motherlode. In Quest For The True Cross, we follow Thiede as he examines and explains the hows and whys of his belief that the titulus cruces in the Church of Santa Cruces is part of the actual cross Christ was crucified on.

His evidence is compelling, but medieval forgeries of religious icons was wildly rampant at the time (see any of the fine books on the truth behind the Shroud of Turin or the Holy Grail, for example), and this is the biggest stumbling block Thiede is up against in his argument. The Vatican has refused a request for carbon dating of the titulus (though over the closing credits it is mentioned that the decision has been rescinded), and so Thiede is left with basing his beliefs on such data as analyzing and comparing the style of writing on the wood. He also relies heavily on the legend of the Roman emperor Constantine, who, after he assumed power in Rome, sent his aged mother Helena on a trek to acquire some kind of religious icon, which turned out to be the titulus, in order to aid in spreading the message of Christianity throughout the Roman empire.

Quest For The True Cross is a bit one-sided in its presentation of the information, and some of Thiede's questionable rationalizations are not met with any type of resistance from the narration. Still, it is an interesting story that Thiede weaves, and regardless of your religious or historical beliefs, he comes across like a more scholarly Indiana Jones (minus the whips and Nazis) searching for relics that may or may not exist.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, Quest For The True Cross looks, for the most part, very good. Colors are bright and warm, balanced by fairly strong black levels. Certainly a far better presentation than what I normally get when I sit down to watch the Discovery Channel (my cable signal is horrid), the only flaws were some significantly noticeable instances of shimmer and ringing during a handful of scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Artisan has supplied a nicely-mixed 2.0 surround track for this one. The Terry MacDonald narration is deep and clean, coming across much fuller and with more resonance than a lot of 2.0 tracks. Rear channels get used slightly for score elements, and that adds to the rather deceptive depth of this presentation.Nice.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Sadly no extras to speak of, and a perfunctory ten chapter stops.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

This Discovery Channel presentation is a little heavy-handed in spots (it is, after all, based on a book where the authors believe the titulus to be authentic), but it is still possible to sift through the pros and cons to assemble a decent argument one way or the other. Thiede's work is impressive, though even with carbon dating, it is unlikely that there will ever be a definitive buy in on his speculation.

Interesting stuff, regardless.


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