THE SHROUD OF TURIN
A possible explanation on how the shroud could have been
created during medieval times
One explanation of the Shroud's manufacturing process:
In our love affair with the number two, many people allow
only two alternative explanations for the Shroud: either the shroud dates back to 1st century CE Palestine, or it
is a forgery. The overlook the third possibility: that it was created by an
artist as a religious image, an icon.
Many scientists have accepted the Carbon-14 dating
measurements as proof of a 13th or
14th century origin of the linen.
But they have failed miserably in their attempts to explain how the image was
created by a medieval forger or religious artist:
||They have not found a way whereby a forger/artist could have painted the image of a
man on linen without leaving visible brush strokes.
||They have been unsuccessful in
explaining how a negative image of a man could be created on cloth, centuries before
photographic were discovered. Even today, there is no method by which an artist
can paint a credible negative image. N.D. Wilson, managing editor of
Credenda/Agenda magazine and a Fellow of
Literature at New St. Andrews College, points out that "The production
of a photo negative by an artist is so counter intuitive to our nature and
experience that professional artists cannot even accurately make a copy of a
negative that sits before them."
Believers in a medieval origin for the shroud need an explanation of
how an image could have been produced, using processes, techniques and materials available
to a person in the 13th or 14th
century. Wilson likened the problem to that of the Gordian knot -- a knot that
allegedly cannot be undone, except by cutting a thread. He also draws an analogy
to the Roman astronomer Ptolomy's system of planetary motion which grew to
involve an immensely complex system of epicircles built upon epicircles. It
collapsed when Copernicus' theory of a sun-centered solar system was suggested.
1 The latter was a simple
concept which was a much better fit to all of the observations.
Wilson appears to have had a flash of intuition about the Shroud. He found a
possible method that did not involve an artist painting the image on linen at
all. It involved simply painting an ordinary image on glass with ordinary paints,
and using sunlight to transfer the image to a piece of linen. !
Wilson suggests a relatively simple process:
||A medieval artist painted a positive image of a crucified man onto a piece of glass using
white paint. This would not have been a difficult for a person in the 13th or 14th
century. "...windows with figurative scenes are known from St. Remi in Reims
from around the year 1000." 2
||The piece of glass was placed over the linen material which he assumes
was relatively dark in color.
||The sun bleached most of the linen surface whiter, leaving a darker
color in those areas protected by the painted image. "Whatever had been
painted white would remain dark beneath, while what had been left dark would
||The sun would bleach the linen over a range of angles as the sun
apparently moved across the sky. This could be about a 180º
span from sunrise to sunset if the linen and glass was simply laid out on
the ground. Or it could be a lesser angle if the linen and glass were only
exposed for a few hours every day. This would blur the image, eliminating
any visible brush strokes and softening the image.
||The cloth was then inverted and its back fully
exposed to the sun to bleach it thoroughly.
Someone during medieval times could have
accidentally found a piece of dirty glass placed on top of a piece of paper or a
cloth and exposed to the sun. The resultant image could have suggested the avove
process as a method by which a religious image could be created on linen.
Wilson actually tried to duplicate this process. He comments: "Sitting and
looking at photos of my own faux shrouds lying next to photos of the original,
it is obvious, to my eyes at least, that my production is far inferior. Mine is
a photo negative. It is a photo negative that looks vaguely human. But it lacks
some of the finesse of the original....But the principle has been demonstrated.
A painting on glass produces a photo negative." Presumably, further
experimentation will produce a better simulation of the Shroud's image.
One explanation for some of the details of the image:
There are two features of the Shroud image which have seemed difficult to
||The image clearly shows that a nails used to attach one of the the
victim's arms to the crosspiece penetrated his wrist and not his palm. |
The Bible states that Jesus' hands -- not his wrists -- were nailed to the cross:
||Luke 24:39-40: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself:
handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me
have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his
||John 20:20: "And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his
hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the
||John 20:25-27: "...Except I shall see in his hands the print of
the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my
hand into his side, I will not believe....Then saith he to Thomas, Reach
hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and
thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing."
Ancient and medieval religious artists presumably followed these texts
when they created images and sculptures of the crucifixion. Their artwork
universally showed Jesus' palms as being penetrated by the nails. This is common
even today. It is only
in more recent times that physicians have realized that the weight of a body
would would rip open the flesh if the nail went through the palm. The hand
would pull free. The nails had to go through the gap between the wrist bones
-- the radius and ulna -- in order to be able to bear the weight of a
The shroud painting shows a hole in one wrist with an intact hand. The
other wrist is not visible. How would a medieval forger or artist have known
this? Wilson suggests that simple experimentation would suffice. The need to
nail the victim in place through his wrists would be quickly found. He
writes: "It only requires a willingness to commit murder and a bit of
poking around." He further suggests that Knights Templar could
have beaten and crucified a Jew as an experiment. The army of Crusaders
exterminated many tens of thousands of Jews. The life of a Jew or Muslim was not
particularly important in those times.
||It was only in 1930 that Dr. Pierre Barbet, a French physician, found
that when a nail penetrated a person's wrist, the thumb contracted and
pulled into the palm. The Shroud shows this: no thumbs can be seen; they are
pulled out of view. How would a medieval forger or artist know this?
Again, actual experimentation on a living victim could have revealed the
Focus on the Family,
a fundamentalist Christian activist group reports that scholar Daniel Porter
regards the Shroud of Turin to be genuine. He concludes that Wilson's technique
lacks scientific credibility. Porter said: "You cannot create the image
that's on the shroud with the sun, You can create an image that looks like it,
that has one or two visual characteristics of the image, but if you were to look
through a microscope, it is not like the image on the shroud." 4
"Motion (epicircles = WRONG!!)," University of California, at:
Hartmut Schäfer, "How were stained glass
N.D. Wilson, "Father Brown Fakes the Shroud: Start with a piece of glass
and some white oil paint," Books & Culture, 2005-MAR/APR. See:
Steve Jordahl, "Biblical Artifact Once Again Under Scrutiny," Family
News in Focus, 2005-APR-01, at:
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2005-FEB-09
Latest update: 2005-FEB-09
Author: B.A. Robinson