By indexer
176 days ago

The Turin Shroud

The debate continues about whether the Turin Shroud is genuine or not. Opinion is divided based in part on personal belief. Unfortunately it is impossible at present for science to settle the matter once and for all.

What is the Turin Shroud?

The Turin Shroud is a piece of linen cloth that has been in the possession of Turin Cathedral since 1578. The shroud is about fourteen feet long by four feet wide and it bears on it an image of the front and back of a man. The image is faint, and it shows up best when photographed and the negative image used. It then becomes clear that the man has suffered injuries consisted with those of Christ when he was crucified. The conclusion drawn by many people is that this is the cloth in which Christ’s body was wrapped when he was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea.

Obtaining proof

Efforts to prove the shroud to be either genuine or a fake have gone on for many years. In 1988 a fragment of the cloth was analysed and it was found that it was made at a date between 1260 and 1390. That seemed to settle the matter, especially as it placed the shroud in the medieval period when the production of religious fakes, for sale to gullible pilgrims and others, was being done on an almost industrial scale. It is estimated, for example, that at least forty shrouds were doing the rounds at one time, all of them claiming to be the genuine article but some being more obvious fakes than others.

However, the objection was then made that the piece of cloth that was analysed in 1988 could have been from an area of the shroud that had undergone repair in the 13th/14th century and that the rest of the cloth, especially the part bearing the image, was considerably older. Just to add to the argument in favour of the shroud being genuine, it has been shown that the weave of the cloth is consistent with the type used at the relevant time and place.

The clinching argument could be made either way if the analysis could extend to investigating how the image was imprinted on the cloth. However, the Vatican has never allowed this work to be done. Some people see this as suspicious – does the Vatican know that the shroud is a fake but does not want the outside world to find this out? Or is the motive merely one of wanting to protect the shroud and avoid any risk of damage?

The known history of the Shroud

Another line of enquiry is based on tracing the history of the shroud. If it could be proved that the artefact held at Turin has a provenance that goes back beyond the era of faked relics, that would be a considerable factor in favour of it being genuine.

On this score, there is some evidence, albeit circumstantial, that links the shroud to the “Image of Edessa” that was known to exist in Constantinople before the year 1204. It is contended that the Edessa cloth, of which there is a record from the early 12th century, was moved to Constantinople from Edessa (a town in south-east Turkey) before the latter city was sacked by the Ottomans in 1144. Constantinople was itself sacked by the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, and it is possible that this was when the shroud found its way to Europe, as part of the booty of a crusading knight.

The undisputed provenance of the Turin Shroud takes the story back to the mid-15th century, when it was held by the Duke of Savoy. It is almost certain that the House of Savoy acquired it from the de Charny family, and it is known that a French knight named Geoffrey de Charny held what could easily have been the shroud in 1355. Geoffrey de Charny was descended from a crusader, so it is indeed possible that the story of the shroud being looted from Constantinople is true.

On the other hand, the date of 1355, which agrees with the 1988 carbon dating test on the cloth, is also slap bang within the problem era of forged relics. So could de Charny have had the cloth made to substantiate a family story that an ancestor had brought the Image of Edessa back from the Fourth Crusade?

This is one of those cases in which people tend to accept the evidence that supports their desired conclusion and reject the rest. The real key to solving the mystery lies with discovering how the image got on the cloth, and that is one piece of the puzzle that is frustratingly absent from the evidence base!
RasmaSandra The Turin Shroud is well-known and been the subject of movies too. I have no real opinion but what my thought is could not this mystery be solved by the use of all the modern technology now available? Or perhaps it is meant to remain a mystery.
indexer @RasmaSandra The answer has surely to be Yes - if only the Vatican will allow the ultimate tests to be made.