The Holy Shroud Of Turin

The Shroud of Turin dates back to A.D. 30 and is a linen sheet that was wrapped around Jesus Christ. This article explains its history and the many processes used to determine its authenticity.

The Shroud of Turin dates to A.D. 30 by tradition; 1260 to 1390 by carbon dating. Modern scientific analysis is continuing. The shroud is a linen sheet that for at least six centuries has been reputed to be the one in which the corpse of Jesus Christ was wrapped and entombed after the Crucifixion. Radiocarbon tests of a single sampling of cloth from a word and controversial corner of the shroud produced a date from the mid-fourteenth century. Despite this finding, there are many puzzling, inexplicable elements about the cloth and the image on it, and many people continue to believe that it may be the shroud of Christ. The shroud measures 14 feet 3 inches long by 3 feet 7 inches wide, and bears faint front and back negative images of a man who has been crucified. The linen cloth has a herringbone weave, is burned in some places, and has yellowed through time.

Throughout the centuries of the first millennium after the death of Christ several shrouds purported to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ emerged. False claims were commonly made, for the Shroud of Christ would be among the holiest of relics, with potential benefits of immense riches and power. But one of these relics may actually have been what later became known as the Turin Shroud. There is the Veronica Cloth, which had once been known as the Inage of Edessa, or, after it was moved from Edessa to Constantinople in 944, and the Mandylion. Scholars historically described it as a cloth bearing a Christ like image of only a face. Some evidence indicates that the Mandylion, which probably dates at least from the sixth century, was a smaller cloth than the Turin specimen.

Other alleged "True Shrouds" include revered cloths in a monastery near Jerusalem and on a tiny island near the British Isles. Although the written record reveals no unequivocal mention of the Turin Shroud until late in the Middle Ages, there are early pictorial renderings that support its existence prior to this time. Of the more certain references to the shroud, the oldest is that of a Byzantine tremissis. This late seventh-century coin, which bears a frontal bust of Christ, has some twenty-one features with matching representations on the shroud. The peculiarities on this coin can best be explained as meticulously depicted flaws in the weave of the shroud, which was used as the engraver's model. The multitude of matching features suggests the shroud was in existence at least as early as about A.D. 690, when the coin was engraved, and in turn implies that the shroud was already, in Byzantine tradition, considered a holy cloth connected with Christ.

Another significant artifact that supports the existence of the shroud prior to the thirteenth century is the Hungarian Pray Manuscript, an illuminated manuscript that dates from 1192 to 1195, some sixty-five to two hundred years earlier than the age of the Turin cloth as determined by modern radiocarbon tests. Continuing along the trail of evidence for a pre-thirteenth-century shroud, a description can be found of a shroud seen in Constantinople by the French knight Robert de Clari during the sack of the city in 1204 by soldiers of the Fourth Crusade.

Such evidence came to light in the 1980's. Willi K. Muller, a German medical doctor sindonologist, first made public an important identification of such a picture in a lengthy medieval text known as the Skylizes Manuscript. The French researcher Brother Bruno Bonnet-Eymard later explored the significance of this.

The shroud was a bona fide religious icon for many people. Its image of a crucified man certainly evoked the passion of Christ, and its overseers guarded it zealously, as they continue to do today. Its rare public exhibitions only add to its mystery.

An event occurred in May 1898 that swelled public interest into worldwide excitement and controversy. A weeklong exhibition of the cloth was held at the cathedral that housed it, and during that time an amateur Italian photographer named Secondo Pia, having obtained permission, produced the first photographs of the shroud. In his darkroom, as the images emerged on the glass plates, Pia was startled. In Pia's photographic negative, dark and light representations became reversed, and the subtle image of the shroud became vivid. What could only be perceived faintly on the cloth became startlingly apparent in the negatives.

The experiments had begun in 1900 after Yves Delage, an agnostic, showed his friend Paul Vignon the photos that Pia had taken in 1898. Rene Colson and Armand Gautier soon joined them. These investigators performed tests until 1902, laboratory simulations, because permission had not been granted to used the actual shroud, that might either show the shroud to be a forgery or help substantiate claims supporting its authenticity. They tried creating a similar image on a comparable lined cloth by painting and dressing a body with chemicals and pressing the sheet against it, obtaining similar photographic negatives from other linen cloth images; they analyzed the wounds and scourge marks and their arrangements on photographs of the shroud, and compared them to damage that might be inflicted by actual ancient weapons and a crucifixion; they studied simulations of blood staining and clotting on the cloth and made chemical test. These men approached the shroud legend with great skepticism, but their investigations convinced they were dealing with an artifact of history and that the shroud was indeed a burial cloth.

Some mysteries of the shroud may never be solved, making it difficult for some to reject the Shroud of Turin as a fake, but allowing other to continue to venerate it as an authentic holy object.

© High Speed Ventures 2011