Shroud of Turin

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Religious disputes

The first photo of the Shroud of Turin, taken in 1898. It had the surprising feature that the image on the negative was clearer than the positive image.[citation needed]
The first photo of the Shroud of Turin, taken in 1898. It had the surprising feature that the image on the negative was clearer than the positive image.

The Shroud of Turin (or Turin Shroud) is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have been physically traumatized in a manner consistent with crucifixion. It is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. It is believed by many to be the cloth placed on Jesus of Nazareth at the time of his burial.

The image on the shroud is much clearer in black-and-white negative than in its natural sepia colour. The striking negative image was first observed on the evening of May 28, 1898 on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral. According to Pia, he almost dropped and broke the photographic plate from the shock of seeing an image of a person on it.

The shroud is the subject of intense debate among some scientists, people of faith, historians, and writers regarding where, when, and how the shroud and its images were created. From a religious standpoint, in 1958 Pope Pius XII approved of the image in association with the Roman Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, celebrated every year on Shrove Tuesday. Some believe the shroud is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was placed in his tomb and that his image was recorded on its fibers at or near the time of his alleged resurrection. Skeptics, on the other hand, contend the shroud is a medieval forgery; others attribute the forming of the image to chemical reactions or other natural processes.

Various tests have been performed on the shroud, yet the debates about its origin continue. Radiocarbon dating in 1988 by three independent teams of scientists yielded results published in Nature indicating that the shroud was made during the Middle Ages, approximately 1300 years after Jesus lived. Claims of bias and error in the testing were raised almost immediately, and were answered by Harry E. Gove or others. Yet the dating controversy has continued. Follow-up analysis published in 2005, for example, claimed that the sample dated by the teams was taken from an area of the shroud that was not a part of the original cloth. This analysis itself is questioned by skeptics such as Joe Nickell, who reason that the conclusions of the author, Raymond Rogers, result from "starting with the desired conclusion and working backward to the evidence". Former Nature editor Philip Ball has said that the idea that Rogers steered his study to a preconceived conclusion is "unfair" and Rogers "has a history of respectable work".

However, the 2008 research at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit may revise the 1260–1390 dating toward which it originally contributed, leading its director Christopher Ramsey to call the scientific community to probe anew the authenticity of the Shroud. "With the radiocarbon measurements and with all of the other evidence which we have about the Shroud, there does seem to be a conflict in the interpretation of the different evidence" Christopher Ramsey said to BBC News in 2008, after the new research emerged. Despite keeping an open mind, Ramsey has stressed that he would be surprised if the 1988 tests were shown to be far off, let alone "a thousand years wrong."


Secondo Pia's negative of the image on the Shroud of Turin has an appearance suggesting a positive image.
Secondo Pia's negative of the image on the Shroud of Turin has an appearance suggesting a positive image.

The shroud is rectangular, measuring approximately 4.4 × 1.1 m (14.3 × 3.7 ft). The cloth is woven in a three-to-one herringbone twill composed of flax fibrils. Its most distinctive characteristic is the faint, yellowish image of a front and back view of a naked man with his hands folded across his groin. The two views are aligned along the midplane of the body and point in opposite directions. The front and back views of the head nearly meet at the middle of the cloth. The views are consistent with an orthographic projection of a human body, but see Analysis of the image as the work of an artist.

The "Man of the Shroud" has a beard, moustache, and shoulder-length hair parted in the middle. He is muscular, and tall (various experts have measured him as from 1.75 m, or roughly 5 ft 9 in, to 1.88 m, or 6 ft 2 in). For a man of the first century (the time of Jesus' death), or of the Middle Ages (the time of the first uncontested report of the shroud's existence and the proposed time of a possible forgery), these figures present an above-average height. Reddish brown stains that have been said to include whole blood are found on the cloth, showing various wounds that correlate with the yellowish image, the pathophysiology of crucifixion, and the Biblical description of the death of Jesus:

  • one wrist bears a large, round wound, apparently from piercing (the second wrist is hidden by the folding of the hands)
  • upward gouge in the side penetrating into the thoracic cavity, a post-mortem event as indicated by separate components of red blood cells and serum draining from the lesion
  • small punctures around the forehead and scalp
  • scores of linear wounds on the torso and legs claimed to be consistent with the distinctive dumbbell wounds of a Roman flagrum.
  • swelling of the face from severe beatings
  • streams of blood down both arms that include blood dripping from the main flow in response to gravity at an angle that would occur during crucifixion
  • no evidence of either leg being fractured
  • large puncture wounds in the feet as if pierced by a single spike
More recent photo of the face, positive left, negative right. Note: Negative has been flipped to facilitate point-by-point comparison.
More recent photo of the face, positive left, negative right. Note: Negative has been flipped to facilitate point-by-point comparison.

Other physical characteristics of the shroud include the presence of large water stains, and from a fire in 1532, burn holes and scorched areas down both sides of the linen due to contact with molten silver that burned through it in places while it was folded. Some small burn holes that apparently are not from the 1532 event are also present. In places, there are permanent creases due to repeated foldings, such as the line that is evident below the chin of the image.

On May 28, 1898, amateur Italian photographer Secondo Pia took the first photograph of the shroud and was startled by the negative in his darkroom. Negatives of the image give the appearance of a positive image, which implies that the shroud image is itself effectively a negative of some kind. Magician and paranormal skeptic Joe Nickell, however, notes that: "it's not a true photographic negative. The hair and beard are white in the positive image. Unless Jesus was an albino, there's a problem there."

Image analysis by scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory found that rather than being like a photographic negative, the image unexpectedly has the property of decoding into a 3-D image of the man when the darker parts of the image are interpreted to be those features of the man that were closest to the shroud and the lighter areas of the image those features that were farthest. This is not a property that occurs in photography, and researchers could not replicate the effect when they attempted to transfer similar images using techniques of block print, engravings, a hot statue, and bas-relief.


Possible history before the 14th century: The Image of Edessa

This 10th-century image shows Abgarus of Edessa displaying the Image of Edessa. The oblong cloth shown here is unusual for depictions of the image, leading some to suggest that the artist was influenced by seeing the Shroud.
This 10th-century image shows Abgarus of Edessa displaying the Image of Edessa. The oblong cloth shown here is unusual for depictions of the image, leading some to suggest that the artist was influenced by seeing the Shroud.

According to the Gospel of John ( John 20:5-7), the Apostle Peter and the "beloved disciple" entered the sepulchre of Jesus, shortly after his resurrection — of which they were still unaware—and found the "linen clothes" that had wrapped his body and "the napkin, that was about his head."

There are numerous reports of Jesus' burial shroud, or an image of his head, of unknown origin, being venerated in various locations before the fourteenth century. However, none of these reports has been connected with certainty to the current cloth held in the Turin cathedral. Except for the Image of Edessa, none of the reports of these (up to 43) different "true shrouds" was known to mention an image of a body.

The Image of Edessa was reported to contain the image of the face of Jesus and its existence is reported since the sixth century. Some have suggested a connection between the Shroud of Turin and the Image of Edessa. No legend connected with that image suggests that it contained the image of a beaten and bloody Jesus. It was said to be an image transferred by Jesus to the cloth in life. This image is generally described as depicting only the face of Jesus, not the entire body. Proponents of the theory that the Edessa image was actually the shroud, led by Ian Wilson, theorize that it was always folded in such a way as to show only the face.

Ian Wilson, under 'Reconstructed Chronology of the Turin Shroud' recounts that the 'Doctrine of Addai' mentions a 'mysterious portrait' in connection with the healing of Abgar V. A similar story is recorded in Eusebius' 'History of the Church' bk 1, ch 13, which does not mention the portrait.

Three principal pieces of evidence are cited in favour of the identification with the shroud. John Damascene mentions the image in his anti- iconoclastic work On Holy Images, describing the Edessa image as being a "strip," or oblong cloth, rather than a square, as other accounts of the Edessa cloth hold. However, in his description, John still speaks of the image of Jesus' face when he was alive.

This image from a Hungarian manuscript dates from 1192 to 1195. Shroud proponents cite it as evidence for the shroud's existence before the fourteenth century, citing an L-shaped patch near the hands, which would correspond to four burn holes in the relic. Also, the weave of the cloth in the lower panel suggests to them the unusual weave of the shroud.
This image from a Hungarian manuscript dates from 1192 to 1195. Shroud proponents cite it as evidence for the shroud's existence before the fourteenth century, citing an L-shaped patch near the hands, which would correspond to four burn holes in the relic. Also, the weave of the cloth in the lower panel suggests to them the unusual weave of the shroud.

On the occasion of the transfer of the cloth to Constantinople in 944, Gregory Referendarius, archdeacon of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, preached a sermon about the artifact. This sermon had been lost, but was rediscovered in the Vatican Archives and translated by Mark Guscin PDF (187  KiB) in 2004. This sermon says that this Edessa cloth contained not only the face, but a full-length image, which was believed to be of Jesus. The sermon also mentions bloodstains from a wound in the side. Other documents have since been found in the Vatican library and the University of Leiden, Netherlands, confirming this impression. "Non tantum faciei figuram sed totius corporis figuram cernere poteris" (You can see not only the figure of a face, but [also] the figure of the whole body). ( In Italian) (Cf. Codex Vossianus Latinus Q69 and Vatican Library Codex 5696, p. 35.)

In 1203, a Crusader knight named Robert de Clari claims the cloth was among the countless relics in Constantinople: "Where there was the Shroud in which our Lord had been wrapped, which every Friday raised itself upright so one could see the figure of our Lord on it." However, the historians Madden and Queller describe this part of Robert's account as a mistake: Robert had actually seen or heard of the sudarium, the handkerchief of Saint Veronica (which also purportedly contained the image of Jesus), and confused it with the grave cloth (sindon). After the Fourth Crusade, in 1205, the following letter was sent by Theodore Angelos, a nephew of one of three Byzantine Emperors who were deposed during the Fourth Crusade, to Pope Innocent III protesting the attack on the capital. From the document, dated 1 August 1205: "The Venetians partitioned the treasures of gold, silver, and ivory while the French did the same with the relics of the saints and the most sacred of all, the linen in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death and before the resurrection. We know that the sacred objects are preserved by their predators in Venice, in France, and in other places, the sacred linen in Athens." ( Codex Chartularium Culisanense, fol. CXXVI (copia), National Library Palermo)

Unless it is the Shroud of Turin, then the location of the Image of Edessa since the 13th century is unknown.

Some historians suggest that the shroud was captured by the knight Otto de la Roche who became Duke of Athens, but that he soon relinquished it to the Knights Templar. It was subsequently taken to France, where the first known keeper of the Turin Shroud had links both to the Templars as well the descendants of Otto. Some speculate that the shroud could have been a major part of the famed 'Templar treasure' that treasure hunters still seek today.

The association with the Templars seems to be based on a coincidence of family names, especially since the Templars were a celibate order, and so unlikely to have (especially acknowledged) children. However, the location of the Shroud in the 13th-14th centuries is interesting, since the Frankish (French) contingent in 4th Crusade, which resulted in the sack of Constantinople, was led by Tibaut of Champagne. Lirey, the first known location of the Turin Shroud, is located in the territory of this Count.

14th century

The known provenance of the cloth now stored in Turin dates to 1357, when the widow of the French knight Geoffroi de Charny (said to be a descendant of Templar Geoffroy de Charney who was burned at the stake with Jacques de Molay) had it displayed in a church at Lirey, France (diocese of Troyes):

On 20 June, 1353, Geoffroy de Charny, Lord of Savoisy and Lirey, founded at Lirey in honour of the Annunciation a collegiate church with six canonries, and in this church he exposed for veneration the Holy Winding Sheet. Opposition arose on the part of the Bishop of Troyes, who declared after due inquiry that the relic was nothing but a painting, and opposed its exposition. Clement VI by four Bulls, 6 Jan., 1390, approved the exposition as lawful. In 1418 during the civil wars, the canons entrusted the Winding Sheet to Humbert, Count de La Roche, Lord of Lirey. Margaret, widow of Humbert, never returned it but gave it in 1452 to the Duke of Savoy. The requests of the canons of Lirey were unavailing, and the Lirey Winding Sheet is the same that is now exposed and honoured at Turin."

In the Museum Cluny in Paris, the coats of arms of this knight and his widow can be seen on a pilgrim medallion, which also shows an image of the Shroud of Turin.

During the fourteenth century, the shroud was often publicly exposed, though not continuously, because the bishop of Troyes, Henri de Poitiers, had prohibited veneration of the image. Thirty-two years after this pronouncement, the image was displayed again, and King Charles VI of France ordered its removal to Troyes, citing the impropriety of the image. The sheriffs were unable to carry out the order.

Full-length negative of the Shroud of Turin.
Full-length negative of the Shroud of Turin.

In 1389, the image was denounced as a fraud by Bishop Pierre D'Arcis in a letter to the Avignon Antipope Clement VII, mentioning that the image had previously been denounced by his predecessor Henri de Poitiers, who had been concerned that no such image was mentioned in scripture. Bishop D'Arcis continued, "Eventually, after diligent inquiry and examination, he discovered how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it, to wit, that it was a work of human skill and not miraculously wrought or bestowed." (In German: .) The artist is not named in the letter.

The letter of Bishop D'Arcis also mentions Bishop Henri's attempt to suppress veneration, but notes that the cloth was quickly hidden "for 35 years or so," thus agreeing with the historical details already established above. The letter provides an accurate description of the cloth: "upon which by a clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say, the back and the front, he falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Saviour Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb, and upon which the whole likeness of the Saviour had remained thus impressed together with the wounds which He bore."

Despite the pronouncement of Bishop D'Arcis, Antipope Clement VII (first antipope of the Western Schism) prescribed indulgences for pilgrimages to the shroud, so that veneration continued, though the shroud was not permitted to be styled the "True Shroud."

Alternative 14th century origins

In their novelThe Second Messiah by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas argue that the Shroud's image is that of the final Knights Templar leader, Jacques de Molay.

On Friday, 13 October 1307, the Templars were arrested by Philip the Fair under the authority of Pope Clement V. De Molay was nailed to a door and tortured but not killed, and his almost comatose body was wrapped in a cloth and left for 30 hours to recover. According to the hypothesis of Dr. Alan A. Mills in his article "Image formation on the Shroud of Turin," in Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 1995, vol. 20 No. 4, pp 319–326, convection currents from the lactic acid in de Molay's perspiration created the image. The image corresponds to what would have been produced by a volatile chemical if the intensity of the colour change were inversely proportional to the distance of the cloth from the body, and the slightly bent position accounts for the extension of the hands onto the thighs, something not possible if the body had been laid flat.

Further, according to Knight and Lomas, de Molay, and co-accused Geoffroy de Charney, were then cared for by brother Jean de Charney, whose family retained the shroud after de Molay's execution on 19 March 1314.

15th century

In 1418, Humbert of Villersexel, Count de la Roche, Lord of Saint-Hippolyte-sur-Doubs, moved the shroud to his castle at Montfort, Doubs, to provide protection against criminal bands, after he married Charny's granddaughter Margaret. It was later moved to Saint-Hippolyte-sur-Doubs. After Humbert's death, canons of Lirey fought through the courts to force the widow to return the cloth, but the parliament of Dole and the Court of Besançon left it to the widow, who traveled with the shroud to various expositions, notably in Liège and Geneva.

The widow sold the shroud in exchange for a castle in Varambon, France in 1453. Louis of Savoy, the new owner, stored it in his capital at Chambery in the newly built Saint-Chapelle, which Pope Paul II shortly thereafter raised to the dignity of a collegiate church. In 1464, the duke agreed to pay an annual fee to the Lirey canons in exchange for their dropping claims of ownership of the cloth. Beginning in 1471, the shroud was moved between many cities of Europe, being housed briefly in Vercelli, Turin, Ivrea, Susa, Chambery, Avigliana, Rivoli, and Pinerolo. A description of the cloth by two sacristans of the Sainte-Chapelle from around this time noted that it was stored in a reliquary: "enveloped in a red silk drape, and kept in a case covered with crimson velours, decorated with silver-gilt nails, and locked with a golden key."

16th century to present

This poster advertises the 1898 exhibition of the shroud.
This poster advertises the 1898 exhibition of the shroud.

In 1532, the shroud suffered damage from a fire in the chapel where it was stored. A drop of molten silver from the reliquary produced a symmetrically placed mark through the layers of the folded cloth. Poor Clare Nuns attempted to repair this damage with patches. Some have suggested that there was also water damage from the extinguishing of the fire. However, there is some evidence that the watermarks were made by condensation in the bottom of a burial jar in which the folded shroud may have been kept at some point. In 1578, the shroud arrived again at its current location in Turin. It was the property of the House of Savoy until 1983, when it was given to the Holy See.

In 1988, the Holy See agreed to a radiocarbon dating of the relic, for which a small piece from a corner of the shroud was removed, divided, and sent to laboratories. (More on the testing is seen below.) Another fire, possibly caused by arson, threatened the shroud on 11 April 1997, but fireman Mario Trematore was able to remove it from its heavily protected display case and prevent further damage. In 2002, the Holy See had the shroud restored. The cloth backing and thirty patches were removed. This made it possible to photograph and scan the reverse side of the cloth, which had been hidden from view. Using sophisticated mathematical and optical techniques, a ghostly part-image of the body was found on the back of the shroud in 2004. Italian scientists had exposed the faint imprint of the face and hands of the figure. The most recent public exhibition of the Shroud was in 2000 for the Great Jubilee. The next scheduled exhibition is in 2010.

The controversy

The origin of the relic is hotly disputed. Researchers have coined the term sindonology to describe its general study (from Greek σινδων—sindon, the word used in the Gospel of Mark to describe the type of cloth that Joseph of Arimathea bought to use as Jesus' burial cloth).

Possible means of image formation

The image on the cloth has many peculiar and closely studied characteristics PDF (114  KiB), for example, it is entirely superficial, not penetrating into the cloth fibers under the surface, so that the flax and cotton fibers are not colored; the image yarn is composed of discolored fibers placed side by side with non-discolored fibers so many striations appear. Thus the cloth is not simply dyed, though many other explanations, natural and otherwise, have been suggested for the image formation. Alone among published researchers, McCrone believed the entire image to be composed of pigment. However, this hypothesis was disproved after closer inspection showed that there was no more pigment particles on the image area than on the non-image area of the shroud. Other results have shown the image to be a discoloration, not a "coloration."

Miraculous formation

Many believers have hypothesized that the image on the shroud was produced by a side effect of the Resurrection of Jesus, purposely left intact as a rare physical aid to understanding and believing in Jesus' dual nature as man and God. Some have asserted that the shroud collapsed through the glorified body of Jesus, pointing to certain X-ray-like impressions of the teeth and the finger bones. Others assert that radiation streaming from every point of the revivifying body struck and discolored every opposite point of the cloth, forming the complete image through a kind of supernatural pointillism using inverted shades of blue-gray rather than primary colors.

Maillard reaction hypothesis

The Maillard reaction is a form of non-enzymatic browning involving an amino acid and a reducing sugar. The cellulose fibers of the shroud are coated with a thin carbohydrate layer of starch fractions, various sugars, and other impurities. In a paper entitled "The Shroud of Turin: an amino-carbonyl reaction may explain the image formation," R.N. Rogers and A. Arnoldi propose that amines from a recently deceased human body may have undergone Maillard reactions with this carbohydrate layer within a reasonable period of time, before liquid decomposition products stained or damaged the cloth. The gases produced by a dead body are extremely reactive chemically and within a few hours, in an environment such as a tomb, a body starts to produce heavier amines in its tissues such as putrescine and cadaverine. This raises questions, however, as to why the images (both ventral and dorsal views) are so photorealistic, and why they were not destroyed by later decomposition products. Removal of the cloth from the body within a short enough time frame would prevent exposure to these later decomposition products. It is worth noting, however, that the Maillard reaction is ordinarily observed as the browned parts of cooked foods, especially in broiled, grilled, or fried dishes, in which cases, the most superficial portions are subjected to high temperature (310 Fahrenheit/155 Celsius), low moisture conditions.


Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas (1997) claim that the image on the shroud is that of Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Templar, arrested for heresy at the Paris Temple by Philip IV of France on 13 October 1307. De Molay suffered torture under the auspices of the Chief Inquisitor of France, William Imbert. His arms and legs were nailed, possibly to a large wooden door. According to Knight and Lomas, after the torture De Molay was laid on a piece of cloth on a soft bed; the excess section of the cloth was lifted over his head to cover his front and he was left, perhaps in a coma, for perhaps 30 hours. They claim that the use of a shroud is explained by the Paris Temple keeping shrouds for ceremonial purposes.

De Molay survived the torture but was burned at the stake on 19 March 1314 together with Geoffroy de Charney, Templar preceptor of Normandy. De Charney's grandson was Jean de Charney who died at the battle of Poitiers. After his death, his widow, Jeanne de Vergy, purportedly found the shroud in his possession and had it displayed at a church in Lirey.

Knight and Lomas base their argument partly on the 1988 radiocarbon dating and Mills' 1995 research about a chemical reaction called auto-oxidation and they claim that their theory accords with the factors known about the creation of the shroud and the carbon dating results. The counter argument is that the Templars acquired the shroud upon one of the crusades and brought it to France where it remained a secret until Jean de Charney died.

Photographic image production

According to the art historian Nicolas Allen the image on the shroud was formed by a primitive photographic technique in the 13. century. Contrary to similar proposals by others, N. Allen denies the possibility that Leonardo da Vinci was in any way involved in production of the shroud. He rather maintains that techniques already available before the 14. century, as e.g described in the Book of Optics which was just in this time translated from Arabic into Latin, were sufficient for primitive photographic techniques and that people familiar with these techniques could be able to produce an image as found on the shroud. To demonstrate this, he has experimentally produced photographic images using only techniques available at that time. He described his results in his PhD Thesis , in papers published in several science journals, and in a book

Some suggest that there is a strong resemblance between this purported self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci and the Man of the Shroud.
Some suggest that there is a strong resemblance between this purported self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci and the Man of the Shroud.

Others have also proposed photographic techniques for producing the image in the Middle Ages. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince (1994) proposed that the shroud is perhaps the first ever example of photography, showing the portrait of its purported maker, Leonardo da Vinci. According to this hypothesis, the image was made with the aid of a " magic lantern," a simple projecting device, or by means of a camera obscura and light-sensitive silver compounds applied to the cloth.

Although Leonardo was born a century after the first documented appearance of the cloth, supporters of this hypothesis propose that the original cloth was an inferior fake, which was replaced with a superior hoax created by Leonardo. However, no contemporaneous reports indicate a sudden change in the quality of the image. The Turin Library holds a drawing of an old man that is widely but not universally accepted as a self-portrait by Leonardo. As the image depicts a man with a prominent brow and cheekbones and a beard, some consider that it resembles the image on the Shroud and have suggested that as part of a complex hoax, Leonardo may have placed his own portrait on the Shroud as the face of Jesus. There is however, no mention of this supposed resemblance in any known contemporary account, nor any reference to a connection between the Shroud and Leonardo.

There is also conjecture that he was commissioned by the royal family of Turin, with whom he was friends, to create a work which could return to Turin that which had been lost for so many years. Such notions, however, are conjectural and are not taken seriously by most academic scholars.


The technique used for producing the image is according to W. McCrone already described in an book about medieval painting published in 1847 by Charles Lock Eastlake ("Methods and Materials of Painting of the Great Schools and Masters"). Eastlake describes in the chapter "Practice of Painting Generally During the XIVth Century" a special technique of painting on linen using tempera paint which produces images with unusual transparent features which McCrone compares to the image on the shroud.

McCrone came to this conclusion by his research on the shroud the which began as a member of the STURP team. In 1977, a team of scientists selected by the Holy Shroud Guild developed a program of tests to conduct on the Shroud, designated the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). Anastasio Cardinal Ballestrero, the archbishop of Turin, granted permission, despite disagreement within the Church. The STURP scientists conducted their testing over five days in 1978. Walter McCrone, a member of the team, upon analyzing the samples he had, concluded in 1979 that the image is actually made up of billions of submicrometre pigment particles. The only fibrils that had been made available for testing of the stains were those that remained affixed to custom-designed adhesive tape applied to thirty-two different sections of the image. (This was done in order to avoid damaging the cloth.) According to McCrone, the pigments used were a combination of red ochre and vermillion tempera paint. The Electron Optics Group of McCrone Associates published the results of these studies in five articles in peer-reviewed journals: Microscope 1980, 28, 105, 115; 1981, 29, 19; Wiener Berichte uber Naturwissenschaft in der Kunst 1987/1988, 4/5, 50 and Acc. Chem. Res. 1990, 23, 77–83. STURP, upon learning of his findings, confiscated McCrone's samples, and brought in other scientists to replace him. In McCrone's words, he was "drummed out" of STURP and continued to defend the analysis he had performed, becoming a prominent proponent of the position that the Shroud is a forgery. As of 2004, no other scientists have been able to confirm or refute McCrone's results with independent experiments, simply because the Vatican refuses to cooperate.

Dr. John Heller and Dr. Alan Adler, the scientists whom STURP asked for a second opinion after McCrone's, examined the same samples as McCrone researched. They confirmed McCrone's result that the cloth contains iron oxide. However, they concluded, both due to the exceptional purity of the chemical and due to comparisons with other ancient textiles which showed that retting flax draws in iron, that the iron was not the source of the body image. McCrone's response to their analysis has been vehement and negative.

Other microscopic analysis of the fibers seems to indicate that the image is strictly limited to the carbohydrate layer, with no additional layer of pigment visible. Proponents of the position that the Shroud is authentic say that no known technique for hand application of paint could apply a pigment with the necessary degree of control on such a nano-scale fibrillar surface plane. Moreover, they claim the technical skill required to produce the photographic or near-photographic realism in the image on the Shroud would be impressive in any century, much less the twelfth or thirteenth. However, Renaissance painters have produced a number of photorealistic artworks.

In the television program "Decoding The Past: The Shroud of Turin," The History Channel reported the official finding of STURP that no pigments were found in the shroud image and multiple scientists asserted this conclusion on camera. No hint of controversy over this claim was suggested. The program stated that a NASA scientist organized STURP in 1976 (after being surprised to find depth-dimensional information encoded within the shroud image); no mention of the Holy Shroud Guild was made.

Solar masking, or "shadow theory"

In March 2005, N.D. Wilson, a literature instructor at New Saint Andrews College and amateur sindonologist, announced in an informal article in Books and Culture magazine that, inspired by an idea from G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories, he had made a near duplicate of the shroud image by exposing dark linen to the sun for ten days under a sheet of glass on which a positive face mask had been painted. The sun bleached white all of the dark linen except for the areas under the painted glass image, which remained dark. The dark image that remained on the linen was notable for its three dimensional rendering - similar to what is seen on the Shroud of Turin. This 3-D image was created by the composite of shadows cast by the painted glass face: as the sun moved from sunrise to sunset, the changing angle of light striking the painted glass produced a three dimensional image of the face on the cloth. His method, though admittedly crude and preliminary, has nonetheless attracted the attention of several sindonologists, notably the late Raymond Rogers of the original STURP team, and Antonio Lombatti, founder of the skeptical shroud journal Approfondimento Sindone. Wilson's method is notable because it does not require any conjectures about unknown medieval technologies and is compatible with claims that there is no pigment on the cloth. However, the experiment has not been repeated and the images have yet to face microscopic and chemical analysis. In addition, concerns have been raised about the availability or affordability of medieval glass large enough to produce the image and the method's compatibility with Fanti's claim that the original image is doubly superficial.

Using a bas-relief

Another hypothesis suggests that the Shroud may have been formed using a bas-relief sculpture. Researcher Jacques di Costanzo, noting that the Shroud image seems to have a three-dimensional quality, suggested that perhaps the image was formed using an actual three-dimensional object, like a sculpture. While wrapping a cloth around a life-sized statue would result in a distorted image, placing a cloth over a bas-relief would result in an image like the one seen on the shroud. To demonstrate the plausibility of his hypothesis, Costanzo constructed a bas-relief of a Jesus-like face and draped wet linen over the bas-relief. After the linen dried, he dabbed it with ferric oxide and gelatine mixture. The result was an image similar to that of the Shroud. The imprinted image turned out to be wash-resistant, impervious to temperatures of 250 C (482 F) and was undamaged by exposure to a range of harsh chemicals, including bisulphite which, without the help of the gelatine, would normally have degraded ferric oxide to the compound ferrous oxide. Similar results have been obtained by author Joe Nickell. Instead of painting, the bas-relief could also be heated and used to burn an image into the cloth.

Second Image on back of cloth

During restoration in 2002, the back of the cloth was photographed and scanned for the first time. The journal of the Institute of Physics in London published a peer-reviewed article PDF (1.52  MiB) on this subject on April 14, 2004. Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo of the University of Padua - Italy, are the authors. They describe an image on the reverse side, much fainter than that on the front, consisting primarily of the face and perhaps hands. Like the front image, it is entirely superficial, with coloration limited to the carbohydrate layer. The images correspond to, and are in registration with, those on the other side of the cloth. No image is detectable in the dorsal view of the shroud.

Supporters of the Maillard reaction theory point out that the gases would have been less likely to penetrate the entire cloth on the dorsal side, since the body would have been laid on a stone shelf. At the same time, the second image makes the electrostatic hypothesis probable because a double superficiality is typical of coronal discharge and the photographic hypothesis is somewhat less probable.

Analysis of the Shroud

Radiocarbon dating

In 1988, the Holy See agreed to permit six centers to independently perform radiocarbon dating on portions of a swatch taken from a corner of the shroud, but at the last minute they changed their minds and permitted only three research centers to undertake such analysis. The chosen laboratories at the University of Oxford, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, produced consistent results indicating that the analysed portion of the shroud dated from the 13th to 14th centuries (1260–1390). The scientific community had asked the Holy See to authorize more samples, including from the image-bearing part of the shroud, but this request was refused. One possible account for the reluctance is that if the image is genuine, the destruction of parts of it for purposes of dating could be considered sacrilege.

Chemical properties of the sample site

One argument against the results of the radiocarbon tests was made in a study by Anna Arnoldi of the University of Milan and Raymond Rogers, retired Fellow of the University of California Los Alamos National Laboratory. In an interview with Harry Gove, Gove acknowledges that bacterial contamination, which was unknown during the 1988 testing, would render the tests inaccurate. By ultraviolet photography and spectral analysis they determined that the area of the shroud chosen for the test samples differs chemically from the rest of the cloth. They cite the presence of Madder-root dye and aluminium-oxide mordant (a dye-fixing agent) specifically in that corner of the shroud and conclude that this part of the cloth was mended at some point in its history. Plainly, repairs would have utilized materials produced at or slightly before the time of repair, carrying a higher concentration of carbon-14 than the original artifact.

A 2000 study by Joseph Marino and Sue Benford, based on x-ray analysis of the sample sites, shows a probable seam from a repair attempt running diagonally through the area from which the sample was taken. These researchers conclude that the samples tested by the three labs were more or less contaminated by this repair attempt. They further note that the results of the three labs show an angular skewing corresponding to the diagonal seam: the first sample in Arizona dated to 1238, the second to 1430, with the Oxford and Swiss results falling in between. They add that the variance of the C-14 results of the three labs falls outside the bounds of the Pearson's chi-square test, so that some additional explanation should be sought for the discrepancy. To the contrary J.A.Christen applied a strong statistical test to the radiocarbon data and concludes that the given age for the shroud is form statistcal point of view correct

Microchemical tests also find traces of vanillin in the same area, unlike the rest of the cloth. Vanillin is produced by the thermal decomposition of lignin, a complex polymer and constituent of flax. This chemical is routinely found in medieval materials but not in older cloths, as it diminishes with time. The wrappings of the Dead Sea scrolls, for instance, do not test positive for vanillin.

These conclusions suggest that other samples, from a part of the shroud not mended or tampered with, would need to be tested in order to ascertain an accurate date for the shroud. Since the Vatican has refused to allow such testing, the age of the shroud remains uncertain.

Raymond Rogers' 20 January 2005 paper in the scientific journal Thermochimica Acta argues that the sample cut from the shroud in 1988 was not valid. Rogers concludes, based upon the vanillin loss, that the shroud is between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.

Rogers said: "The fact that vanillin cannot be detected in the lignin on shroud fibers, Dead Sea scrolls linen, and other very old linens indicate that the shroud is quite old. A determination of the kinetics of vanillin loss suggest the shroud is between 1300- and 3000-years old. Even allowing for errors in the measurements and assumptions about storage conditions, the cloth is unlikely to be as young as 840 years"

Skeptics contend that the carbon dating was accurate and that Rogers' study was flawed.

Bacterial residue

A team led by Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes, MD, adjunct professor of microbiology, and Stephen J. Mattingly, PhD, professor of microbiology at the University of Texas at San Antonio have expounded an argument involving bacterial residue on the shroud. There are examples of ancient textiles that have been grossly misdated, especially in the earliest days of radiocarbon testing. Most notable of these is mummy 1770 of the British Museum, whose bones were dated some 800 to 1000 years earlier than its cloth wrappings. The skewed results were thought to be caused by organic contaminants on the wrappings similar to those proposed for the shroud. Pictorial evidence dating from c. 1690 and 1842 indicates that the corner used for the dating and several similar evenly-spaced areas along one edge of the cloth were handled each time the cloth was displayed, the traditional method being for it to be held suspended by a row of five bishops. Wilson and others contend that repeated handling of this kind greatly increased the likelihood of contamination by bacteria and bacterial residue compared to the newly discovered archaeological specimens for which carbon-14 dating was developed. Bacteria and associated residue (bacteria by-products and dead bacteria) carry additional carbon-14 that would skew the radiocarbon date toward the present.

Harry E. Gove of the University of Rochester, the nuclear physicist who designed the particular radiocarbon tests used on the shroud in 1988, stated, "There is a bioplastic coating on some threads, maybe most." If this coating is thick enough, according to Gove, it "would make the fabric sample seem younger than it should be." Skeptics, including Rodger Sparks, a radiocarbon expert from New Zealand, have countered that an error of thirteen centuries stemming from bacterial contamination in the Middle Ages would have required a layer approximately doubling the sample weight. Because such material could be easily detected, fibers from the shroud were examined at the National Science Foundation Mass Spectrometry Centre of Excellence at the University of Nebraska. Pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry examination failed to detect any form of bioplastic polymer on fibers from either non-image or image areas of the shroud. Additionally, laser-microprobe Raman analysis at Instruments SA, Inc. in Metuchen, NJ, also failed to detect any bioplastic polymer on shroud fibers.

Detailed discussion of the carbon-dating

There are two books with detailed treatment of the Shroud's carbon dating, including not only the scientific issues but also the events, personalities and struggles leading up to the sample taking. The books offer opposite views on how the dating should have been conducted, and both are critical of the methodology finally employed. These books have been reviewed on

In Relic, Icon or Hoax? Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud (1996; ISBN 0750303980), Harry Gove provides an account with large doses of light humor and heavy vitriol. Particular scorn is poured on STURP (the US scientific team studying the Shroud) and Luigi Gonella, then scientific adviser to the Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Ballestrero. Gove describes in great detail the mammoth struggle between Prof Carlos Chagas, chairman of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and Cardinal Ballestrero, with Gove and Gonella as the main combatants from each side. He provides a detailed record of meetings, telephone conversations, faxes, letters and maneuvers. Gove initially accepted the dating as accurate, but in the epilogue notes that the bioplastic contamination theory seemed to have some evidence to support it.

The Rape of the Turin Shroud by William Meacham (2005; ISBN 1411657691) devotes 100 pages to the carbon dating. Meacham is also highly critical of STURP and Gonella, and also of Gove. He describes the planning process from a very different perspective (both he and Gove were invited along with 20 other scholars to a conference in Turin in 1986 to plan the C-14 protocol) and focuses on what he claims was the major flaw in the dating: taking only one sample from the corner of the cloth. Meacham reviews the main scenarios that have been proposed for a possibly incorrect dating, and claims that the result is a "rogue date" because of the sample location and anomalies. He points out that this situation could easily be resolved if the Church authorities would simply allow another sample to be dated, with appropriate laboratory testing for possible embedded contaminants.

Material historical analysis

Much recent research has centered on the burn holes and water marks. The largest burns certainly date from the 1532 fire (another series of small, round burns in an "L" shape seems to date from an undetermined earlier time), and it was assumed that the water marks were also from this event. However, in 2002, Aldo Guerreschi and Michele Salcito presented a paper PDF (526  KiB) at the IV Symposium Scientifique International in Paris stating that many of these marks stem from a much earlier time because the symmetries correspond more to the folding that would have been necessary to store the cloth in a clay jar (like cloth samples at Qumran) than to that necessary to store it in the reliquary that housed it in 1532.

According to textile expert Mechthild Flury-Lemberg of Hamburg, a seam in the cloth corresponds to a fabric found only at the fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea, which dated to the first century. The weaving pattern, 3:1 twill, is consistent with first-century Syrian design, according to the appraisal of Gilbert Raes of the Ghent Institute of Textile Technology in Belgium. Flury-Lemberg stated, "The linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin does not display any weaving or sewing techniques which would speak against its origin as a high-quality product of the textile workers of the first century." However, Joe Nickell notes that no examples of herringbone weave are known from the time of Jesus. The few samples of burial cloths that are known from the era are made using plain weave.

Biological and medical forensics

Details of crucifixion technique

The piercing of the wrists rather than the palms goes against traditional Christian iconography, especially that of the Middle Ages. Many modern scholars suggest that crucifixion victims were generally nailed through the wrists. A skeleton discovered recently in Israel shows that at least some were nailed between the radius and ulna. This was not common knowledge in the Middle Ages. Proponents of the shroud's authenticity contend that a medieval forger would have been unlikely to know this operational detail of an execution method almost completely discontinued centuries earlier.

Blood stains

There are several reddish stains on the shroud suggesting blood. McCrone (see above) identified these as containing iron oxide, theorizing that its presence was likely due to simple pigment materials used in medieval times. Other researchers, including Alan Adler, a chemist specializing in analysis of porphyrins, identified the reddish stains as type AB blood and interpreted the iron oxide as a natural residue of that chemical always found in red blood cells.

Drs. Heller and Adler further studied the dark red stains. Applying pleochroism, birefringence, and chemical analysis, they determined that, unlike the medieval artist’s pigment which contains iron oxide contaminated with manganese, nickel, and cobalt, the iron oxide on the shroud was relatively pure but later proven to be iron oxide resulting from blood stains (Heller, J.H., Adler, A.D. 1980). Dr. Adler then applied microspectrophotometric analysis of a "blood particle" from one of the fibrils of the shroud and identified hemoglobin (in the acid methemoglobin, which formed due to great age and denaturation). Further tests by Heller and Adler established, within claimed scientific certainty, the presence of porphyrin, bilirubin, albumin, and protein. Interestingly, when proteases (enzymes which break up protein within cells) were applied to the fibril containing the "blood," the blood dissolved from the fibril leaving an imageless fibril (Heller, J.H., and Adler, A.D. 1981). PDF (117  KiB). It is uncertain whether the blood stains were produced at the same time as the image, which Adler and Heller attributed to premature aging of the linen. Working independently with a larger sample of blood-containing fibrils, pathologist Pier Baima Bollone, after using immunochemistry, concurred with Heller and Adler's findings and identifies the blood as being from the AB blood group (Baima Bollone, P., La Sindone-Scienza e Fide 1981).

Joe Nickell notes that, unlike McCrone, Heller and Adler are neither forensic serologists nor pigment experts, nor are they experienced in detecting art forgeries. Nickell makes reference to the 1983 conference of the International Association for Identification where forensic analyst John E. Fischer demonstrated how results similar to Heller and Adler's could be obtained from tempera paint. Skeptics also cite other forensic blood tests whose results dispute the authenticity of the Shroud. "Forensic tests on the red stuff have identified it as red ocher and vermilion tempera paint." Even if blood is found, "it could be the blood of some 14th century person. It could be the blood of someone wrapped in the shroud, or the blood of the creator of the shroud, or of anyone who has ever handled the shroud, or of anyone who handled the sticky tape. But even if there were blood on the shroud, that would have no bearing on the age of the shroud or on its authenticity." Skeptics also note that the apparent blood flows on the shroud are unrealistically neat. Leading forensic pathologist Michael Baden observes that real blood never oozes in nice neat rivulets, it gets clotted in the hair. He concludes that "[h]uman beings don't produce this kind of pattern."

Pollen grains

Researchers of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported the presence of pollen grains in the cloth samples, showing species appropriate to the spring in Israel. However, these researchers, Avinoam Danin and Uri Baruch, were working with samples provided by Max Frei, a Swiss police criminologist who had previously been censured for faking evidence. Independent review of the strands showed that one strand out of the 26 provided contained significantly more pollen than the others, perhaps pointing to deliberate contamination.

Another item of note is that the olive trees surrounding Jerusalem would have been in full bloom at the time, meaning that there should have been a significant amount of olive tree pollen on the Shroud. However, there does not seem to be any at all. Others note that the Gospels themselves actually indicate, indirectly, that Passover that year occurred before the flowering of the fig trees (Mark 11.13).

The Israeli researchers also detected the outlines of various flowering plants on the cloth, which they say would point to March or April and the environs of Jerusalem, based on the species identified. In the forehead area, corresponding to the crown of thorns if the image is genuine, they found traces of Gundelia tournefortii, which is limited to this period of the year in the Jerusalem area. This analysis depends on interpretation of various patterns on the shroud as representing particular plants. Skeptics point out that the available images cannot be seen as unequivocal support for any particular plant species due to the generally indistinct "blobiness," even under powerful microscopes, of these tiny, spotty impressions.

Again, these pollen grains could have been lost when the Shroud was restored in June/July 2002, following an exhibition in 2000.

Another problem is that the Catholic veneration of the Shroud by the faithful probably involved touching it. Public display of the Shroud in the past may have contributed to its contamination not only by bacteria, as described above, but also by pollen and other air-borne plant material

Sudarium of Oviedo

In the northern Spanish city of Oviedo, there is a small bloodstained piece of linen that is also revered as one of the burial cloths of Jesus mentioned in John 20:7 as being found in the 'empty' tomb. John refers to a "Sudarium" (σουδαριον) that covered the head and the "linen cloth" or "bandages" (οθονιον—othonion) that covered the body. The Sudarium of Oviedo is traditionally held to be this cloth that covered the head of Jesus.

The Sudarium's existence and presence in Oviedo is well attested to since the eighth century and in Spain since the seventh century. Before these dates the location of the Sudarium is less certain, but some scholars trace it to Jerusalem in the first century.

Forensic analysis of the bloodstains on the shroud and the Sudarium suggest that both cloths could have covered the same head at nearly the same time. Based on the bloodstain patterns, the Sudarium would have been placed on the man's head while he was in a vertical position, presumably while still hanging on the cross. This cloth was then presumably removed before the shroud was applied.

A 1999 study by Mark Guscin, a member of the multidisciplinary investigation team of the Spanish Centre for Sindonology, investigated the relationship between the two cloths. Based on history, forensic pathology, blood chemistry (the Sudarium also is reported to have type AB blood stains), and stain patterns, he concluded that the two cloths covered the same head at two distinct, but close moments of time. Avinoam Danin (see above) concurred with this analysis, adding that the pollen grains in the Sudarium match those of the shroud.

Skeptics point out that the match with the Shroud is based on a polarized image overlay technique which they contend is subjective and unreliable. Further, they claim the argument about the pollen types is greatly weakened by the debunking of Danin's work on the shroud due to the possibly tampered-with sample he worked from. Pollen from Jerusalem could have followed any number of paths to find its way to the sudarium, and only indicates location, not the dating of the cloth.

Before 1998 the Sudarium was carbon dated at the seventh century by Professor Baima Bollone and more recently at around 700 AD (although the date is qualified by cautions about carbon dating processes).

Digital image processing

Using techniques of digital image processing, several additional details have been reported by scholars.

NASA researchers Jackson, Jumper, and Stephenson report detecting the impressions of coins placed on both eyes after a digital study in 1978. The coin on the right eye was claimed to correspond to a Roman copper coin produced in AD 29 and 30 in Jerusalem, while that on the left was claimed to resemble a lituus coin from the reign of Tiberius.

Greek and Latin letters were discovered written near the face (Piero Ugolotti, 1979). These were further studied by André Marion, professor at the École supérieure d'optique and his student Anne Laure Courage, graduate engineer of the École supérieure d'optique, in the Institut d'optique théorique et appliquée in Orsay (1997). On the right side they cite the letters ΨΣ ΚΙΑ. They interpret this as ΟΨ—ops "face" + ΣΚΙΑ—skia "shadow," though the initial letter is missing. This interpretation has the problem that it is grammatically incorrect in Greek, because "face" would have to appear in the genitive case. On the left side they report the Latin letters IN NECE, which they suggest is the beginning of IN NECEM IBIS, "you will go to death," and ΝΝΑΖΑΡΕΝΝΟΣ—NNAZARENNOS (a grossly misspelled "the Nazarene" in Greek). Several other "inscriptions" were detected by the researchers, but Mark Guscin PDF (14.4  KiB) (himself a shroud proponent) reports that only one is at all probable in Greek or Latin: ΗΣΟΥ. This is the genitive of "Jesus," but missing the first letter.

These claims are rejected by skeptics, because there is no recorded Jewish tradition of placing coins over the eyes of the dead and because of the spelling errors in the reported text. (Cf. Antonio Lombatti ) Guscin concurs with the skeptics who hold that these details are based on highly subjective impressions, much like the results of a Rorschach test.

Textual criticism

This image of the deposition from the cross, by Giulio Clovio, shows Jesus wrapped in a shroud like the Shroud of Turin.
This image of the deposition from the cross, by Giulio Clovio, shows Jesus wrapped in a shroud like the Shroud of Turin.

The Gospel of John is sometimes cited as evidence that the shroud is a hoax (or at least not the burial cloth of Jesus) because English translations typically use the plural word "cloths" or "clothes" for the covering of the body: "Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes [othonia] lie, and the napkin [Sudarium], that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself" (John 20:6–7, Bible">KJV). Shroud proponents hold that "linen clothes" refers to the Shroud of Turin, while the "napkin" refers to the Sudarium of Oviedo.

The Gospel of John also states, "Nicodemus . . . brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. They took the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury" (John 19:39–40, KJV). No traces of spices have been found on the cloth. Frederick Zugibe, a medical examiner, reports that the body of the man wrapped in the shroud appears to have been washed before wrapping. It would be odd for this to occur after the anointing, so some proponents have suggested that the shroud was a preliminary cloth that was then replaced before the anointing, because there was not enough time for the anointing due to the Sabbath. However, there is no empirical, or historical evidence to support these ideas. Some supporters suggest that the plant bloom images detected by Danin may be from herbs that were simply strewn over the body due to the lack of preparation time mentioned in the New Testament, with the visit of the women on Sunday thus presumed to be for the purpose of completing the anointing of the body. Since neither the gospels nor historical records mention this there is no way to confirm the hypothesis.

Analysis of the image as the work of an artist

Correspondence with Christian iconography

There are similarities between traditional icons of Jesus and the image on the shroud. This image shows the mosaic "Christ Pantocrator" from the church of Daphne in Athens.
There are similarities between traditional icons of Jesus and the image on the shroud. This image shows the mosaic " Christ Pantocrator" from the church of Daphne in Athens.

As a depiction of Jesus, the image on the shroud corresponds to that found throughout the history of Christian iconography. For instance, the Pantocrator mosaic at Daphne in Athens is strikingly similar. This suggests that the icons were made while the Image of Edessa was available, with this appearance of Jesus being copied in later artwork, and in particular, on the Shroud. Art historian W.S.A. Dale proposed (before the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud) that the Shroud itself was an icon created in the 11th century for liturgical use. In opposition to this viewpoint, the locations of the piercing wounds in the wrists on the Shroud do not correspond to artistic representations of the crucifixion before close to the present time. In fact, the Shroud was widely dismissed as a forgery in the 14th century for the very reason that the Latin Vulgate Bible stated that the nails had been driven into Jesus' hands and Medieval art invariably depicts the wounds in Jesus' hands.

Analysis of proportion

The man on the image is taller than the average first-century resident of Judaea and the right hand has longer fingers than the left, along with a significant increase of length in the right forearm compared to the left.

Analysis of optical perspective

Further evidence for the Shroud as an art object comes from what might be called the "Mercator projection" argument. The shroud in two dimensions presents a three-dimensional image projected onto a planar (two-dimensional) surface, just as in a photograph or painting. This perspective is consistent with both painting and image formation using a bas relief. A true burial shroud would have rested nearly cylindrically across the three-dimensional facial surface, if not more irregularly. The result would be an unnatural lateral distortion, a strong widening to the sides, in contrast to the kind of normal photographic image a beholder would expect, let alone the strongly vertically elongated image on the Shroud fabric.

This argument is disputed by the paper presented at PDF (385  KiB). Essentially, distortions can be small if the Shroud was not lying tight against the body. It is not explained, however, how the shroud could have gotten the details of the face if it wasn't lying tight against the body.

Variegated Images

Banding on the Shroud is background noise, which causes us to see the gaunt face, long nose, deep eyes, and straight hair. These features are caused by dark vertical and horizontal bands that go across the eyes. Using enhancement software ( Fourier transform filters), the effect of these bands can be minimized. The result is a more detailed version of the face.

The Shroud in the Catholic Church

Descent from the Cross with the Shroud of Turin. Painting by Giovanni Battista della Rovere, 16th century.
Descent from the Cross with the Shroud of Turin. Painting by Giovanni Battista della Rovere, 16th century.

Although the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano covered the story of Secondo Pia's photograph of May 28th 1898 in its June 15, 1898 edition, it did so with no comment and thereafter Church officials generally refrained from officially commenting on the photograph for almost half a century.

The first official connection between the image on the shroud and the Catholic Church was made in 1940 based on the formal request by Sister Maria Pierina De Micheli to the curia in Milan to obtain authorization to produce a medal with the image. The authorization was granted and the first medal with the image was offered to Pope Pius XII who approved the medal. The image was then used on what became known as the Holy Face Medal worn by many Catholics, initially as a means of protection during the Second World War. In 1958 Pope Pius XII approved of the image in association with the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, and declared its feast to be celebrated every year the day before Ash Wednesday.

In 1983 the Shroud was given to the Holy See by the House of Savoy. However, as with all relics of this kind, the Roman Catholic Church has made no pronouncements claiming it is Jesus' burial shroud, or that it is a forgery. As with other approved Catholic devotions, the matter has been left to the personal decision of the faithful, as long as the Church does not issue a future notification to the contrary. In the Church's view, whether the cloth is authentic or not has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of what Jesus taught. The late Pope John Paul II stated in 1998, "Since we're not dealing with a matter of faith, the church can't pronounce itself on such questions. It entrusts to scientists the tasks of continuing to investigate, to reach adequate answers to the questions connected to this shroud." He showed himself to be deeply moved by the image of the shroud and arranged for public showings in 1998 and 2000. In his address at the Turin Cathedral on Sunday May 24th 1998 (the occasion of the 100th year of Secondo Pia's May 28th 1898 photograph), Pope John Paul II said: "... the Shroud is an image of God's love as well as of human sin" and "...The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death to one's fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age."

The restoration of 2002

In the winter of 2002, the Shroud was subjected to an aggressive restoration which shocked the worldwide community of Shroud researchers and was condemned by most. Authorized by the Archbishop of Turin as a beneficial conservation measure, this operation was based on the claim that the charred material around the burn holes was causing continuing oxidation which would eventually threaten the image. It has been labeled unnecessary surgery that destroyed scientific data, removed the repairs done in 1534 that were part of the Shroud's heritage, and squandered opportunities for sophisticated research.

Detailed comments on this operation were published by various Shroud researchers. In 2003, the principal restorer Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, a textile expert from Switzerland, published a book with the title Sindone 2002: L'intervento conservativo — Preservation — Konservierung ( ISBN 88-88441-08-5). She describes the operation and the reasons it was believed necessary. In 2005, William Meacham, an archaeologist who has studied the Shroud since 1981, published the book The Rape of the Turin Shroud ( ISBN 1-4116-5769-1) which is fiercely critical of the operation. He rejects the reasons provided by Flury-Lemberg and describes in detail what he calls "a disaster for the scientific study" of the relic.

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