The Shroud Of Turin
Introduction to the Shroud of Turin Icon
The Shroud of Turin has intrigued me ever since I started searching for God.And the Shroud, which confounds scientists from all around theworld, continues to be a source of fascination for me today.Even when radiocarbon dating in the 1980s indicated that the fabric came from the Middle Ages, I never doubted its authenticity. Soon, it emerged that the dating was faulty.I've followed news on the Shroud through the highs and lows of scientiﬁc investigation, but I’ve always believed that it’s the most amazing artefact related to Jesus that we’ve been graced with.
The Divine Mystery of the Shroud
The Shroud of Turin has been investigated by scientists for a hundred years now, yet remains the centre of huge controversy.
Some people like to consider it an ingenious hoax. However, most people revere this 4.4 metre (14.5 foot) length of ancient linen as the burial cloth of Jesus.The linen shows the imprint of a bearded, long-haired man, naked,his arms crossed in front of him.Both the front and the back of the man appears on the shroud. The front is on one end of the cloth and the back on the other end with the
heads meeting towards the middle.Despite exhaustive tests, scientists have never been able to explain how the imprint of the man was made. Within the folds of the linen, there are also many blood marks which provide physical evidence of scourging, torture and cruciﬁxion.The Shroud’s great importance is that its authentication would add credibility to the biblical account of the death and resurrection of Christ.We know there are no signs of putrefaction on the cloth so the man contained within the linen did not remain there for long.The earliest references to Christ’s burial shroud is found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.The Gospels say the body of Jesus was wrapped in linen bought by a wealthy man called Joseph of Arimathea.According to Luke 23:50-53: “Now there was a man named Joseph, amember of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action.
“He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.
“Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.’’
For many hundreds of years after the death of Jesus, there was no mention of the Shroud.However, a burial cloth, which some historians believe was the Shroud,is known to have been in the possession of the Byzantine emperors.The Knights Templar were aware of this relic because a French knight,Robert of Clari, reported seeing it in 1203 in Constantinople, now modern Istanbul.
That cloth disappeared from all records after the Sack of Constantinople in 1204.Some believe the Knights Templar, known for hoarding treasures and relics, snatched the Shroud.
Yet, nothing was heard of the Shroud of Turin until 150 years later.In April, 1349, as the Black Death ravaged Europe, a French knight
wrote to Pope Clement VI reporting his intention to build a church at Lirey in France.The knight named Geoﬀrey de Charny built the St. Mary of Lirey church to honour God for helping his miraculous escape from the English.We know that he put the shroud on public exhibition in his church in Lirey in France in 1354.Large crowds of pilgrims ﬂocked to the church and special souvenir medallions were made in honour of the Shroud.A single surviving medallion is on display at the Cluny Museum in Paris.
A local bishop was outraged and refusing to believe that the Shroud was genuine, he ordered the exhibition closed. The Shroud was then hiddenaway for decades.It passed through many hands, and its ownership was bitterly contested down through the centuries.
We know it was owned by the Savoy family of France by 1453 and they brought it to Chambery.The shroud was stored in a casket with four locks at Sainte Chapelle in Chambery when a ﬁre broke out in the church on December 4, 1532.Fire raged around the casket but Canon Philibert Lambert and two Franciscans managed to rescue it.Melted by the heat, they had to call for the help of a blacksmith to
open the grille.They found that the shroud had survived apart from some scorching and a burn hole caused by a drop of molten silver.
The Poor Clare nuns in Chambery worked from April 16 to May 2, 1534 repairing the shroud. They sewed it onto a backing cloth, and
patched the worst of the damage.
Records show that fourteen large triangular patches and eight smaller ones were sewn onto the cloth.
When French troops invaded the Chambery region the following year, the Duke of Savoy, Charles III, ﬂed to Italy with the Shroud.For the ﬁrst time ever, the Shroud was exhibited in Turin on May 4,1535.
The cloth moved around Italy for the next couple of hundred years.In 1898, an amateur photographer called Secondo Pia was invited to
photograph it for the ﬁrst time.Secondo was astonished to discover that the Shroud is like a photo negative.He saw that the negative image is far clearer than the original, revealing wounds that match biblical accounts of the cruciﬁxion.This negative image startled the world, and the global fascination with the Shroud that began in 1898 continues today.The study of the relic has even become a scholarly ﬁeld known as sindonology, from the Greek sindon, meaning linen or linen covering.Even today Sindonologists come from almost every ﬁeld of scientiﬁc research.Sindonologists range from staunch believers to atheists and from to those who believe the shroud is a fraud to those who believe it is the burial shroud of Christ.Despite being a Christian icon of worldwide renown, the Vatican did not gain ownership of the Shroud until the 1980s.It was Umberto II, a former king of Italy and a member of the House of Savoy which owned the Shroud since 1453, who bequeathed it to Vatican on his death in 1983
Throughout its history, the Vatican has never conﬁrmed or denied the shroud’s authenticity.Yet, Pope John Paul II spoke about the Shroud and prayed before it at the Turin cathedral on May 24, 1998."The Shroud is an image of God's love as well as of human sin,’’ he said.He added the imprint "attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death" and is "an icon of the suﬀering of the innocent in every age."
Former Pope Benedict XVI said that the shroud’s image "reminds us always" of Christ's suﬀering.Pope Francis has kept to Vatican policy and referred to the shroud as an "icon" not a relic.
Despite this, the Shroud is known to Italians as "La Sindone" or the Holy Shroud, and it is one of Christianity's greatest objects of veneration.As one of the prized artefacts of Christianity, it attracts millions ofpilgrims to the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin.
The origin and nature of the Shroud of Turin have been sources of debate for decades, and they remain a mystery even today.In 1978, a team of American scientists called Te Shroud of Turin Research Project spent 120 hours studying the Shroud.They set out to forensically examine the image, discover how it was made, and reveal if it was a fake. They didn't succeed in their aims.Their report concluded that the creation of the image remains a mystery.
They conﬁrmed that the shroud is not a painting as the image is only a few ﬁbres deep and paint or dye would penetrate further.
The image is a photographic negative and is three-dimensional so it did not come from a brush.Their analyses found no artiﬁcial pigments and they concluded: “The Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, cruciﬁed man. It is not the product of an artist.”As for what formed the image, the scientists were baﬄed. They admitted that “no combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances” could explain it.
When in 1988, three laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona radiocarbon dated the Shroud to the Middle Ages, it seemed the debate
over the Shroud was over.Their test results were conclusive. After conducting tests on ﬁbres from the cloth, each conﬁrmed that the fabric dated somewhere between1260 to 1390.
The results ruled out the possibility of it being a death shroud for Jesus 2,000 years ago.Overnight, the media dubbed the Shroud a medieval forgery.Time magazine said the results debunked the link with Christ andThe New York Times called it a fraud.
However, it wasn’t long before other scientists began to cast doubt on the radiocarbon dating. They suggested that the ﬁre in the 1500s may have altered its carbon content.Some researchers claimed that the piece tested had actually been a patch added during the medieval repair job.Newer scientiﬁc tests are also contradicting the 1988 results and have dated the cloth to ancient times.
Tests by scientists at the University of Padua in Italy, used the same ﬁbres from the 1988 tests, but disputed the earlier ﬁndings.
They repeat the claim that the earlier results were contaminated by ﬁbres used to repair the cloth in the Middle Ages.Their examination dated the fabric to between 300 BC and 400 AD,which would put it in the era of Christ.The ﬁndings are detailed in a book called Te Mystery of the Shroud,by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement in Padua.
Fanti used infra-red light and spectroscopy - the measurement of radiation intensity - during his 15 years of research for the book.
Scientiﬁc tests proved that the blood stains on the Shroud are real and separate from whatever formed the image of the man on the cloth.The image of the man does not penetrate the cloth’s ﬁbres, only the blood. Scientists say that the blood preceded the imprint of the man.“Blood ﬁrst, image second” is a mantra of Shroud researchers.This supports biblical claims that Jesus was wrapped in the linen days before the resurrection which caused the imprint.The blood was identiﬁed as Type AB which is also the same blood type contained in the relics of the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano.Researchers have also recently released a report suggesting that the blood on the Shroud is from a torture victim.Institute of Crystallography researcher, Elvio Carlino, said the blood is from a person undergoing "great suﬀering".He discovered it contains "nanoparticles" of blood which are not found in a healthy person and says constituents in the blood only occur in humans who have suﬀered severe trauma.
“A scenario of violence is recorded in the funeral fabric," he wrote in the scientiﬁc article.Professor Giulio Fanti, another author of the research, said: "The presence of these biological nanoparticles found during our experiments point to a violent death for the man wrapped in the Turin Shroud."Conﬁrming the authenticity of the Shroud is the fact its blood stains are linked to another holy relic from the time when Jesus walked the earth.Experts have claimed another ancient cloth linked to Jesus replicates the same blood ﬂows and blood type as the Shroud.The cloth called the Sudarium of Oviedo resides in the Cathedral of Oviedo, in Spain.
Believers claim it was placed over the head of Jesus when his followers managed to lower him from the cross.According to the Gospels, the Apostles discovered a discarded head cloth as well as the shroud in Christ's empty tomb.The Gospel of John 20:7 noted that they found “the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place
While the Sudarium does not contain a facial image, it contains blood of the type AB found on the Shroud.Moreover, the patterns of blood ﬂow on the Sudarium are consistent with those of a cruciﬁed man.American Sudarium expert, Janice Bennett, says there are 20 points of correlation between the Shroud and the relic in Spain.
Tests on the Shroud have also found imprints of ﬂowers and traces of pollen that could only have come from the Holy Land.Studies suggest that bunches or bouquets of ﬂowers and ﬂoral materials were placed on the Shroud. They left pollen grains and imprints
of plants and ﬂowers on the linen cloth.Both the pollen, which has been dated to the ﬁrst century, and the imprints match ﬂowers found in the vicinity of Jerusalem.The Council for Study of the Turin Shroud from Duke University noted: “While there are images of hundreds of ﬂowers on the Shroud, many are vague or incomplete. We feel we have identiﬁed, tentatively but with reasonable certainty, twenty-eight plants whose images are suﬃciently clear ... All twenty-eight grow in Israel."
Many see it as an unlikely coincidence that the wounds of the man on the Shroud match the exact biblical description of Jesus’s cruciﬁxion.From piercings on his head from the 'crown of thorns' to the piercing in his side, the man on the Shroud reﬂects all the injuries inﬂicted on Jesus.The only details that originally didn’t appear to match were the appearance of nail wounds on the man’s wrists, rather than his palms.All religious art depicting the cruciﬁxion of Jesus showed the nail in the palms of the hand.However, sindonologist Dr. Pierre Barbet, tested cruciﬁxion techniques on cadavers donated to science.He discovered, that driving nails through ‘Destot’s Space’, between the tendons at the wrist, was necessary to support the weight of cruciﬁed men.
Many believe that this historically accurate detail, which was unknown in the middle ages, is a further sign that the Shroud is unlikely to be a forgery from that era.
First among the mysteries of the Shroud is how the man's image was made.Some say the imprint could be described as an intricate singe marking on the linen.Yet, every scientiﬁc attempt to replicate the Shroud in a lab has failed.One of the more bizarre features of the Shroud is the X-ray details of the man’s teeth and ﬁngers. Nothing existed in medieval or ancient times that could produce X-rays like this.In 1989, physicist Tomas Phillips speculated that a large burst of radiation emitted during the resurrection created the image on the Shroud.But scientists have tried and failed using ultraviolet radiation to make the image on the Shroud.
In a 2015 article for National Geographic, Italian physicist Paolo Di Lazzaro admitted they are no closer to understanding how the image was made.
“The Shroud's precise hue is highly unusual, and the colour’s penetration into the fabric is extremely thin, less than ... one-thirtieth the diameter of an individual ﬁbre in a single 200-ﬁbre linen thread,” he claimed.Di Lazzaro and colleagues experimented for ﬁve years with lasers to replicate the image on linen.Using short bursts of ultraviolet light, they came close to replicating the image’s distinctive colour.
But they admitted that they could not reproduce a whole human ﬁgure.Di Lazzaro claimed that the ultraviolet light needed to reproduce the image “exceeds the maximum power released by all ultraviolet light sources available today.”
A Reﬂection on the Shroud of Turin
There will always be Doubting Tomases in this world, so there will always be those who question the Shroud of Turin.Scientists, with all their vast modern technology, have tried and failed to reproduce the image on the Shroud.Yet, some people are still determined to believe that forgers in medieval times managed to do it.
Even Jesus found it very hard to make a Doubting Tomas believe.The Apostle Tomas only believed that Jesus rose from the dead when
Our Lord appeared in front of him and let him feel his wounds.Jesus said, “Blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.”Believers don’t need the Shroud of Turin to be authenticated to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.Yet rational scientiﬁc evidence points towards the Shroud being a living testimony of the death and resurrection of Christ.As such, the Shroud is the perfect example of the fusion of faith and science.
Science is now corroborating our faith and our belief in the eyewitness accounts we read in the Bible.And science is helping make it even more apparent that the Shroud isan authentic sign of God in the world.In fact, if there is a Doubting Tomas who needed evidence of the
existence of God, the Shroud of Turin could be it.