The Shroud of Turin
Topics covered in this essay:
What do people believe the shroud to be?
There are about forty shrouds which have been alleged to be the true shroud
of Jesus. 1 Beliefs about the Shroud of Turin are seriously divided. Some of the options are:
||Relic: It may be the actual burial shroud of Yeshua of
Nazareth (Jesus Christ). This was described in Mark 15:46, Matthew
27:59, Luke 23:53, and John 19:40 as a clean linen cloth (or cloths) or shroud.
The word translated as "shroud" in English is
pronounced "sindón" in Greek or "sindone"
in Italian. The gospels explain that Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus,
wrapped it in linen and laid it in his unused tomb during the spring
of perhaps 30 CE.
||Historical artifact: It may be the burial shroud of another crucified man from the first
few centuries CE.
||Icon: It may be a work of art -- a religious icon which was
painted, perhaps in the 14th century, as a legitimate attempt to portray what
Jesus' shroud may have looked like. If this is the actual source of
the shroud, then it is likely to have been painted
shortly before 1353 CE. That is when the shroud is definitely known to
have been in
existence. It makes no sense to have created such a
masterpiece and then kept it hidden for decades.
||Fraud: It may be a pious counterfeit, also painted sometime before 1353 CE -- a forgery intended to
fool Christians into believing that they are looking at the actual
burial shroud of Jesus. If so, then the linen and image would probably
have been made shortly before 1353 CE.
The basic question being debated is whether the linen dates from the
early 1st century or mid 14th century CE. i.e. does it
date from the time of Jesus' execution or from approximately the time when the existence
of the shroud was first definitely known.
It is kept at the Roman Catholic Turin Cathedral in Italy where
it is displayed on rare intervals. Millions of believers come to Turin
when it is on exhibit.
History of the Shroud:
||Pre 14th century: There are ancient legends that
talk about an cloth called the Mandylion having being seen in Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey),
and later in Constantinople. This was alleged to contain the
imprint of Jesus' face. Some speculate that this might have been the Shroud
of Turin, folded so that just the front of the face was showing. The are stories about relics being
removed from Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) after the sack of
the city in 1204 by western Christians, during the Fourth Crusade, and transported to Europe. However,
these are unconfirmed.
||1353 CE: Geoffrey de Charny, a French knight, is known to
have been in possession of the shroud in the mid-14th century CE. 2 He
displayed it in a private chapel in Lirey, near Troyes in northeastern
||1389: " Pierre d'Archis, in a concerned letter to
Pope Clement VII, writes: 'the Shroud is a product of human
handicraft...a cloth cunningly painted by a man.' This is followed by
the Pope himself stating that the Shroud may still be displayed, but
only in the presence of a priest to announce to all present that, the
Shroud 'is not the true burial cloth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but
only a kind of painting or picture made as a form or representation of
the burial cloth." 3
An artist allegedly confessed to the Bishop of
Troyes, Henri of Poitiers, that he had painted the shroud. 4
||15th century: Margaret de Charny gave the shroud to the House
of Savoy. It was initially kept in a chapel at Chambéry, France.
||1532: The shroud was was partly damaged by a fire on
The shroud was stored in a silver casket. Drops of melted silver
burned through one edge of the folded shroud. The burn marks were
||1578: It was taken to Turin, where it has remained to the present time.
||1598: The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud and the Blessed
Virgin of the Graces was founded. One purpose of the Brotherhood
was to spread knowledge of the shroud among Christian believers.
||1898: Photographs were first taken of the shroud. The
amateur photographer was Secondo Pia. His camera is on display in
||1931: The shroud was displayed to the public for the
first time in the 20th century. Giuseppe Enrie took a second set of
||1933: The shroud was again shown publicly.
||1939:The shroud was temporarily stored in
the Abbey of Montevergine to protect it from damage during World War
||1951: The Cultores Sanctae Sindonis association was founded. It is an offshoot of the Brotherhood.
||1959: The Cultores Sanctae Sindonis was
renamed the International Centre of Sindonology. "Sindone"
is Italian for "shroud."
||1969: A commission of experts was appointed by Cardinal
Michele Pellegrino to examine the shroud. They view and photograph
the shroud, but do not test it.
||1972: A criminal broke into the Chapel and unsuccessfully
tried to set fire to the Shroud.
||1973: The shroud is shown for the first time on television.
||1973: The shroud is examined in secret by a group of
experts. Samples of the linen itself and of surface dust are taken.
||1978: After the public display of the shroud, during an interval of 120 hours, 44 Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) researchers from
the U.S. conducted tests on the shroud, using photography, X-rays,
ultraviolet light. More surface material is removed. A sample of the
linen with a red stain is removed.
||1983: At the death of the owner of the shroud, Umberto
II, it became the property of the Holy See.
||1988: The age of samples of the linen was estimated independently
Carbon-14 dating method on multiple samples in multiple
laboratories. The findings date the shroud to the early to mid
14th century -- the approximate time when its
existence first was
||1989: During an interview by journalists, Pope John Paul II
described the Shroud as an authentic relic. He added that "The
Church has never pronounced on the matter."
||1990: The Vatican commented that the Carbon-14 results
were "strange"; they called for further testing.
||1992: The shroud is examined by five textile experts; no
samples were taken.
||1997: There was a fire in the chapel where the shroud is
kept. The cloth was rescued by a fireman before it was damaged.
||1998: Two million pilgrims visit the shroud during an
||1999: "An article in the Franfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ),
a major newspaper in Frankfurt, Germany, announces the discovery of a
previously unknown, precise copy of the Shroud of Turin in the West
Bohemian Benedictine Monastery at Broumov, Czechloslovakia. The copy
is accompanied by a letter of authenticity signed by the Archbishop of
Turin," dated 1651-MAY-4. 5
||2000: The shroud was on public display for ten weeks: AUG-12
||2025: This is the expected date of the next public showing
of the shroud.
What is on the linen?:
There are four types of known "traces imprinted on the Shroud,"
and some controversial markings:
||Fire marks: These were left by the fire of 1532. There are two
scorch marks: dark parallel lines where the fabric was folded. There are
also 29 triangular linen patches which were added in 1534. They cover the holes
burned into the fabric by drops of molten silver from the casket.
||Water stains: These are lozenge-shaped stains left by the water that was used
to extinguish the 1532 fire.
||The image of a human figure: A negative image of a male about 180
cm tall (5 ', 11").
||Red marks: Unlike the image of the figure, the marks
resemble a positive likeness of blood, not negative (like the rest of
the image). There have been a number of tests on these marks:
||In "...1978 Pierluigi Baima Bollone, the present
Director of the International Centre of Sindonology, identified
some threads taken from the so- called 'bloodstains' of the Shroud
as being first of all traces of blood, which he later confirmed as
being human blood, and finally as belonging to the AB group...The
STURP scientists confirmed the presence of traces of blood. By
means of a complex series of tests...they confirmed the absolute
absence of pigments and dyes on the Shroud." 6,8 This sounds very strange, because dried blood is not red in
color. Joe Nickell, an expert skeptic of religious miracles, writes that "batteries of analyses
conducted by internationally known forensic serologists"
concluded that the stains were not blood. They were "conclusively
proven to be red ocher and vermilion tempera paint." 4 "Walter McCrone, who was one of the researchers who directly and physically
subjected the Shroud to prolonged and intensive micro-analysis, found that,
indeed, there was paint on the Shroud! In fact, he defined the specific paints
used, which turned out to be consistent with the both the paint pigmentation and
style used the 14th century." He found that the red marks contained red ocher and vermilion tempera paint. Both are
materials were use by artists during the 14th century CE. Actually, he did not subject the shroud
to direct microscopic analysis; he examined the particles attached
to sticky tape samples obtained by STURP researchers in 1987.
[Author's note: These results are amazing.
Some researchers claim that the stains are blood and even
determine the blood type. Another researcher claims that the
stains are paint and even determines the pigmentation and style to
be from the 14th century. Somebody is either incompetent, lying,
The answer to this conflict lies in replication
-- a rare practice in shroud investigations, with the exception of
the Carbon-14 dating.
||An image of a second face, and perhaps hands: The underside
of the shroud has been rarely discussed. It was hidden by a piece of
cloth sewn on by nuns in 1534, and was closely examined in modern times
only in 2002 when the additional cloth was removed during the shroud's
restoration. Photographs were taken at that time. Giulio Fanti,
professor of mechanical and thermic measurements at Padua University
comments: "I was caught by the perception of a faint image on the
back surface of the shroud. I thought that perhaps there was much more
that wasn't visible to the naked eye." He and a colleague, Roberto
Manniolo, used sophisticated image-processing techniques that can
extract pictures from background "noise," They were able to detect a
nose, eyes, hair, beard and moustache; they may also have detected a set
of hands. The new image is not a duplicate of the image on the front of
the cloth. For example, the nose on the reverse side shows the same
extension of both nostrils; that on the front side shows the right
nostril as less evident.
||Other items: Various investigators, working from photographs,
believe that they have seen a 1st century coin above one of the
eyes of the figure. Some have seen flowers, inscriptions, the inscriptions
"Jesus" and "Nazareth" and a spear-tip.
Others have looked at the same photograph and have detected
nothing. Ian Wilson, long a passionate believer that the linen is
Jesus' shroud, commented "While there can be absolutely no doubting the
sincerity of those who make these claims, the great danger of such
arguments is that the researchers may 'see' merely what their minds
trick them into thinking is there." 7
- Barry Karr, "Review of Evidence
Confirms Shroud of Turin Is a Forgery," Religious News Service, at: http://www.religionnews.com/
- G. R. Lavoie, "Unlocking the Secrets of the Shroud,"
Thomas More, (1998). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- Bruce Monson, "Oh what a tangled web we weave," Review of
Ian Wilson, "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's
Most Sacred Relic is Real." Review is online at: Amazon.com
- Joe Nickell, "Blooming 'Shroud' Claims," Skeptical
Inquirer magazine, 1999-NOV/DEC issue, Page 22-23.
- "Shroud History," http://www.shroud.com/history.htm
"Science," at: http://sindone.torino.chiesacattolica.it/
- Ian Wilson, The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's
Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster, (1998). Read
reviews or order this book
- Fr. William Saunders, "Shroud's Scientific Research (Part 2 of 4),"
- Charles Arthur, "Scientists find another face on reverse side of
Turin shroud: Scientists debate meaning and origin of image on little-see
back surface of shroud," The Independent. Online at: http://www.beliefnet.com/
Copyright © 1999 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1999-NOV-18
Latest update: 2005-MAR-08
Author: B.A. Robinson