The shroud of Turin is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man who had apparently died of crucifixion. Most Catholics consider it to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. It is currently held in the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. Despite many scientific investigations, no one has yet been able to explain how the image has been imprinted on the shroud and despite many attempts, no one has managed to replicate it. Radiocarbon tests date it to the middle ages, however apologists for the shroud believe it is incorrupt – and carbon dating can only date things which decay.Prior to the middle ages, reports of the shroud exist as the Image of Edessa – reliably reported since at least the 4th century. In addition, another cloth (the Sudarium) known even from biblical times (John 20:7) exists which is said to have covered Christ’s head in the tomb. A 1999 study by Mark Guscin, a member of the multidisciplinary investigation team of the Spanish Center 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 (a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) concurred with this analysis, adding that the pollen grains in the Sudarium match those of the shroud.
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Believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, but held only as a religious article of historical significance by skeptics, the Shroud of Turin has captivated scholars and scientists alike due to its mysterious nature. New DNA tests add to the body of research that only serves to highlight the strange, unexplained origins of the shroud.
The cloth, a pale sheet of woven fabric approximately 14-feet (4.5 meters) –long, might be considered unremarkable save for the distinctive reddish-brown markings on its front and back. The image of a prone man with hands folded can be made out on the cloth, with both the front and back views of the head meeting neatly at the middle of the sheet, suggesting it was folded over the front and back of a naked body in death. Countless horrible wounds to the body are revealed through the images on the fabric, from slashes to gouges, piercings and welts. These images strongly indicate to proponents the evidence of crucifixion and the Biblical description of the death of Jesus.
Historical record can place the shroud in the late 1300s. Scholars debate its existence previous to 1390, describing the period before that as “very murky territory.” Even during the middle ages there was disagreement over authenticity of the cloth, with written claims at the time between church officials suggesting it was a forgery. However, historians raise the possibility that several such ‘shrouds’ were making the rounds at the time, and forgery claims might have had nothing to do with the cloth found today in the cathedral in Turin, Italy.
Since the 15 th century, the existence of that shroud is well documented. It was deeded to the House of Savoy in Italy in 1453, and suffered damage in a fire. Patches and repair-work have been done at various times on the artifact. It was set in a chapel in the 17 th century, but it wasn’t until 200 years later that it was put on public display, and first photographed.
It was these photographs which elevated the cloth from relic to sensation. The photos were not remarkable in and of themselves, until viewed in the reverse negative, whereupon a detailed image of a wounded, bearded man became clearly visible. It had previously been suspected that the stains and images were painted on the linen by an artist at some point in its history, but the discovery of the detailed body image found embedded within the fabric drastically rewrote theories, and convinced many that the images were made through contact with an actual human corpse. Some Christians believe the image was transferred from Jesus’ body onto the cloth with a release of “divine light” or energy upon his resurrection.
A poster advertising the 1898 exhibition of the shroud in Turin. Secondo Pia's photograph was taken a few weeks too late to be included in the poster. The image on the poster includes a painted face, not obtained from Pia's photograph. ( Public Domain ) If this was indeed the death shroud which encased the body of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, that would date the cloth to 30 AD, the biblical date of the death of Jesus. However, this dating is at odds with later historical record, as well as the modern scientific research on the artifact.
"All empirical evidence and logical reasoning concerning the shroud of Turin will lead any objective, rational person to the firm conclusion that the shroud is an artifact created by an artist in the fourteenth-century."
The "shroud" of Turin is a woven cloth about 14 feet long and 3.5 feet wide with an image of a man on it. Actually, it has two images, one frontal and one rear, with the heads meeting in the middle. It has been noted that if the shroud were really wrapped over a body there should be a space where the two heads meet. It has also been noted that there is a space where the front and back of the head meet, and that what appears to be the outline of the back of the head is a water stain. Some have noted that the head is 5% too large for its body, the nose is disproportionate, and the arms are too long. Others deny these claims. In any case, the image is believed by many to be a negative image of the crucified Jesus and the shroud is believed to be his burial shroud. Most skeptics think the image is not a burial shroud, but a painting and a pious hoax. The shroud is kept in the cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.
Apparently, the first historical mention of the shroud as the "shroud of Turin" is in the late 16th century when it was brought to the cathedral in that city, though it was allegedly discovered in Turkey during one of the so-called "Holy" Crusades in the so-called "Middle" Ages. In 1988, the Vatican allowed the shroud to be dated by three independent sources--Oxford University, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology--and each of them dated the cloth as originating in medieval times, around 1350.
The shroud allegedly was in a fire during the early part of the 16th century and, according to believers in the shroud's authenticity, that is what accounts for the carbon dating of the shroud as being no more than 650 years old. To non-believers, this sounds like an ad hoc hypothesis.
According to microchemist Dr. Walter McCrone,
The suggestion that the 1532 Chambery fire changed the date of the cloth is ludicrous. Samples for C-dating are routinely and completely burned to CO2 as part of a well-tested purification procedure. The suggestions that modern biological contaminants were sufficient to modernize the date are also ridiculous. A weight of 20th century carbon equaling nearly two times the weight of the Shroud carbon itself would be required to change a 1st century date to the 14th century (see Carbon 14 graph). Besides this, the linen cloth samples were very carefully cleaned before analysis at each of the C-dating laboratories.*
It may interest skeptics to know that many people of faith believe that there is scientific evidence which supports their belief in the shroud's authenticity. Of course, the evidence is limited almost exclusively to pointing out facts that would be true if the shroud were authentic. For example, it is claimed to be the negative image of a crucifixion victim. It is claimed to be the image of a man brutally beaten in a way which corresponds to the way Jesus is thought to have been treated. It is also claimed that the image is not a painting but a miraculously transposed image.