History: Shroud of Turin - Articles


The Shroud of Turin

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Shroud History

Scientific Research up to 1976

Current Research

Summary of Current Findings

Criticism of the 1988 Carbon-14 Dating

Research by Dr. and Mrs. Whanger of North Carolina

Comparison with the Sudarium of Oviedo

Quotes: The Image of Edessa

Quotes: History of the Shoud of Turin

Quotes: The Shroud: Physical Evidence

Report: Verification of the Nature and Causes of the Photo-negative Images on the Shroud of Lirey-Chambéry-Turin

Report: Science & the shroud





The Shroud of Turin


And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. (Mark 15:46, RSV)


For believers no amount of proof is necessary. For nonbelievers, no amount of proof is sufficient.


Reputedly Christ’s burial cloth, the Shroud of Turin has been a hallowed religious relic since the Middle Ages. To believers it was divine proof the Christ was resurrected from the grave, to doubters it was evidence of human gullibility and one of the greatest hoaxes in the history of art.


Learn about this fascinating Christian historical artifact, which may be the burial cloth of Christ. If this is so, then this is undoubtedly the most important relic in Christianity. If not, this is still one of the most fascinating items not only for Christianity, but for science as well.


Whether you are a believer or a nonbeliever, the Shroud of Turin is not easily dismissed. In this page we will present some of the known facts about the Shroud, historical and scientific. We will let you be the judge of its authenticity.




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


1. What is the Shroud of Turin?


A rectangular linen cloth, weaved in a three-to-one twill, 14 feet 3 inches (4.36 meters) long by 3 feet 7 inches (1.1 meters) wide.


2. Where is it located?


The Shroud is wrapped in red silk and kept in a special silver chest in the Chapel of the Holy Shroud in the cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.


3. How far back can its history be traced?


The verified history of the Shroud can be traced back to 1578. Some historical researchers have traced its history back to the early Christian centuries by identifying the Shroud with the earlier Mandylion relic, or “Veronica.”


4. What evidence is there of its being genuine?


Briefly, the following:


It is a negative image of a crucifixion victim, a fact not known until 1898 after the first photographs were made. Even if an artist in the Middle Ages was clever enough to create such a sophisticated hoax, it is unlikely that he or she would think to create a negative image -- knowing somehow that photography (not to be invented for another 400 to 500 years) would reveal the true image in their art.


It is the image of a man brutally beaten, whose wounds correspond with the Biblical accounts of the crucifixion. Visible on the Shroud image are scourge marks, nail wounds, head wounds from the crown of thorns, and the lance entry point. However, there is one important difference. Instead of following the custom of showing crucifixion wounds on the palms of the hands, the Shroud actually has them on the wrist. Modern forensic science has determined that nails through the palms of hands could not hold the weight of a body on a cross, but that the nails would have to go through the wrist -- precisely where they are located on the Shroud image.


As discovered by Dr. John Jackson and Dr. Eric Jumper in the 1970’s the Shroud image carries three-dimensional information that can be detected by image analyzers to reconstruct a three-dimensional statue of the man on the Shroud. This is not possible with normal photographs or paintings.


According to Swiss criminologist Dr. Max Frei-Sulzer, the cloth contains grains of pollen local to the Dead Sea area of Israel.


According to hematological analysis by Professor Baima Bollone, there is residue of human blood on the Shroud (belonging to group AB)


The herringbone weave of the cloth is typical of expensive Jewish weaves of the time of Christ, consistent with the Biblical account that the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea donated the cloth.


The size of the cloth is exact when measured in cubits, the standard measurement unit at the time of Christ.


Its fold marks correspond with places where the Mandylion would have been folded when placed in an exhibition container.


The image formation process (spatial characteristics and fiber surface aging) is not consistent with a painting or any other known forgery method.


5. What evidence is there of its being a forgery?


As long ago as 1339 the Shroud’s authenticity was questioned even by Catholic authorities. In that year the bishop of Troyes, France, sent Pope Clement VII a report that claimed that the Shroud was a painting. According to the report,


“Some time since in this diocese of Troyes, the Dean of a certain collegiate church falsely and deceitfully, and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by a clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man ... falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Savior Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb.”


Whether this report was true or only a reaction to the many false relics being sold in the Middle Ages will never be known. However, Pope Clement was not totally convinced, since he did not denounce the Shroud. Instead, he prudently placed restrictions on its public exhibition.


The most condemning evidence that the Shroud is not legitimate came from a scientific expedition in 1987 that carbon dated some fibers from the Shroud as being no more than 750 years old. However, current research is re-examining that dating as being wrongly affected by a fire that almost destroyed the Shroud in 1532.


Walter C. McCrone Associates, a Chicago-based research company, claims to have discovered iron oxide residue on a small sample of the Shroud, which they concluded was from artists’ pigments on the image -- although closer analysis by other scientific teams later concluded that it was from blood residue.


Shroud critic and micropaleontologist Steven Schafersman has questioned Frei’s pollen data as being “incredible.” Even if the pollen data was accurate, other scientists have stated that the pollens might have been carried there by the wind, or deposited by visitors.


6. What current research is being done?


The two leading centers of Shroud research today are the Turin Shroud Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Sedov Biopolymer Research Laboratory in Moscow, Russia. The Turin Shroud Center research is focused on mechanisms of image formation and historical research into its Jewish origins. The Sedov Laboratory is challenging the Carbon 14 results as being anomalous due to a 1532 fire that almost destroyed the Shroud.


7. What is the theological significance of the Shroud?


Whether the Shroud is the true burial cloth of Christ or a replica, it remains one of the most venerated objects within the Roman Catholic Church. However, as with any such relic, the Church is careful to instruct the faithful that it is not to be worshipped, and possesses no special significance other than an object to reinforce the faith of individual believers, and as a memory of the crucifixion and death of Christ. As Pope Paul VI said, Aside from what scientists and researchers have said or may yet say about the Shroud, this incomparable portrait of the Man of Sorrows will continue to touch the minds and hearts of people for ages to come. It will speak to them of the boundless love of Christ for mankind, for ‘He has loved us and sacrificed himself for us.’ (Eph. 5:2).




Shroud History


The Shroud of Turin’s history can be authenticated to the year 1578, when it was known to have been taken to its current resting place in Turin, Italy. However, there is a large circumstantial body of evidence that traces its history back to the early Christian centuries. Some historians, such as author and researcher Ian Wilson, believe that the Shroud may be the same as the “Mandylion,” which was a famous Christian relic of the face of Christ on a piece of cloth.


The Mandylion was venerated by the early Christians, and was exhibited in a wooden case with an oval cutout through which the face of Christ was allegedly seen on a piece of cloth. Wilson and others claim that this was the face of the man on the Shroud, with the remainder of the Shroud image folded within the case. The Mandylion was known to have been in the city of Edessa, in what is now Turkey, and later in Constantinople, now Istanbul. It disappeared during the Fourth Crusade in 1203, to be found again and displayed as the Shroud in the city of Lirey, France, in 1353. The Shroud came into the possession of the House of Savoy in 1453.


In 1532 a fire engulfed the chapel of Sainte Chapelle in Chambrey, France, where the Shroud was kept, and it came dangerously close to being destroyed. The fire was so intense that part of the silver on the reliquary holding the Shroud melted, and a drop of molten silver fell on a corner of the folded linen. This set one of the Shroud’s edges on fire, burning through all of the folds before it was doused with water. When the Shroud was opened up, the characteristic geometric set of scorch marks visible today were seen, and yet the part of the Shroud containing the image was scarcely touched by the fire. The burned material was later repaired by sewing linen patches over it. In 1578 it was taken to its current location in Turin.




Scientific Research up to 1976


Scientific interest in the Shroud dates from 1898, when it was exposed in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Italian constitution. During the exposition Secondo Pio, an expert photographer, made a series of plates of the Shroud. This was not an easy task, as Pio was only allowed to photograph the Shroud as it hung above the altar, encased under a glass cover. As color photography had not yet been invented, Pio’s photographs were in black and white. To his amazement and that of others, the image that formed on the plates was not the negative that he expected, but instead a positive image. What at first appeared as splotches on the cloth now became the unmistakable appearance of a man.


On April 21, 1902, Yves Delage, professor of comparative anatomy at the Sorbonne, presented the results of his analysis of Pio’s photographs. According to Delage, the image of the body and the position of wounds were so anatomically accurate that they could not possibly be the work of an artist. His presentation created a furor of controversy that remains to this day.


Pio’s photographs, although of high quality for the time, were superseded in 1931 by a series of professional photographs taken by Commander Giuseppe Enrie. Enrie was allowed to photograph the Shroud without the glass cover that Pio had to photograph it through, and took photographs of the entire cloth as well as various subsections of it. Enrie’s photographs were even more dramatic than Pio’s in their rendition of the negative image of a man, and led other medical professionals to perform physiological analyses of the image. Dr. Pierre Barbet in the 1930’s found that based on studies on cadavers the wounds on the image are legitimate marks of a crucifixion. Other medical practitioners, such as Dr. David Wilis of England and Dr. Anthony Sava of New York have arrived at similar conclusions.


In 1973 the Vatican approved the taking of several minute samples from the Shroud for closer scientific examination. Seventeen small threads were removed, along with two 10 by 40 millimeter rectangular samples. Microscopic analyses of the samples confirmed that the Shroud was composed from linen, weaved in a three-to-one herringbone twill, with traces of cotton. This indicated that the Shroud would have been a fine and expensive cloth at the time of Christ, and weaved on equipment used for weaving cotton.


Also in 1973, Swiss criminologist Dr. Max Frei-Sulzer was allowed to remove some dust particles on the Shroud for analysis. He did so by pressing pieces of adhesive tape to the cloth, which made the surface dust stick to the tape. Upon analysis Dr. Frei found, in addition to the usual spores and other fragments accumulated over the centuries, some pollen that could be traced to specific plants. Dr. Frei found that some of the pollen grains were from halophytes found almost exclusively in the area of the Dead Sea.


In 1976, Dr. John Jackson was intrigued by the fact that the Shroud image process appeared to have acted through distance rather than direct contact. Dr. Jackson and Dr. Eric Jumper, then Air Force physicists at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, decided to subject a photograph of the Shroud to analysis using an Interpretation Systems VP-8 Image Analyzer, a device that translated shades of brightness into vertical relief. To their surprise, they found that the Shroud image contained three-dimensional information that was not contained either in normal photographs or in paintings. Later, Jackson and Jumper were both assigned to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where they continued their research into the three-dimensional structure of the Shroud, and constructed life-like statues of the man in the Shroud based on this information.




Current Research


By 1988 Carbon 14 dating techniques were sufficiently sophisticated to be done with minutely small quantities of material. The Vatican agreed to such a test, and three laboratories were selected by the Archdiocese of Turin -- Oxford University, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. At the end of the testing the Vatican reported that the three tests had dated the cloth only to medieval times, and therefore the Shroud was not authentic. These reports were carried around the world, and most scientists lost interest in pursuing the mystery of the Shroud any further -- in spite of the overwhelming body of evidence from other tests that indicated a much older Shroud. The Carbon 14 results also provided skeptics with a piece of hard scientific evidence to continue their attacks on the Shroud’s authenticity.


Current research focuses on understanding the Carbon 14 data and on the Shroud’s Jewish origins. The two leading Shroud researchers today are Dr. John Jackson, director of the Turin Shroud Center in Colorado Springs, and Dr. Dimitri Kouznetsov, director of the Sedov Biopolymer Research Laboratory in Moscow. Jackson has joined forces with Kouznetsov in a 12-month research project that aims to explain more precisely how the 1532 fire may have affected the carbon dating. The Sedov laboratory is researching the exchange of carbon isotopes with linen, while the Turin Shroud Center is continuing his prior research into the “yellowing” of linen with respect to temperature. The findings of these two centers have cast serious doubt on the Carbon 14 dating.


According to Kouznetsov, an inaccurate carbon count in flax due to a process called biofractionalization, coupled with the possible chemical bonding of extraneous carbon to the shroud during the fire, may have resulted in an inaccurate Carbon 14 measurement. Kouznetsov has said that the shroud is “not less than 1800 years old” once corrections are made for the fire and the inaccurate carbon-in-flax count. In a test case, Dr. Kouznetsov subjected an ancient linen cloth from Israel to conditions similar to what the Shroud had undergone in 1532. The linen had been previously dated to 200 AD by carbon 14 techniques, but after undergoing high temperature conditions in the presence of silver, it dated 1,400 years later.


In 1988, Jackson and a group of scientists heated linen samples with a carbon dioxide laser and measured the resulting temperature and color variations as a function of time. Applying that to the shroud, he will compare the intensity of the coloring of the shroud where images do not occur with his former research. Jackson proposes that this data could be used in respect to the shroud to give more precise conditions of the 1532 fire.


At the Turin Shroud Center, Rebecca Jackson is pursuing historical research into the Jewish origins of the Shroud. She has found tantalizing clues that the Shroud, which according to the Scriptures was purchased by the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea, may have also served as a tablecloth for the Last Supper. A summary of these latest findings was reported by the Denver Catholic Register on 17 February 1993.


Recently a new objection to the Carbon 14 results has been raised within scientific circles. The objection, as reported in “Science News” on 3 June 1995, is that “microbes may have interfered with these dating results, making the shroud appear younger than it actually is, asserts a research team led by Stephen J. Mattingly and Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes of the University of Texas at San Antonio.” These scientists have for years studied how microbes can coat archeological artifacts with what they call “biogenic varnishes,” which are plastic-like coatings deposited on the artifacts from the action of bacteria or fungi. By subjecting Shroud samples to infrared and mass spectroscopy, they found evidence of a number of microbes, including ones that grow in a bleaching agent called natron that may have been used on the Shroud.


According to these scientists, the radiocarbon dating that was done could not distinguish between the linen’s cellulose and the coating caused by the microbes, which may have been much more recent. The researchers hope to get more samples for testing. Their test would first process the Shroud sample with an enzyme that breaks down the linen’s cullulose -- free of contaminants -- and carbon date the cellulose.


Another line of research involves the possible irradiation of the shroud to explain the Carbon 14 results. Starting with this assumption, some interesting research has been recently performed by Father Jean-Baptiste Rinaudo, S.C.J., doctor in biophysics and professor at the University of Montpellier (France). His findings have been published in the French religious review “Montre-nous ton visage” (Show us your face) and were also presented in a paper given at a Shroud symposium held in Rome in 1993, whose proceedings are to be soon published. The American book “The shroud of Turin” by Paul Maloney (Haworth Press - 10 Alice Street Binghamton New-York) should also include an article on Father Rinaudo under the title “The Cause of the image on the shroud and the results of the carbon date : a cohering hypothesis” (Thanks to Jean de Lagarde for providing this information).


On Tuesday, May 21, 1996, at a meeting of the American Society of Microbiology, a team of scientists from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio reported that the carbon dating of the Shroud may be erroneous, and that the Shroud may indeed date from the first century. According to these scientists, bacteria and fungi on the Shroud may have artificially affected the carbon dating not only of the Shroud, but of other such ancient fabrics by hundreds or thousands of years.


Dr. Leoncio Garza-Valdez, a medical doctor and archeologist on the research team, was quoted by the AP as saying that “at present time, the radiocarbon dating of ancient textiles is not a reliable test. This is going to produce a big, big revolution.”


However, Paul Damon, one of the scientists who did the original carbon dating responded that he stands by his findings. The controversy continues.




Summary of Current Findings


The Shroud of Turin, the purported burial cloth of Jesus Christ, is a piece of fine linen 3 feet 7 inches wide by 14 feet 3 inches long (exactly 2 by 8 cubits, the ancient measurement in Israel). It bears the detailed front and back images of a man who has been crucified in a manner identical to that of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the Scriptures. The Shroud has been in Turin, Italy since 1578. It is brought out for public viewing about once a generation. The last such exhibition was in 1978, and in five weeks, about 3½million pilgrims passed by to view this delicate cloth.


Also, during this time, the Shroud was intensively studied by a large group of highly skilled scientists, whose main objective was to determine the properties of the image and how it originated. Over 1000 special tests were conducted and over 32,000 photographs were taken. These studies, along with various others, combine to make the Shroud of Turin the most intensively studied single object in history. The tests show clearly that the Shroud images are not any kind of artistic production but are the result of physical/chemical changes in the linen fibers themselves. However, they fail to explain how this occurred.




Criticism of the 1988 Carbon-14 Dating


In 1988, the single sample removed from the Shroud for Carbon-14 dating indicated 13th or 14th century origin, and it was widely reported that the Shroud is a medieval artistic fake. Although subsequent extensive examinations have shown clearly that the Carbon-14 dating results were in serious error for several reasons, most people are still unaware of these findings because of severely restricted coverage by the media. In 1990, the Vatican repudiated the 1988 Carbon-14 dating conclusions, citing them as “strange” and called or further testing. This, too, was met with restricted media coverage.




Research by Dr. and Mrs. Whanger of North Carolina


Studies on the Shroud of Turin by Dr. Alan and Mrs. Mary Whanger have been underway in Durham, North Carolina since 1979. Dr. Whanger is Professor Emeritus at Duke University Medical Center and is skilled in photography and video. The Whangers were challenged to find a method of performing “exacting comparisons” between the face of the Man of the Shroud and the faces of early icons and other images. In 1981, they developed a polarized image overlay technique in which two images are projected one on top of the other and exactly aligned onto the same screen through polarizing filters at right angles one to the other. When viewed through a third rotating polarized filter, the two images fade one into the other allowing detailed observation and analysis of the congruencies, similarities, and dissimilarities of the two images. This method reveals that the Shroud face image was used extensively and accurately as the basis of artistic depictions of Jesus as early as the 3rd Century and consistently from the 6th Century onward.


Since 1981, the Whangers have conducted extensive examinations of a number of life size, very high grade photographs from those taken in 1931 by Enrie. At first look, the obvious features of the Shroud are the front and back body images; several blood stains; and a series of patches, scorches, and water stains resulting from a fire in 1532.


On closer examination, the Whangers have found that there are images of many objects in addition to those of the body, and that these images show evidence of electron coronal discharge radiation. These additional objects include a crucifixion nail, a Roman spear, a sponge on a stick, a crown of thorns, two scourges, a large hammer, a pair of pliers, and two desecrated Jewish phylacteries or prayer boxes. All are consistent with 1st Century objects, with Roman crucifixions of Jews, with Jewish burial practices, and/or with Biblical accounts of the Crucifixion of Jesus.


Several findings of the Whangers show the origin of the Shroud images to be from Israel in the spring of AD 30. Evidence for this includes the images of large numbers of flowers banked around the body. The Whangers have identified 28 species, 20 of which grow in Jerusalem and the other 8 within 12 miles of Jerusalem, with a common blooming time of March and April. The pollens of 25 of these have been independently identified by Dr. Max Frei, a Swiss criminalist and botanist, as being present on the Shroud from sticky tape samples that he took in 1973 and 1978. Visible over each eye are detailed images of two different lepton coins (widows mites) of Pontius Pilate, each dated AD 29. Some statues in the Middle East are based on the Shroud face image, the earliest dated AD 31.


Examination of a three dimensional enhancement of the face reveals the underlying skeletal structures, including the eye sockets, nasal bones, sinuses, and about 20 teeth, showing that the Shroud image is in part an autoradiograph.


There are many intriguing faint images on the Shroud; which, through additional investigation, could further establish the Shroud as the most amazing archaeological artifact in existence. This could also greatly facilitate adequate, but much needed, conservation measures.




Comparison with the Sudarium of Oviedo


There are other objects in existence which by tradition are connected with the crucifixion and burial of Jesus of Nazareth and which warrant full and careful examination. One of these is the Sudarium of Oviedo, the traditional face cloth (John 20:7), which has been in Oviedo, Spain, since the 8th century. In 1984, the Whangers reported about 130 congruent blood stains between the Sudarium and the Shroud, indicating that both had been in touch with the same individual. More recently, they have been actively cooperating with a Spanish Shroud group in direct examinations on the Sudarium.




Quotes: The Image of Edessa


Early traditions concerning Jesus’ burial cloth and Byzantine iconography


Earliest References to Christ’s Burial Cloths


“Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.” - Mark 15:43-46


“Matthew, Mark and Luke speak only of the sindon that Joseph of Arimathea bought for the burial, and this word is often translated as ‘shroud’, though it is not solely confined to this meaning. St Mark, for example, uses it to indicate an article of clothing, while St. John, on the other hand, does not use the word at all. He says that the body was wrapped in othonia. Furthermore, he is the only Evangelist to describe how the cloths were found after the disappearance of the body. He tells us that the othonia were lying with the ‘napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes but wrapped together in a place by itself.’. The word translated as ‘napkin’ is soudarion, which literally means a sweat rag.”


“The most balanced opinion holds that othonia is the generic term for all the cloths I have mentioned, and sindon refers to the largest of them only, namely the Shroud. The soudarion seems to indicate something smaller, probably the cloth which was sometimes laid over the face, rather than the band of cloth tied under the chin and over the top of the head.” - Noel Currer-Briggs, The Shroud and the Grail - A Modern Quest for the True Grail (1987)


“Vera Barclay of Great Britain notes that the nearby Dead Sea Qumran Community (2nd century BC to AD 70) graves have been extensively excavated, and they have found skeletons in the exact position of the Man on the Shroud; stretched out flat on the back, face up, hands folded over the pelvic region, with elbows protruding at the sides.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


Of the synoptic Gospels, Mark and Matthew make no mention of the empty shroud in the tomb after Jesus’ disappearance. Luke, which predates the Gospel of John, mentions not a shroud but “strips of linen”.


“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. “ - Luke 24:12


“The body was dressed, the hands and feet tied so that they would stay in place, and the head bound with a bandage under the chin to stop the jaw sagging. But the crucified Jesus had no clothes (the soldiers took them), so Joseph’s cloth could be a substitute, a shroud. John’s pieces of linen might include it; they were not necessarily ‘strips of linen’ as the New International Version translates.” - Alan Millard, Discoveries From the Time of Jesus


Supposedly the cloth was removed from the sepulchre and preserved because:


“Ordinary burial clothes were very simple, inexpensive fabrics. The Turin cloth was no ordinary shroud, it was certainly very dear and so was probably meant to be cleaned for reuse. When the spices, which stuck loosely to the fabric, were washed off, the ‘miraculous’ image, which could not be washed out, came to light.”


“It was not difficult for the Essenes to remove the seat cloth from the tomb because for them it was not a ritually impure object.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


“...The Gospel of the Hebrews written sometime after 100, was subsequently lost; but it was in existence during the life of St. Jerome (347-420), who was the principal translator of the Vulgate edition of the Bible. Jerome quoted from it that after Jesus’ resurrection but before he appeared to his brother, James, Jesus gave his sindon to ‘the servant [puero] of the priest’.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


“Some thought puero an error for Petro and supposed Peter had received the cloth. A fourth-century account mentioned a tradition that Peter had kept the sudarium, although what had subsequently become of it was unknown.” - Joe Nickell, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1987)


“In another tradition it was the angel at the tomb who had the foresight to hand the Shroud to Mary Magdalene for preservation. By another account, the fourth century apostle St. Nino, who had been raised in Jerusalem, reported that the common belief there during her youth was that Pilate’s wife had given the Shroud to St. Luke. In the year 120, St. Braulio of Seville, Spain, wrote of the Shroud as a well-known relic at that time.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


“At the Congress of Turin held in 1978, Fr. Egger showed that from the year 370, Roman sarcophagi presented a bearded Christ with long hair and other details necessarily inspired by the Holy Shroud.” - Georges de Nantes, “The Holy Shroud - Evidence of a scientific forgery against The Holy Shroud” (1991)




Mandylion: (literally little handkerchief) Also called Akheiropoietos (“not-made-by-human-hand”) “The Image of Edessa while in Constantinople was known as the ‘Mandylion’, a Byzantine word apparently used only to describe this Image. The word was derived from the Arabic, which was in turn derived from Latin. Literally, it could be taken to mean veil or mantle.”


“In Jesus’s day it [Urfa, Turkey] was the semi independent city-state of Edessa, totally outside the Roman Empire and with allegiance to the kingdom of Parthia, whose capital was Ctesiphon on the Tigris River, far to the east. Prosperous Edessa, astride a major east-west caravan route, was ruled by King Abgar V from 13 to 50. Our best account of Abgar’s story comes form Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, who wrote his famous History of the Church about 325. Eusebius says he got the story by his own translation of Edessa archives from the Syriac into Greek.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


Abgar, suffering from an incurable disease, invited Jesus to come to Edessa to heal him.


“In my thoughts I have arrived at two possible conclusions, that either you are God and have come down from heaven to achieve these things or you do these things because you are the Son of God...I have heard that the Jews murmur against you and wish to do you harm. My city is quite small, but it is honorable, and there is a place in it for both of us.”


Jesus supposedly sent a letter in reply:


“Blessed are you with your faith in me, although you have not seen me. Indeed, it has been written of me that those who saw me would not believe in me, so that those who have not seen me would have faith and life. With regard to what you have written, that I should come to you, it is necessary for me to accomplish here that for which I was sent and, after it has been done, to return to Him who sent me. but when I have been taken up, I will send one of my disciples to you, to cure your illness and to give life to you and yours.” - Eusebius, History of the Church (325)


“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two [Some manuscripts ‘seventy’] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” - Luke 10:1


“Tradition has it that, after the Resurrection, through the casting of lots, disciple Thomas, one of ‘The Twelve’, was given responsibility for carrying Jesus’ message to the nation of Parthia. From several sources we learn that, knowing of the correspondence between Abgar and Jesus, Thomas assigned Thaddaeus [one of the orginal 12 disciples - Mark 13:18], one of the ‘Seventy’, to go to Abgar in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise and to carry the Shroud for deposit with Abgar for safekeeping.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


Eusebius “mentions the Abgar/Jesus correspondence and (instead of Veronica) the woman with the ‘issue of blood’ who was cured when she touched Jesus’ garment (Mark 5:25-34; Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48). But Eusebius omits the figured cloth from his Abgar/Jesus account, and all account of such imprinted veils date from later times - probably the earliest certain reference being the mid-fourth-century The Doctrine of Addai.” -Joe Nickell, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1987)


“...Addai is the Syriac name for Thaddaeus.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


In The Doctrine of Addai “the Image of Edessa is described not as of miraculous origin but merely as the work of Hannan (Ananias), who ‘took and painted a portrait of Jesus in choice paints, and brought it with him to his lord King Abgar’.” -Joe Nickell, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1987)


“...Abgar lived until AD 50 and...Edessa was known throughout the civilized world of that day as the first Christian city.” The Image of Edessa “was well known through all the neighboring countries as an important Christian relic, which was called ‘the true likeness of Christ’ and the ‘image not made by the hands of man’.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


In the Middle East, religious relics “represented political status and power, and often had a talismanic potency, being seen as protection of the city that owned them, warding off foreign invasions and natural disasters alike. Known as palladia, every city had such a holy prophylactic, and Edessa’s was the Mandylion - a fitting honor for the first city to be evangelized in Byzantium.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


Egeria was “an indomitable lady pilgrim from Aquitaine, who visited Edessa as part of a tour of the holy paces of Christendom about the year 383. She described sights of the city in minute detail, among them the Baliklar, the city’s shady fishpools, famous even in her day. But she made no mention of the image-bearing cloth. - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


“She was a sightseer of a thoroughness unrivaled even by the modern American; and, had so interesting a relic then existed, she would certainly have referred to it...” - Sir Steven Runciman, “Some Remarks on the Image of Edessa”, Cambridge Historical Journal, III (1929-31)


“The so-called ‘harp’ of the Syrian church, St. Ephraim, who lived in Edessa during the late fourth century and wrote reams of ecclesiastical verse, made no reference to the Mandylion. The monk-author of the ‘Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite’, written at Edessa about 507, made no mention of it, nor did Jacob of Scrug, another most prolific Edessan writer, who died about 521.” - Ian Wilson, The Shroud of Turin - The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ? (1978)


“A 5th c. Georgian (Russia) MS relates that Joseph captured Jesus’s blood as it dripped from his crucified body not in a cup-Grail--but in the burial shroud itself. Grail and shroud are here identified!” - Daniel C. Scavone, “Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail and the Turin Shroud”


The “Image of Edessa disappears from history until a disastrous flood in 525 which “destroyed public buildings, palaces, churches, and much of the city wall, and drowned one-third of the population.


“In the course of rebuilding, a secret chamber was found over the West Gate of the city wall. This gate was on high ground and was reputed to be the one through which Thaddaeus had ceremoniously entered with the Image. In the chamber was a chest containing the Image, still in excellent condition. It would seem that it had been sealed into the wall about 57 to protect it from Ma’nu VI’s anti Christian zeal and then was forgotten in later generations. Along with the Image was a tile bearing the same face, which may originally have been displayed over the gate. - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


It was during this period that the Image was first referred to as the Mandylion. Several researchers think the Mandylion was the same cloth as the full-figured Shroud of Turin, The Image of Edessa, however, conforms to the size of the cloth placed over the face of a dead person or soudarion, not entire shroud or sindon. Ian Wilson hypothesizes that the Shroud was doubled in four and covered with a trelliswork embellishing cover which revealed only the face. Kersten & Gruber hypothesize that the trellis work, which is featured on representations of the Mandylion, was actually a netting fixed over the folded shroud, both of which were “mounted on a panel decorated with gold”.


“A 6th c. text calls this cloth a sindon...and a tetradiplon, suggesting that it was seen folded in eight layers.” “Byzantine artists were finally allowed to paint reproductions which show us that this cloth was indeed kept folded in a rectangular case--presumably as a tetradiplon--whose lid permitted Jesus’s face to be visible in a central circular aperture. This seems to be why the earliest 4th c. text described only a facial image. It was only gradually understood to be a bloodstained burial shroud. “ - Daniel C. Scavone, “Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail and the Turin Shroud”


“...The images of Christ which were used in the West to interpret the Veronica legend are found in vertical or ‘portrait’ format. The horizontal format of the Mandylion is a positive sign that it was not a small towel but rather part of a much larger cloth. If one folds the Turn cloth in the manner described, one obtains a width of 110 cm, with a height of just 54.5 cm; that is, a format closely matching that of the known Mandylion copies. “ - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


“By the time of the Image’s rediscovery soon after 525, religious ideas had changed, and by the middle of the sixth century strikingly ‘coincidental’ with the rediscovery of the Image in Edessa, icons, mosaics, and paintings of Jesus’ face began to appear throughout all areas of Christian-Byzantine influence.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


“The relic was first mentioned by the chronicler Evagrius in the 590s when he told how its miraculous powers repelled an attack by the Persian army fifty years previously. before that date, there were only legends that linked the cloth to a King Abgar V of Edessa...” Evagrius said that the Mandylion was used to repel the Persians in 544, but he was writing fifty years after the event. And another chronicler, Procopius, writing just five or six years after the event, makes no mention of it at all. Even more significant is the fact that Evagrius based his account on that of Procopius. Presumably Evagrius invented the story to give Edessa’s holy relic more eminence than those of rival cities, and therefore there is no proof that the Mandylion existed in 544.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


“Before reaching Edessa, the relic would seem to have stayed at Kamuliana in Cappadocia. From there it was transported to Constantinople [574], where it became the city’s palladium, guaranteeing its security and the success of its imperial forces. It was always carried on military expeditions and presented by the Emperor or Commander in Chief to the troops to fortify them in the battle and to inspire them with the certainty of victory.


“Edessa was captured by the Arabs in 639, which is when the sacred relic was probably brought back to Constantinople for shelter. The fact is that from the end of the VIIth century, coins were struck in Constantinople by Justinian II during the first part of is reign (685-695) bearing an effigy of Christ’s Face as imprinted on the Holy Shroud. As Fr. Pfeiffer notes, this is ‘a unique fact in the whole history of coins’.” - Georges de Nantes, “The Holy Shroud - Evidence of a scientific forgery against The Holy Shroud” (1991)


“Circa 700. Faced with crippling taxes, Orthodox Christians of Edessa surrender Mandylion in pawn to rich Monophysite Athanasius bar Gumayer. Athanasius is said to have substituted a clever copy for the original. If this story is correct, the latter comes to be stored in the Jacobite church of the Mother of God, Edessa. “ - Ian Wilson, The Shroud of Turin - The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ? (1978)


In 942, the Byzantine general Curcuas laid siege to Edessa. To avoid destruction, Archbishop Abramius of Samosata arranged for the town to hand over the Image of Edessa. In exchange the town received the release of 200 captives, perpetual immunity from attack and 12,000 silver crowns.


The Image of Edessa “was then forcibly removed - despite violent protests from the local faithful - to Constantinople to join the Emperor’s huge collection of relics in the Pharos Chapel.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


“The entry into Constantinople took the form of a triumphant reception, choreographed in grand style, with a fine sense of dramatic detail. On the evening of the sacred feast day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, 15 August 944, the Mandylion arrived at the famous church of Our Lady at Blachernae, where the entire court, with the exception of Romanus [the Emperor] because of his illness, was able to admire the blessed relic. The two sons of the Emperor expressed their disappointment at the picture: they could hardly make out anything on it.”


The following day a procession bore the image to the middle of the town “where it was put on display on the throne of mercy in the inner sanctuary of the Hagia Sophia. Finally the Rex Regnatium, in the symbolic form of his presence in the Mandylion, was place on the throne of the worldly ruler in the Blachernae Palace and crowned, until the time came for it to take up its final place in the Pharos chapel.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


“How can we with mortal eyes contemplate this image, whose celestial splendor the host of heaven presumes not to behold? He who dwells in heaven condescends this day to visit us by his venerable image. He who is seated with the cherubim visits us this day by a picture which the Father has delineated with his immaculate hand, which he has formed in an ineffable manner, and which we sanctify by adoring it with fear and love.” - Byzantine hymn to the Mandylion


While the Mandylion was enthroned at Blachernae Palace, Gregory gave a commemorative sermon to a large congregation there. He asked those present to view the image “as if in a mirror “ and “ not applied with the ordinary paints of the artist’s craft. “ He contrasted the Mandylion with painted icons and their diverse colors.


“The splendor was derived solely from the drops of sweat at the agony in the garden, which emerged from the countenance, which is the source of life, flowing down like drops of blood and imprinting with divine fingers.”


“These are truly the beauties which the color of the imprint of Christ has brought forth, which were finally improved by the drops of blood flowing out from his own side...I say it is these [blood and water] which have been imprinted on the cloth.” - Archdeacon Gregory, 16 August 944


The reference to “the drops of blood flowing out from his own side” strongly suggestes the wound of the lance thrust - and therefore supports the theory that the Mandylion bore the image of the whole body, not just the head.


“ For the same intermediary between God and humanity [Christ] himself, in order to satisfy the king [Abgar] in every way, stretched out his whole body on a cloth white as snow, whereupon the glorious image of the countenance of our Lord and the length of his whole body was so divinely pictured, that it suffices to allow all those who were not able to see the Lord bodily in the flesh, to see the transfiguration visible on the cloth.” - 12th C. insert to a sermon by Pope Stephen II at the Lateran synod (769)


“In the Church History by Ordericus Vitalis (c. 1141), it is said that Jesus had a precious cloth sent to Abgar ‘on which the image of the Savior appears portrayed in a miraculous manner; which allows the viewer to see the bodily form and proportions of the Lord’. Gervasius of Tilbury, in his work Otia Imperialia (‘Imperial Leisure Hours’) which he composed between 1209 and 1214 for Emperor Otto IV, recounted the version where Jesus imprints his whole body on a cloth and has it presented to Abgar.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


A 12th century Latin codex quotes Christ as sending this message to Abgar:


“...I send you a cloth on which the image not only of my face but of my whole body has been divinely transformed.” - Vatican Library Codex 5696, fol. 35


“In 1201 Nicolas Mesarites, the treasurer or guardian of the Pharos chapel, defended the relics there against attacks by supporters of the usurper, John Commenus. Among these he lists the burial sindons of Christ, using the word in the plural, a sure sign that the Sindon/Shroud and the Soudarion/Mandylion were not one and the same.” - Ian Wilson, The Shroud of Turin - The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ? (1978)


“These burial sindons of Christ are of linen, of a quite ordinary weave. They still smell of myrrh, and are indestructible since they once enshrouded the dead body, anointed and naked, of the Almighty after his Passion.’ - Nicholas Mesarites (1201)


In 1204 after the sack of Constantinople by the army of the Fourth Crusade, the Mandylion disappeared without a trace. There is a possibly it still survives as the Sudarium Christi at Oviedo, Spain.


Representations of the Mandylion


6th to 8th Century Portraits “Before the end of the sixth century these images made without hands were propagated in the camps and cities of the Eastern empire; they were the objects of worship and the instruments of miracles; and in the hour of danger or tumult their venerable presence could revive the hope, rekindle the courage, or repress the fury of the Roman legions. Of these pictures, the far greater part, the transcripts of a human pencil, could only pretend to a secondary likeness and improper title; but there were some of higher descent, who derived their resemblance from an immediate contact with the original...The most ambitious aspired from a filial to a fraternal relation with the image of Edessa.” - Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1910)


“...The greater number of the ‘not-made-with-hands’ images were reddish-brown, monochromatic Christ portraits. They were usually - if not always - of the entire head, with flowing hair (in the traditional Byzantine manner), and not merely facial imprints. The were invariably on white cloth, probably fine linen generally, as indicated by the artists’ copies as well as the examples at St. Peters.” -Joe Nickell, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1987)


“Importantly, neither the distinctive Shroud-like Christ portraits nor the facial markings associated with them, are to be found datable before the sixth century. Many pre-sixth-century portraits of Jesus show him as an Apollo-like, beardless youth. Others, although of a bearded, long-haired type, lack the precision, frontality, uniformity of features, and Vignon facial markings so predominant from the sixth century on. Writing in the fifth century, St. Augustine complained that the portraits of Jesus in is time were ‘innumerable in concept and design’ for the good reason that ‘We do not know of his external appearance, nor that of his mother.’ The change came only in the sixth century.” - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


“Artist’s renderings of the face of Jesus that were created from the sixth to thirteenth centuries seem uniquely to stand out as a group because their commonalty hints of a single subject that they copied. These include a 590 icon in St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai, a fresco of Christ Pantocrator [the all-sovereign] in Daphni, Greece, and the Justinian coin.”


“...A Byzantine icon in St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai, painted in 590...so accurately reflects the facial contours of the Shroud of Turin that Dr. Alan Whanger of Duke University has counted more than 46 points of congruity when he has superimposed the two faces...” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


There are several other examples of the same likeness in the sixth century “notably a mosaic Christ Enthroned at Ravenna’s Sant’Apollinare Nuovo church, and a medallion portrait of Christ in the Byzantine manner on a silver vase discovered at Homs, the ancient Emesa, in Syria.” In the eighth century “an epoch in which most eastern portraits of Christ were destroyed during the wave of image-smashing or iconoclasm, the same likeness can be found, heavily influenced by Byzantium in a Pantocrator painting from the catacomb of St. Pontianus, Rome.” - Ian Wilson, The Shroud of Turin - The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ? (1978)




Quotes: History of the Shoud of Turin


Accounts of several holy shrouds in the Middle Ages and the Templar connection


The “Face of Laon”


The “Face of Laon” icon in a church in Laon, France “is obviously copied from the Mandylion/Shroud, and its paleo-Slav inscription refers to the source as the ‘Image of the Lord on cloth’.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


“Professor Grabar, one of the leading experts on icons, shows that copies [of the Mandylion] made after about 1260 were of the ‘suspended’ type, that is to say the head of Christ is shown on a cloth hanging free...Copies made before this time are not only rarer, and date from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, but show the cloth apparently stretched taut, with a fringe, and frequently with a curious trellis pattern as a background. The Sainte Face de Laon belongs to this earlier type of portraiture. The fringe and trellis design as on the Laon icon dates from the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, and is typical of the period of the Commenus Emperors of Constantinople, namely from about 1150 to 1200.”


“A common feature of these early representations is the background color of the cloth, which is consistently ivory white, the natural color of linen...” The face “ranges from a pale sepia to a rust-brown, sometimes slightly darker in shade than the coloring of the face on the Shroud, but otherwise virtually identical. In the case of the Sainte Face de Laon, a later artist has added small traces of color in certain areas, but Professor Grabar makes it clear that these were absent when the icon was originally painted.” - Noel Currer-Briggs, The Shroud and the Grail - A Modern Quest for the True Grail (1987)


“Do not be surprised if you find his [Christ’s] face blackened and sunburnt, for those who dwell in temperate and cold climates and who live all the time in pleasant places, have fair, delicate skin, whereas those who are always in the fields have burnt, darkened skin. This is the case with the Sainte Face, bronzed by the heat of the sun, as the Song of Songs has it, Our Lord has worked in the field of this world for our redemption.” - Jacques Pantaléon, in a letter accompanying his gift of the icon to his sister, Abbess Sibylle (1249)


“It would appear that icons, like the Sainte Face de Laon and those at Spas Nereditsa and Gradac, which show the head of Christ against a trelliswork background, were painted from the Shroud, whereas the suspended-towel types were painted from the Mandylion.” - Noel Currer-Briggs, The Shroud and the Grail - A Modern Quest for the True Grail (1987)


The Veronica


“...The terms seems to have been a corruption of the words vera icon (true image).” “Veronica, according to legend, was a pious woman of Jerusalem, who was so moved to pity at witnessing Jesus struggling with his cross to Golgotha that she wiped his face with her veil (or kerchief) and thereby obtained his portrait imprinted with his bloody sweat.” -Joe Nickell, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1987)


The first reference to the Veronica was in 1011 when Pope Sergius IV consecrated an altar to the Sudarium in St Peter’s. There were in fact a number of Veronicas, all of which were painted images.


“The Veronica tradition, which dates from the fourteenth century, derives from the Edessan one, which has been traced to an account (about 325) by Bishop Eusebius.” -Joe Nickell, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1987)


“...In the Papal Jubilee Year of 1350, pilgrims flocked to Rome to see special expositions of the Veronica, a cloth reputedly imprinted with sweat and blood wiped from Jesus’ face as he carried his cross along the Via Dolorosa. During the expositions, a beautiful Byzantine canopy was held over the Veronica. This showed Jesus laid out in death in the identical manner of the Shroud, and could have been the very source of inspiration for the hypothetical artist who created the Shroud image.” - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


The Veronica was stolen by troops of the Emperor Charles V when they sacked Rome in 1527. There it was reportedly last seen when auctioned by drunken soldiers in a Roman pub.


Pope John VII. who reigned from 705 to 707, had an oratory consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. It was decorated with Byzantine mosaics were probably one of the first to show Jesus crucified “in a way that is public and official”.


“It is proof that by the beginning of the VIIIth century all trace of repugnance had disappeared: Christ’s Passion was solemnly represented by a mosaic for an oratory.” where great crowds of pilgrims would congregate at Christmas time each year.


“John VII’s oratory housed a relic known as the ‘Veil of Veronica’. A copy on silk was made of this relic during the pontificate of Gregory XV (1621 - 1623) scarcely twenty years after this sacred relic had been translated to Saint Peter’s Basilica on 21 March 1606. The silk copy is now kept in the sacristy of the Gesu in Rome, and it plainly shows an affinity with the Holy Face on the Holy Shroud making it possible to state that the ‘Veil of Veronica’ was a copy of this Holy Face. For a thousand years it was the palladium, the aegis of the Holy City. Even up the to the last century it was still an object of devotion in Rome.” - Georges de Nantes, “The Holy Shroud - Evidence of a scientific forgery against The Holy Shroud” (1991)


No consistent picture of the Veronica exists. Earlier versions show a disembodied head resembling the head on the Shroud of Turin. 13th Century copies and descriptions, however, are of the torso of Christ from the waist upwards.


Famous Medieval Shrouds


“From the tenth century on, generally inspired by the accounts of pilgrims who had visited the Holy Sepulchre and other holy places in Jerusalem, churches of Western Europe often began to feature their own ‘holy sepulchre’, a special structure sometimes in a side chapel, sometimes in an underground portion of the church, sometimes a portable coffin-like box. The purpose of these ‘sepulchres’ was for dramatic Good Friday reenactments of the Passion and entombment, initially mere symbolic ‘burials’ of a cloth-wrapped crucifix, but increasing elaborate as the Middle Ages wore on. In place of the crucifix, there began to appear special wood sculptured figures of the dead Jesus, painted in lifelike colors and complete with realistic wounds. Although the Reformation caused most such figures to be destroyed, the Swiss Landesmuseum in Zurich has a fascinating collection of surviving examples, some of which feature the hands laid over the body in an identical manner to that of the Turin Shroud. A particularly pertinent feature of these figures is that, during the Good Friday Mass, one would be laid in the ‘sepulchre’ wrapped in a realistic ‘shroud’, sometimes the church’s altar cloth. Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning, the figure would be quietly removed, leaving just the ‘shroud’, at which point the scene would be set for a powerful mini drama.” - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


At Easter Sunday morning priests would play the roles of the angels guarding Jesus’ tomb and the three Mary’s. The Mary’s would emerge from the sepulchre and hold up the shroud to demonstrate that the Lord had risen, then lay the cloth upon the altar.


“...Something very like the Turin Shroud could have been created by an artist without the slightest fraudulent intent, the artist’s concern being solely to represent the Passion drama in the cloth’s stains in the most graphic and instructive form. Such an intention for the Shroud might even explain the mysterious seamed side strip in the cloth, possibly the vestiges of a strengthening for the displaying the cloth lengthwise from a long pole.”


“Circa 1025 ‘Threnos’ or Lamentation scenes appear in art about this time, showing for the first time Christ laid out in death in the attitude visible on the Shroud. Also in these scenes a large cloth is depicted, consistent with the full size of the Shroud - whereas hitherto burials had been depicted with Christ wrapped ‘mummy’ style.” - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


Some of the more famous medieval shrouds include:


·      Shroud of Charlemagne: Given by Charles the Bold in 877 to the church of St Cornelius at Compiégne, the shroud was destroyed during the French revolution.


·      Shroud of Cadouin: First displayed 1115, this napkin was kept at Cistercian abbey at Cadouin in Périgord. It was destroyed in 1933 when it was found to be of 10th century Egyptian manufacture with quotations from the Koran.


·      Shroud of Besançon: First reported in 1349, it disappeared when the cathedral of Besançon was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground. The shroud was a painted copy (on one side only) and was destroyed with the consent of the clergy during the French revolution


Besides the Shroud of Turin, other surviving Shroud relics include the Sudarium Christi of Andechs in Bavaria and the Sudarium Christi at Oviedo in Spain.


“...A fragment has been cut off the Turin Shroud, and in 1247, Emperor Baldwin II ceded to King Louis IX ‘Partem sudarii quo involutum fuit corpus ejus (scilicet Domini Jesu Christi) in sepulcro’. Baldwin’s letter to Louis does not use the usual formula ‘de sindone’ but the word ‘partem’, suggesting the he was sending only a portion of the Shroud. In addition to the Pamplona portion, he also gave pieces to Archbishop John of Toledo (‘Pretiosa particula de sindone’), and in 1267 he exchanged a portion of the ‘sudario salvatoris’ for the body of Mary Magdalene with the Abbey of Vézelay. In December 1269, he sent Bishop Guy de la Tour of Clermont a relic of the ‘sudarium’.” - Noel Currer-Briggs, Shroud Mafia - The Creation of a Relic? (1995)


Kersten and Gruber, (The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection ) have investigated two additional cloth relics. A Sudarium at Halberstadt cathedral was found to be a cotton crepe sack (probably meant to fit over a bishop’s crosier) which bears to similarity to the Shroud of Turin.


“Cloths in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped” rest in a crystal reliquary in Toledo cathedral. It was not said that they were from the tomb of Jesus, however, and no mention is made that they were a gift of St. Louis when he transferred relic treasures from Constantinople to Toledo in 1248.


“Altogether there were more than forty rival claimants for the title of ‘Holy Shroud’ - and the claims of every one of them have been minutely examined by historians. Yet in only one case - that of an isolated reference dating from 1203 - is there any possibility that it might have been the Litey or Turin Shroud in an earlier guise. In all the other cases, the dimensions are completely different and, most significantly of all, in no instance (except in that 1203 reference) is there any mention of a miraculous image. In other words, alleged shrouds of Jesus may have been relatively thick on the ground, but in almost all cases they were blank pieces of cloth.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


Sydoines in Constantinople


In 1171 Almaric, the last Christian King of Jerusalem visited in father-in-law, Emperor Manuel 1 Commenus of Constantinople. William, Archbishop of Tyre was with the party and “tells us that the emperor showed his son-in-law all the most secret parts of the palace, the sanctuaries it contained, the basilicas and their treasures.” - Noel Currer-Briggs, The Shroud and the Grail - A Modern Quest for the True Grail (1987)


“Nothing was hidden. Nothing sacred which had been placed in the hidden places of the sacred rooms from the time of the blessed Emperors Constantine, Theodosius and Justinian but was familiarly revealed to the king and his companions.” The relics included the “most precious evidence of the Passion of Our Lord, namely the cross, nails, lance, sponge, reed, crown of thorns, sindon (that is the cloth in which He was wrapped) and the sandals....” - William of Tyre


“...An illustration of the burial of Jesus in the Hungarian Pray manuscript, firmly dated in the early 1190s, depicts him with hands folded exactly as on the Turin Shroud; on the same page a drawing of the Resurrection clearly bears a configuration of four tiny circles which perfectly reproduce four apparent ‘poker holes’ on the Turin Shroud. A drawing of the Shroud from the year 1516 (prior to the well documented fire of 1532 which caused the major burn marks still visible on the Shroud) in Lierre, Belgium also bears this very configuration.” - Professor Daniel C. Scavone, “Book Review of The Turin Shroud: In Whose Image?”


“There was another church which was called My Lady Saint Mary of Blachernae, where there was the sydoines in which our Lord had been wrapped, which every [Good?] Friday, raised itself upright, so that one could see the features of our Lord on it, and no one, either Greek or French, ever knew what became of this sydoineswhen the city was taken.” - Robert de Clari in his account of the sack of Constantinople (1203-1204)


“With the minor exception of a mysterious figure-imprinted sydoine mentioned by a crusader in Constantinople in 1203, all early references to preserved shrouds of Jesus make no mention of any (all-important) imprint, and can generally be traced to other, rival relics.” - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


“In April last year a crusading army, having falsely set out to liberate the Holy Land, instead laid waste the city of Constantine. During the sack troops of Venice and France looted even the holy sanctuaries. The Venetians partitioned the treasures of gold, silver and ivory, while the French did the same with the relics of the saints and, 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. So many spoils and sacred objects should not be taken contrary to all human and divine laws, nevertheless in your name in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, albeit against your will, the barbarians of our age have done just that.” - Theodore Ducas Angelos to Pope Innocent III (1 August 1205)


“After the sack of Constantinople the traffic in relics became such a scandal that a formal decree was issued by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 forbidding such transactions as sacrilegious and simoniacal.” - Noel Currer-Briggs, The Shroud and the Grail - A Modern Quest for the True Grail (1987)


The Appearance of the Shroud of Turin


“In...1348 the deadly plague broke out....Whether through the operation of the heavenly bodies or because of our own iniquities, which the just wrath of God sought to correct, the plague had arisen in he East some years before, causing the death of countless human beings...Neither knowledge nor human foresight availed against it....Nor did humble supplications serve.” - Giovanni Bocaccio, De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (1474?)


“Against this background grew the need to assuage the wrath of God with the help of the veneration of the relics of Christ, of the apostles and of the saints. It is therefore no accident that the Shroud should have come into prominence at precisely this juncture of human affairs.” - Noek Curer-Briggs, Shroud Mafia - The Creation of a Relic


A “source that may have inspired the creation of an image-bearing shroud consisted of liturgical cloths, termed epitaphioi, which were symbolic shrouds. From the thirteenth century (the century before the shroud of Turin’s first known appearance), we begin to find these ceremonial shrouds bearing full-length embroidered images of Christ’s body in the now-conventional crossed-hands pose.” “In 1350 (a few years prior to the shroud’s sudden appearance at Lirey), thousands of pilgrims had been atracted to an exhibition in Rome of the Holy Veronica.” -Joe Nickell, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1987)


“Artists now showed copious bleeding in their renderings of the crucifixion where previously depiction of Christ’s blood was restrained or absent altogether.”


“Mystics...attracted much attention by their lurid and graphic visions of how Christ died, a popular preoccupation intensified by the fact that at this time the Black death was sweeping Europe. The climate was therefore exactly right for the appearance of such a macabrely detailed relic of the Passion as the Shroud.” - Ian Wilson, The Shroud of Turin - The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ? (1978)


“The psychologist Emma Jung (1960) has worked out what deep inner effect a blood-relic of Jesus would have had on the people of the middle ages. The ‘soul’, or the divinity of Christ would have been seen in his blood. Unlimited healing powers would be ascribed to it, and anyone who saw it would have direct knowledge of God. One outcome of this idea was the rapidly-growing veneration of the divine heart of Jesus, the bleeding heart, and also the wounds from which the blood had flowed: a cult which has not changed in the Catholic church even today.” - Johannes and Peter Fiebag, The Discovery of the Grail, translated from the German by George Sassoon


A letter from a bishop to Pope Clement VII in 1389 complained about a scandal uncovered in his diocese at the small collegiate church of Lirey, France (12 miles from Troyes). The church canons had


“...falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for their church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say the back and front, they falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual Shroud in which our Savior Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb.” - Pierre d’Arcis to Pope Clement VII


“In 1389, supposed year of his memo, his Troyes cathedral’s roof caved and it had to be closed; expenses demanded a draw to bring in the pilgrims and their donations people accused him of wanting it for himself, as his own memo states.” - Professor Daniel C. Scavone, “Book Review of The Turin Shroud: In Whose Image?”


Evidently the cloth has first been exhibited at Lirey some thirty years early by Bishop Henri de Poitiers.


“Eventually, after diligent inquiry and examination, he [Bishop Henri de Poitiers] discovered the fraud and 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.” - Pierre d’Arcis to Pope Clement VII


“...Three separate papal bulls recite the fact that Geoffrey de Charny placed ‘the Shroud of Our Lord Jesus Christ...bearing the effigy of our Savior’ in the church of Lirey. Clearly the Shroud was in the church at Lirey before Geoffrey died in September 1356. Some type of ceremony, perhaps a dedicatory service, took place early in 1356, because on May 28, 1356, Henri de Poitiers, bishop of Troyes, sent Geoffrey a letter of praise and approval about the ceremony.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


“The family who owned the church and the cloth in Lirey were the De Charnys, the most prominent member being Geoffrey de Charny, who founded the Lirey church in 1353 and was killed at the battle of Poitiers three years later. In the nineteenth century was found in the Seine a fourteenth-century pilgrim’s amulet which, although damaged, shows an exposition of what certainly looks like the present-day Shroud. Also clearly visible on the amulet are shields with the arms of Geoffrey de Charny and his wife, Jeanne de Vergy, flanking a roundel showing Christ’s empty tomb.


“The justice of Bishop d’Arcis’ arguments is further reinforced by documents of Geoffrey de Charny’s son [Geoffrey II] which consistently refers to the relic not as the real burial cloth of Jesus, but only as a ‘likeness or representation’, a formula repeated by Geoffrey II’s daughter, Margaret de Charny, and her husband Humbert de Villersexel, who, in the early-fifteenth century, kept the Shroud at St. Hippolyte sur Doubs.


The elderly Margaret exhibited the Shroud to vast crowds in Liége, Belgium. On her way, she “took the Shroud to Hainault, arriving at Chimay, according to a contemporary source (Cornelius Zantvliet, a Benedictine monk of Saint-Jacques at Liège, who died in 1462), in the summer of 1449 with a shroud (linteum) in her luggage, on which was marvelously painted (miro artificio depicta) in the form of the body of Christ with the precise outlines (lineamintis) of his limbs, the wounds in his side, hands and feet tinged with blood as if the wounds had been inflicted quite recently.” - Noek Curer-Briggs, Shroud Mafia - The Creation of a Relic


“It was this Margaret who, in 1453, by then widowed and childless, ceded the Shroud to Duke Louis of Savoy, in the hands of whose descendants the Shroud has been preserved ever since, until willed to the Vatican upon the death of Umberto of Savoy in 1983. Intriguingly, only with this change to more illustrious ownership did the Shroud begin to lose its fraudulent associations, and with remarkable rapidity. As early as 1464 the future Pope Sixtus IV, Francesco della Rovere, wrote of it as ‘colored with the blood of Christ’. Just over forty years later, Sixtus’ nephew” - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


“The two families that have owned the (or a) Shroud, the de Charny’s and Savoys, besides the la Roche and Vergy houses, into which the de Charnys married, had close links before, during and after the time when the Litey Shroud appeared. The most significant link was the fact that the de Charnys were related to the House of Savoy, to which the Shroud was passed.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


The Templar/Priory of Sion Connection


Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas theorize that the image on the shroud is that of the tortured body of the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, some months before his execution in 1307.


“The long nose, the hair beyond shoulder length with a center parting, the full beard that forked at its base and the fit-looking six-foot frame all perfectly match the known image of the last Grand Master of the Nights Templar.” - Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus


Even if the image on the Shroud was not that of de Molay, Templar connections figure heavily in the story of the Shroud. Both Geoffrey de Charny and his wife, Jeanne de Vergy had grandfathers who were seneschals (sheriffs) who had been ordered by Philip IV to round up Templars within their districts. Of the 16 French knights to escape Philips purge, “most were Burgundians and kinsmen of each other or of the de Charny, de Joinville and de Vergy families.” - Noel Currer-Briggs, The Shroud and the Grail - A Modern Quest for the True Grail (1987)


“The same families all had close connections with the leadership of the Templars, especially during the final dramatic years of the Order’s official existence. For example, not only was Geoffrey de Charny the nephew of the Preceptor or overseer of Normandy, but was also second cousin to Jacques de Molay’s predecessor as Grand Master, Guillaume de Beaujeu, who was one of the Mont St Jean family [other members of the Charnys from a nearby village].”


“A century before the demise of the Templars, and a century and a half before the appearance of the Litey Shroud, the same families had also held key positions in the Fourth crusade, in which the sydoine disappeared.” - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


“The Templars were prominent, if not dominant, in the Fourth Crusade, participating in the looting of Constantinople. In the weeks preceding the breaching of the city’s walls, by the crusaders, they had been unwelcome guests roaming the city, and would have been well aware of the great prize, the Shroud, that had been seen by de Clari and doubtless many others, especially the leaders.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


The de Charnys and two closely related families, the Joinvilles and the Briennes, hail mainly from the regions of Burgundy and Champagne, France. “In the early thirteenth century the House of Brienne had held the title of King of Jerusalem, a title which, according to the Priory of Sion, indicated that they were supposedly of the Merovingian descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and which eventually came down to Anne de Lusignan, wife of Louis, Duke of Savoy.”


“Between the supposed transfer of the relic from Margaret de Charny in 1453 and a display by Duchess Bianca of Savoy on Good Friday 1494, there are no records of it having been displayed or even seen - a gap of just over 40 years.”


Giovanni Battista Cibo ruled as Pope from 1484 to 1492, “one of the weakest and most ineffectual of all the fifteenth-century popes....Giovanni said that Leonardo [da Vinci] faked the Shroud in 1492...just two years before the Shroud emerged from its forty-year period of obscurity.” “Leonardo’s patrons in later life had dynastic connections with the House of Savoy. During his troubled period in Rome around 1515, when Lorenzo de Medici’s son was Pope Leo X, Leonardo’s protector and patron was another of Lorenzo’s sons, Giuliano, who was, incidentally, obsessed with alchemy. This young man married a daughter of the Duke of Savoy. Leonardo’s last patron, Francis I of France, was the son of Louise of Savoy, and he married on of his own daughters to Duke Emmanuel Philibert, who brought the Shroud to Turin.”


“We know that at some time in the late 1490’s or early 1490s (the exact year is not known) he took a trip to Savoy. His visit is mentioned in his notebooks dating from the later years of the 1490s, in which he reminisces about a waterfall and lake that he saw there. The reason for his trip is not recorded. The lake in question, however, is near Geneva, which is less than 80 km form Chambéry, capital of Savoy, where the Lirey Shroud was - it is believed - then kept.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


Leonardo was a meticulous note taker and would probably have recorded details of his work on the Shroud. A third of all Leonardo’s known notebooks have been lost, however, and one of them disappeared into the Savoy’s private library.


“Within a few months of taking office in 1506” Giuliano della Rovere, Pope Julilus II, “began to promote the Shroud, granting the church at Chambéry [where the Shroud was kept] the title Sainte Chapelle - a rare privilege, as this had only been given once before to St Louis’ famous chapel of relics in Paris - and assigning the Shroud its own feast day [4 May].”


“In 1578 the Shroud was transferred to the Cathedral at Turin - which is dedicated to St John the Baptist...Turin was the new capital of the Savoy lands, and the Shroud was to remain there except for the years of World War II...” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


“...Leonardo as author of the Shroud draws strength from the science of radiocarbon (C14) dating, which in 1988 proclaimed, with 95% certainty, that the Shroud was produced in the late Middle Ages between 1260 and 1390. Sadly for the premise of this book, Leonardo was not born until 1452 (died 1519). The C14 labs, however, also reinforce the message of confidence in their dates by adding that they are 99.9% certain the Shroud was produced between 1000 and 1500, making it chronologically possible for Leonardo to have made it.


“The Leonardo connection loses virtually its entire scientific underpinning,however, when one notices that the labs are thus only about 5% certain of the extended time span and only 2.5% certain the Shroud could be as late as 1500....Since 1988, the only doubts about these late radiocarbon dates for the Shroud are pointing to a much earlier time, and not in the chronological direction needed by Picknett and Prince.” - Professor Daniel C. Scavone, “Book Review of The Turin Shroud: In Whose Image?”




Quotes: The Shroud: Physical Evidence


Forensic experts rule out the Shroud as a painting. How was it created?


The Vignon Markings


Researcher Paul Vignon, noticed “on the forehead between the eyebrows of this work a starkly geometrical |_| shape....When he turned to the equivalent point the Shroud face, there was the same feature, equally as geometric, and equally as unnatural because it appeared to have noting to do with the image itself....Other Byzantine Christ portraits were found to exhibit he same marking. The eleventh-century Daphni Pantocrator, the tenth-century Sant’Angelo in Formis fresco, the tenth-century Hagia Sophia marthex mosaic, and an eleventh-century portable mosaic from Berlin are typical of many Byzantine works featuring the same peculiar-shaped brow, general more stylized, but still suggestive of the same derivation.”


Twenty oddities in all in all were identified “originating from some accidental imperfection in the Shroud image or weave, and repeated time and again in paintings, frescoes, and mosaic of the Byzantine period, even though artistically they made no sense.” - Ian Wilson, The Shroud of Turin - The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ? (1978)


“Artists have copied certain characteristic details, technically known as Vignon markings, after the scientist who analyzed fifteen of them, such as a transverse steak across the forehead of the Shroud image, a V-shape at the bridge of the nose, two curling stands of hair in the middle of the forehead, a hairless area between the lower lip and the beard, and so forth. In some of the earliest copies...as many as thirteen of the fifteen details are discernible.” - Noel Currer-Briggs, The Shroud and the Grail - A Modern Quest for the True Grail (1987)


“Typically, the pictures (like the Shroud) show an absence of ears, neck, and shoulders. Two blood rivulets on the forehead are incorporated as curls. A cloth wrinkle across the middle of the forehead is included as if it were a scar. A bruised left eyebrow is shown with twice the vertical dimension as the right eyebrow.” The artists “also made the eyes far too large, not realizing that the lids are closed - that their pattern was in fact a death mask.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


“...The sources of the eighth to the tenth centuries speak of the ‘blood-sweat’ of Jesus, visible on the Edessa Portrait, so evidently a careful observer could clearly see that blood was included in the cloth picture. but even if the copyist had erred and taken the blood mark for a look of hair, the short strands leading form the top of the head of the Christ portraits would be impermissible, and inexplicable extras. The picture ought rather to show a long, conspicuous lock on the left of the forehead, running to the eyebrow, but I have not come across a single image of Jesus of this kind.”


“The most likely solution is that an exact copy was commissioned, but what I would like to term ‘theologically edited’.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


The bloodied marks of the Passion would not be in accord with the Byzantine ideal of the Pantrocrator - the radiant, triumphant God.


“Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool...saith the Lord.” - Isaiah 66:1


Vignon markings are at best a questional means of comparison. Many features identified by Vignon would have been virtually indistinguishable before the advent of photographic fine analysis.


In addition there are a number of “portraits which display a high degree of similarity [with the Shroud] even though they do not represent Jesus. There are some quite astonishing examples here, such as the ceramic icon of St. Theodore (ninth or tenth century) at Preslav in Bulgaria; the apostle Paul on a manuscript of the homilies of St John Chrysostom (end of the ninth century) in the National Library at Athens; and John the Baptist on the mosaic on the church of Hosius-Luke in Central Greece (c. 1000).”


“The unusually long nose...is indeed a striking characteristic. Everyone who sees the Shroud for the first time immediately notices it. It is in a sense the distinguishing physiognomic feature par excellence. On post-Justinian Jesus portraits it appears correspondingly long and narrow, often unusually so. The prominent nose served the Byzantine iconographers as a measure for building up the facial proportions for Jesus: the head was framed from two circles, one and two nose-lengths in radius....The center of the composition was also the center of the circles: the base of the nose between the eyes. This is thought to be the reason why the base of the nose was emphasized n a special manner in Byzantine art (with points, circles V-shapes, triangles etc.) This manner of construction, with the emphasis on the base of the nose, was justified because the point was understood to be the center of the head, the seat of wisdom.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


Physical Analysis of the Shroud


(1) Carbon Dating


In 1988, small samples of cloth from the Turin Shroud were subjected to Carbon-14 testing at three independent laboratories.


“...All three laboratories - the University of Arizona, the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, and the Oxford University Research Laboratory for Archaeology quite independently placed the age of the linen in the same period of medieval history, namely between AD 1000 and AD 1500 at the outside. The test allowed for a margin of error on only 100 years either way, and it was claimed that it was 95 percent certain that the cloth was from between 1260 and 1390.” - Noek Curer-Briggs, Shroud Mafia - The Creation of a Relic


“After months examining microscopic samples, the team [Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes, MD, adjunct professor of microbiology, and Stephen J. Mattingly, PhD, professor of microbiology] concluded in January [1996] that the Shroud of Turin is centuries older than its carbon date. Dr. Garza said the shroud’s fibers are coated with bacteria and fungi that have grown for centuries. Carbon dating, he said, had sampled the contaminants as well as the fibers’ cellulose.”


“In May 1993, Dr. Garza traveled to Turin, and examined a shroud sample with the approval of Catholic authorities. ‘As soon as I looked at a segment in the microscope, I knew it was heavily contaminated,’ Dr. Garza said. ‘I knew that what had been radiocarbon dated was a mixture of linen and the bacteria and fungi and bioplastic coating that had grown on the fibers for centuries. We had not dated the linen itself.’” - Jim Barrett, “Microbiology meets archaeology in a renewed quest for answers” (1996)


Other experts have argued that fire damage may have contaminated the Carbon-14 results. Some, such as Picknett and Prince (Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled), have criticized these results as a deliberately planned deception.


(2) Distinctive Characteristics


“Interestingly the size of the Turin cloth matches precisely the unit of measurement which was used in Palestine at the time of Jesus, the philetaric cubit. This means the cloth which Joseph ordered was of a standard size. The philetaric cubit was about 53 cm. If one starts with the assumption that the cloth has stretched a little in the course of the centuries, the size is exactly 2 cubits wide by 8 cubits long.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


French aristocrat Antoine de Lalaing “related to an exposition of the Shroud he observed at Bourg-en-Bresse on the Good Friday of the year 1503. After describing the image on the Shroud ‘stained with the most precious blood of Jesus, our Savior’, Lalaing went on to say that the Shroud had been


‘Boiled in oil, tried [boute] by fire and steamed many times, without either effacing or altering the said imprint and figure.’”


“There...occurred, probably in the late-fifteenth to very early-sixteenth centuries, the ‘trial by fire’ involving the poker incident (effectively a primitive ‘carbon 14’ test) and, if we are to believe Lalaing’s description, some form of boiling or steaming. If this was not enough in [December 4] 1532 there followed the fire at Chambéry, during which the melting of the [silver] casket and the scorching of the linen denote the subjection of the Shroud to some very high temperatures. - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


Characteristics of the Shroud image include:


“CLEAR IMAGE. The body image is so well resolved that even features as detailed as the lips are discernible. This remarkable property revealed by photography is way beyond all attempts at artistic imitation or laboratory reconstitution.


SUPERFICIAL IMAGE. The body image penetrates the cloth no more than a few fibrils and is limited to the crowns of the threads. The body image fibrils are individually colored but their coloring does not follow the bends or crevices connected with the intersecting threads of the weave. Furthermore, the fibrils are not cemented and there is no additional pigment to account for the macroscopic image color.


THREE DIMENSIONAL IMAGE. The intensity of the frontal body image correlates overall with expected separation distances between an assumed body and the enveloping cloth. This correlation is independent of implied body surface composition such as the skin, hair, etc.


ABSENCE OF SIDE IMAGES. There are no side images to be seen surrounding the front and back body images, not even in the region the two heads.


OXIDATION. The chemical formation of the body image is due to a change in the cellulose of the cloth, in particular a conjugated carbonyl structure associated with dehydration.


BLOOD. The red image stains are formed of blood and/or blood derivatives.


VERTICAL ALIGNMENT OF THE IMAGE. The Shroud is draped naturally over a body lying horizontally, but the frontal body image aligns vertically over corresponding features on that body.


WEIGHTLESSNESS. Maximum intensities of the front and back images are practically equal.” - Bruno Bonnet-Eymard, “Physics and Chemistry of A Glorious Body and of A Glorious Blood”


“The arms would be too long if the Shroud Man would be flatly reclining. The arms, however are entirely parallel with the surface of the Shroud and we see them in linear full length. The torso, the thighs, the lower legs on the other hand we see shortened by geometric perspective and not in full length. They stand at an angle to the surface. “ - Isabel Piczek, “Is the Shroud of Turin a Painting?”


Height calculations of the figure on the Shroud vary greatly due to the difficulty of taking into account factors such as the foreshortening of the legs, the extended position of the feet, and any possible stretching in the cloth. The most common estimate is ft 11 in. Proportionately, however, the head on the Shroud is 1/9 of the body instead of the average 1/8. Using this as a basis for estimation of height, Picknett and Prince concluded:


“Our calculations put the height of the man on the Shroud - at the front - at 203cm...Put in imperial measurements we calculate that the front image is 6ft 8in and the back 6ft 10in.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


If Jesus was treated according to Jewish burial practices, “signs of the bandages around the hands, feed and head ought to appear on the Turin Shroud. “They do not. If the shroud had been tied down there would be clear crease marks, which there are not. It did not fall closely over the sides of the body, and this agrees with the temporary nature of Joseph’s and Nicodemus’ attentions, for they expected the final burial to be make after the Passover. Then the body would have been more securely wrapped.” - Alan Millard, Discoveries From the Time of Jesus


(3) The Case For the Shroud as a Painting


“Viewed microscopically, the shroud image is seen to be composed of yellowed fibers, sparsely coated with iron oxide particles. This oxide, according to a distinguished microanalyst [Walter McCrone], has properties identical with an artists’ pigment generally known as red ochre or Venetian Red. He concluded the yellow staining was due to a tempera medium that had yellowed with age, but other tests show that a more likely explanation is cellulose degradation.” -Joe Nickell, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1987)


“Dr. McCrone determined this by polarized light microscopy in 1979. This included careful inspection of thousands of linen fibers from 32 different areas (Shroud and sample points), characterization of the only colored image-forming particles by color, refractive indices, polarized light microscopy, size, shape, and microchemical tests for iron, mercury, and body fluids. The paint pigments were dispersed in a collagen tempera (produced in medieval times, perhaps, from parchment). It is chemically distinctly different in composition from blood but readily detected and identified microscopically by microchemical staining reactions. Forensic tests for blood were uniformly negative on fibers from the blood-image tapes.


“There is no blood in any image area, only red ochre and vermilion in a collagen tempera medium. The red ochre is present on 20 of both body- and blood-image tapes; the vermilion only on 11 blood-image tapes. Both pigments are absent on the 12 non-image tape fibers.” - “Research at McCrone Research Institute”


“The Electron Optics Group at McCrone Associates (John Gavrilovic, Anna Teetsov, Mark Andersen, Ralph Hinsch, Howard Humecki, Betty Majewski, and Deborah Piper) in 1980 used electron and x-ray diffraction and found red ochre (iron oxide, hematite) and vermilion (mercuric sulfide); their electron microprobe analyzer found iron, mercury, and sulfur on a dozen of the blood-image area samples. The results fully confirmed Dr. McCrone’s results and further proved the image was painted twice-once with red ochre, followed by vermilion to enhance the blood-image areas.” - “Research at McCrone Research Institute”


Dr. John Heller and Doctor Alan Adler “argue that the Shroud blood images are determinable as genuine blood by no less than twelve independent indications: their forensic appearance. their microscopic appearance, the microspectrophotometry, reflection spectrometry, the presence of bile pigments, the presence of protein, the presence of albumin, positive protease tests, positive hemochromogen tests, positive cyanmethemoglobin tests, chemical generation of characteristic phorphyrin fluorescence, and...X-ray fluorescence detection of slightly higher levels of iron in blood image areas.” - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


(4) The Case Against the Shroud as a Painting


“X-ray fluorescence scans during the 1978 tests had revealed traces of iron, but there was no detectable difference in its density between the image and the non-image areas - although there was more in the bloodstains.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


3”x3” “test pieces were painted with art historic techniques used in early Christian, Byzantine and medieval times, also some renaissance and baroque techniques. The paints used were a yellow oxide, a calcined iron oxide, and vermilion. The painted samples, after the paints dried well on them, were touched to clean samples and these clean samples were photomicrographed....The test even proved that they were the early copies painted in Byzantine and medieval times, which deposited most of the paint particles.” - Isabel Piczek, “Is the Shroud of Turin a Painting?”


“...There are good logical reasons against the Shroud being a painting. For example, the 1532 fire would have made the paint crack and the subsequent dousing it received would have caused water damage that could be compared to that of other paintings. History has shown that the image, unlike any known painting, is not changed by either fire or water.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


“The aqueous mediums used before the thermoplastic mediums were introduced in the high renaissance, did not have the flexibility to apply them directly to unstretched canvas without a gesso ground. Medieval paintings were carefully prepared with a gesso ground and even then could not be folded or rolled without serious damage. We neither see a gesso ground underneath the Shroud image nor the typical damages which folding and rolling caused to aqueous paints.” - Isabel Piczek, “Is the Shroud of Turin a Painting?”


“Another curious feature of the image is the total lack of outline; the legs on the frontal image and the greater part of the dorsal are indefinite and fade away in a blur, quite unlike a painting. The same blurred effect applies also to the apparent blood and sweat stains.” - Noek Curer-Briggs, Shroud Mafia - The Creation of a Relic


“...Definite perspective and foreshortening exists both, on the frontal and the dorsal image, which seems to respect the laws of geometrical optics, the rules of image forming properties ordinarily relying on light. Foreshortening, however, was not understood by artists until the 15th century. It was introduced through the work of Piero della Francesca (1418-1492) and Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)....In 1356, at the time of the first recorded exhibition of this object, artists did not have any knowledge of anatomical foreshortening, let alone the paradox of a focusless foreshortening. “ - Isabel Piczek, “Is the Shroud of Turin a Painting?”


(5) The Bloodstains


“Victor V. Tryon, PhD, assistant professor in microbiology and director of the university’s Center for Advanced DNA Technologies, examined the DNA of one so-called ‘blood glob’ from two separate microscopic shroud samples. He reported isolating signals from three different human genes by employing polymerase chain reaction, which can detect pieces of double-stranded DNA.” - Jim Barrett, “Microbiology meets archaeology in a renewed quest for answers” (1996)


A herring-bone linen “placed on fresh blood clots within thirty minutes of the vein being punctured. A stain can be obtained but of no precise shape and it will easily flake when the cloth is handled. Beyond this lapse of time, no impression can be made not even in a stream saturated humid atmosphere.” - Doctor Pierre Merat, “The Blood Stains Bear Witness” (1991)


“The bloodstains are just too perfect. Yes, they behave exactly as one would expect, given the nature of the wounds, but what state would the blood have been in when the image was formed? If the blood had congealed, then it could hardly have been somehow transferred to the cloth. On the other hand, if it was liquid, it would have soaked into the cloth and run along the fibers And it certainly would not be so sharply defined in the way that has impressed - and puzzled - the forensic scientists.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


According to Dr. Gilbert Lavoie “the Shroud bloodstains make good sense once they are considered impressions from blood that has clotted for a certain period of time....At least an hour’s nondisturbance is needed for the most Shroud-like results. And this very same process also provided Adler with the key to the Shroud blood images’ unusual reddish color. In Lavoie’s reconstruction, the red cells, the very elements familiarly known to flake off, do not transfer to the cloth. It is the oozed serum which transfers to the cloth, its chief constituents the brownish methemoglobin and albumin, with which the greatly increased proportion of the red-dish pigment bilirubin would have formed a natural bond.” - Ian Wilson, The Mysterious Shroud (1986)


An experiment in which the doctor was wrapped “showed me that it is strictly impossible for body images to have been transferred onto the cloth by contact. The images I obtained with reagents that change color on contact with skin are relatively possible to read and interpret along the body’s axis line, that is to say, the forehead, nose and mouth. Outside this median line, such distortions appear that make it absolutely impossible to recognize the features of the face or even the main lines.” The blood stain from the right elbow lies outside the impression of the body image which “stops at the contour of the forearm, of the elbow and the lower part of the arm.”


“These two experiments of wrapping the elbow and the face prove that the impression of the bloodstains was made on a cloth enveloping a body, whilst the impression of the body silhouette was made at another time, on this same cloth ‘stretched out flat’, transferring the bloodstains outside their real position: on the hair, away from the face strictly speaking, and at the elbow away from the body image.”


“If we consider once more the Shroud as a whole, we notice the extreme precision of all the ‘signs’ to be observed. The outline of the silhouette has the definition of an excellent photograph on fine grained paper. The form of the blood stains enables us to measure angles and to determine relationships with the bone structure. Over the whole body, we can count the scourge marks...” - Doctor Pierre Merat, “The Blood Stains Bear Witness” (1991)


(6) An Image of the Passion


“In analyzing the Shroud and Shroud pictures through microscopes, scientists have counted at least 120 blows with the two-tailed lashes. Each tail had a barbell-shaped metal flagrum (tip) that fell on the Man of the Shroud; scientists have found there were more than 220 flagrum bruises that broke the skin. Jewish law permitted flogging only to a maximum of forty lashes, and the Pharisees in their piety reduced that number to thirty-nine. Roman law and practice knew no limitation in this respect, and so we can be sure it was a Roman scourging inflicted on a non-Roman; it was against the law to scourge a Roman citizen.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


The flagellants appeared at the height of the Black Death that carried away a third of the population of Europe. Their scourging differed little from the Roman flagrum.


“They were men who did public penance and scourged themselves with whips of hard knotted leather with little iron spikes. some make themselves bleed very badly between the shoulder blades, and some foolish women had cloths ready to catch the blood and smear it on their eyes, saying it was miraculous blood.” - Jean Froissart, Chronicles


“American pathologist Robert Bucklin examined the Shroud while in Turin and concluded that abrasions over both shoulder blades could have been made by carrying a heavy object, such as the horizontal bar of a cross; he estimates that the object might have weighed 80 to 100 pounds.” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


“Whereas a body bruised in this way from head to foot should be smeared with illegible traces of blood, we find on the Shroud a word for word description of the Passion of Jesus Christ according to the four Evangelists.” - Doctor Pierre Merat, “The Blood Stains Bear Witness” (1991)


“...There is not the slightest sign on the Shroud of smearing of any of the bloodstains - each bloodstain is precise and unsmeared. Now, in taking Jesus’ body down from the cross, and extracting the spikes, the soldiers certainly would have taken no special care or precautions in handling the body. The spear-thrust must have resulted in one or more quarts of blood flowing down the side of the abdomen, thigh, calf and foot. The body must have been so bloody from head to foot that it would be very difficult to handle it at all. Regardless of what preparations Joseph and Nicodemus had made, doubtless it would have been necessary for them to carry the body (weighing approximately 170 pounds, scientists have estimated) in their arms for fifty to a hundred yards, over possibly rough and rocky ground. At most, they might have had a temporary shroud to cover the naked body at the cross, to soak up some blood, and make the carrying a bit easier.”


“The actions of Joseph and Nicodemus of washing the body may have caused a pool of blood to collect at Jesus’ side under the spear wound and at the feet. Those are the only bloodstains that show on the Shroud of Turin that might have been formed after he was taken from the cross. No other blood flows on the Shroud run toward the sides of the body, as if he were lying on his back as the blood flowed. Instead, all of he other blood flows run approximately from head to foot, as gravity would take the blood as he hung on the cross...” - Frank C. Tribbe, Portrait of Jesus? (1983)


“However, as recently pointed out by London University Jewish scholar Victory Tunkel, if a first-century Jew died a bloody death, such as from crucifixion, the body would quite specifically not have been washed, in order to keep the life-blood with the body in preparation for the anticipated physical resurrection - striking evidence in favor of the Shroud’s authentic Jewishness.” - Ian Wilson, Jesus, The Evidence (1984)


Reproducing the Results


(1) Myrrh and Aloe


Kersten and Gruber theorize that Jesus was still alive when he was taken down from the cross. In the sepulcher he was wrapped in a sweat cloth packed with myrrh and aloe to resuscitate him.


“We can be grateful that Joseph of Arimathea and his helpers did not wash the body of Jesus for medical reasons, because this allowed the traces of coagulated blood to be imprinted on the cloth. Two different types of bleeding can be clearly distinguished. Firstly there is the dried blood which came from the whipping, the crowning with thorns, the side wound and from the nails fixing the body to the Cross. Secondly there is the fresh blood which flowed when Jesus was already lying horizontally in the cloth. The fabric quickly became saturated with the resinous aloe, and was thoroughly impregnated with it. This meant that most of the blood was not absorbed into the cloth, but just spread out over the surface. This would explain the surprising fact, observed by modern researchers, that most of the blood marks cannot be seen on the reverse side even though the material is quite thin. The careful treatment with the herbal solution also had the effect of resoftening the coagulated areas of blood, so that they too were transferred on to the cloth.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


The blood surrounds and serum surrounds from the large mark on the forehead, the flow from the nail wounds on the hands and feet, the steamlets from the cut in the side and the conspicous trace running transversely across the back could only have been formed by the activity of fibrin present in fresh blood.


According to Prof Bronte: “To my mind the pattern which is actually found suggests that the person concerned was wrapped in the cloth only at the entombment, and this most probably by first laying the body flat on the cloth and then placing the other half of the cloth over the body. I cannot see how a passive emission of larger quantities of blood could happened during this operation of laying out the body.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


Kersten and Gruber’s attempts to produce a shroud-like image by wrapping a body in an untreated, hand-worked linen fabric coated with an aloe and myrrh tincture were unsatisfactory. The contours were reproduced clearly but were distorted with no gradated shading as in the Shroud picture. (The head was not wrapped in this experiment.) Holger Kersten, the subject, was able to remain lying in a sweat without moving for only thirty-five minutes, however, before the trapped heat began to induce circulatory collapse. The authors suggest the unconscious Jesus lay in the Shroud for a much longer period of time and evaporation played a crucial role. It must be pointed out at this point that according to the Gospels, the man Jesus was able to survive considerable physical hardship, having fasted forty days (which, in the Middle East meant “a long time”).


“One can assume that some time elapsed before the herbal mixture was applied, covering the entire body of Jesus, including the head...The tincture had probably already dried on the body when Jesus was wrapped in the sheet. Due to the febrile process the tincture was gradually dampened again in the sweat. During evaporation, molecules of the herbal mixture may thus have been transported on to the cloth with the perspiration....This would be a suitable explanation for the kind of image on the Turin cloth, because fluid vapors tend to rise vertically during evaporation. Thus we would expect a direct projection for the picture rather than a distorted image.” “The picture on the Turin cloth is only visible at places where it was directly in contact with the surface of the body or only millimeters from the skin. Where the fabric was further off, no coloration can be see; for example none of the whip marks were transferred. The process we have suggested here also explains why the picture is not sharply outlined, why the borders slowly merge with the color of the surrounding cloth.” - Holger Kersten & Elmar R. Gruber, The Jesus Conspiracy - The Turin Shroud & The Truth About the Resurrection (1992)


(2) Daubing or Burning the Image


“I employed an available, small, portrait bas-relief, to which I carefully molded wet cloth and allowed it to dry. Then, using a dauber, I rubbed on powered pigment. (Originally I used a mixture of myrrh and aloes; I have since switched to a mineral pigment consistent with the findings of the recent miroscopic tests on the shoud...).”


“Such a rubbing technique automatically produces monochromatic negative images, and virtually guarantees that the photo-reversal positive will be of excellent quality. It possesses the requisite ‘inherent edge-blurring properties’ and can give visually proper tonal gradations. Additionally, it yields images that are superficial (remain on the topmost fibers), highly resolved, and fire-stable. The images are - like those of the shroud - relatively undistorted, are ‘directionless’ (that is, without brush marks), and characterized by ‘blank spaces’ surrounding the forms. There is no cementing of the fibers, and everywhere the threads show clearly through the light-toned stain.” -Joe Nickell, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1987)


“It must be said that Nickell’s results, like those produced by Walter Sanford under McCrone’s direction - although more recognizable in negative - are nowhere near as impressive as the Shroud, even though both attempts were produced by modern artists deliberately trying to create a negative image. Although they were much more familiar with negatives than any medieval artist would have been, the hypothetical early hoaxer managed to outdo them.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


“Although microscopic examination of the Shroud shows that the image does not consist of powdered pigments, any of a number of cellulose-sensitizing materials could have been used instead. One may postulate that the image was developed as the deformed cloth material was ironed flat, baked, or exposed to the sun for some period of time.” - S.F. Pelllicori and R.A. Chandos, “Portable Unit Permits UV/Vis Study of ‘Shroud’,” Industrial Research & Development (Feb’ 81), 189


“Are we looking at an image, not burned by heat into a cloth, but almost washed out of it?” - David Sox, The Image on the Shroud


“Evidence that suggests that the Shroud has altered in appearance over the centuries comes from the records of Cornelius Zantvliet, a Benedictine monk....Zantvliet does not describe any details of the Shroud he saw, but...he does complement it as being ‘admirably depicted’. We must remember that we can only appreciate the full glory of the image in photographic negative: in his day what is today’s Turin Shroud would have seemed pale and lack-luster to the naked eye. By no stretch of the imagination could it have been called ‘an admirable depiction’ of the crucified Jesus.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


It is possible that the Shroud image was more vivid in 1449 when Zantvliet viewed it. (The Mandylion, however, was a faint image.) Washing or ferous-salt-containing ferric oxide pigment acting as an acid could produce the weakened, degraded, yellow fibers on the linen. Washing would also account for the faintness of the image which would occur as larger particles were removed from the Shroud. It is instructive to remember the boiling in oil and steaming of the Shroud as described by Antoine de Lalaing in 1503 (although Lalaing said the figure was not effaced or altered.)


(3) Camera Obscura


“The most significant problem was the lack of distortion of the image. No attempt to explain the image - be it contact with the body, heating a metal statue or even the nuclear flash theory - would provide a totally undistorted image. And why do we see only the front and back of the body, not the top of the head or the sides? The inescapable conclusion is that the Shroud has never been draped around a body, living or dead. However the image may have been formed, the cloth had to have been perfectly flat at the time.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


“....Australian Dr. Nicholas Allen, chair of fine arts at the University of Port Elizabeth, published his Shroud-as-photograph theory in 1995 that, consonant with the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, his ‘photo’ was made before 1356. Allen notes that all the ingredients were available in the 14th c., and all one had to do was suspend the corpse(!) for three to four days in sunlight, at the proper focusing distance from the fourteen-foot cloth that has been treated with silver nitrate or silver sulphate, outside a large camera obscura whose aperture contains a double convex quartz crystal lens fifteen centimeters in diameter and seven milimeters thick, then fix the negative image with ammonia; but urine would do.” - Professor Daniel C. Scavone, “Book Review of The Turin Shroud: In Whose Image?”


Picknett and Prince theorize that Leonardo da Vinci created the current shroud of Turin, which was switched with the previous version in the early 1490’s. The method supposedly used to create the image was a camera obscura. “When light shines through a small hole into a dark chamber, pictures of things outside - upside down and in mirror image - are projected onto the opposite wall. Artistotle wrote of it in the fourth century BC, as did the Arab philosopher Ibn al Haitam in the eleventh century, and it is known that a description of a camera obscura was given in 1279 by an English alchemist, John Peckham.


Leonardo’s “Codex Atlanticus contains a diagram that shows the workings of the camera obscura (which Leonardo called the oculus artificialis, the artificial eye)...” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


“You will catch these pictures on a piece of white paper, which is placed vertically in the room not far from that opening...the paper should be very thin and must be viewed from the back.” - Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus (1502)


The darkening of silver chloride on exposure to light was well known to Leonardo. “The great eighth-century alchemist Jabir-ibn-Hayyan, commonly known as Geber, is reputed to have used silver nitrate, although the earliest known copoy of De Inventiones Veritatis, a work ascribed to him in wich this is mentioned, dates form only the mid-1500s. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) knew that silver nitrate turned black with exposure to light. Other alchemitst who were known to have worked with silver salts are Angeleo Sala and Hohann Glauber in the 1600s. Robert Boyle (allegedly one of the Priory’s grand Masters) experimented with the effects of light on silver chloride. The response to light of iron salts was also known by them.


“Another vitally important process to nineteenth-century photographers, the production of silver chloride from a solution of silver nitrate using sodium chloride, was known to alchemists from at lest the early 1400s....Perhaps the most significant of all was the discovery that has been hailed as ‘the beginning of photography’ - the first scientific description of the light sensitivity of silver salts, by Johann Heinrich Schulze in 1727...He made this breakthrough while trying to replicate an alchemical experiment...” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


Using a white-glossed plaster head for a model and a focusing lens (which Leonardo could have ground) a good, life-size image, could be projected onto a linen cloth stretched over a wood frame. An emulsion of egg white and bichromate salts that had been applied to the linen hardened where the image fell after 6-12 hours of exposure. The unexposed areas, which were soft and still soluble, were then washed out and the cloth heated to char the egg white that remained. (The most Shroud-like results were obtained with adding urine to the mixture to allow it to scorch at a lower temperature.) The resulting brownish image had a fish-eye distortion which foreshortened the center of the face and left a distinct small circle of light at the focal point. The ears and much of the hair disappeared.


Picknett and Prince theorize that the head on the Shroud was created separately from the body, and that a deformation on the bridge of the nose can be best explained by the circle of light effect. The hair was retouched later by painting, resulting in a stiff, artificial appearance.


“The authors further believe that the face of the man on the Shroud is a self-photograph of Leonardo, one that closely resembles his well known self-portrait in red chalk with only the salient highlights of his features sketched in. Meanwhile, they suggest that the body on the Shroud is that of a crucified cadaver studied by Leonardo.” - Professor Daniel C. Scavone, “Book Review of The Turin Shroud: In Whose Image?”


“Taken together with the foreshortening - the reduction of the forehead and the straightening of the sides of the face, making the ears disappear - we saw that at long last we had proof positive that the face of the man on the Shroud had been created using a lens. Nothing else explains these features.” - Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, Turin Shroud - In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled (1994)


The fish-eye lens effect reported by Picknett and Prince is not readily apparent on my enhancement of the shroud image, although the long “broken nose” and absence of visible ears could be taken as support of their theory.


“The argument that history’s proto-photo was a life- sized photo(!) on a fourteen-foot cloth(!) that was a composite(!): double corpse with daubed-on blood and, in separate processes, Leonardo’s own head front and back, is a priori far-fetched. The premise is more demanding of faith than is the authenticity of the Shroud. I am led to ask why Leonardo has left us his self-portrait in red chalk and not his photo, and why he would use another body when Vasari notes that his own physique was near-perfect, and everybody knows his exorbitant vanity.” - Professor Daniel C. Scavone, “Book Review of The Turin Shroud: In Whose Image?”




Report: Verification of the Nature and Causes of the Photo-negative Images on the Shroud of Lirey-Chambéry-Turin


by Nicholas P L Allen


A comparison between the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) data concerning the qualities of image formation on the Shroud of Turin and the inferences of the author’s recent investigation into shroud-like image formation techniques employing technology readily available to medieval cultures as far back as the eleventh century strongly suggests that the negative image as found on the Shroud of Turin was the product of a form of primitive photography employing either silver nitrate or silver sulphate as a light sensitive agent.


{Comment: The author proposes that a superintelligent scientist in the 13th century understood the scientific principles of photography which was never discovered until the 19th century; applied the lengthy procedure involving work of many weeks as well as a dead body to create a fake, a fake that no one would know its meaning until a few centuries later; did not make any record of his work; did not attempt to use the procedure again for anything else.  Incredible!!!}




In a recently completed research project (registered with the University of Durban-Westville) which dealt with the more plausible explanations for the photo-negative images (both dorsal and frontal) of the crucified Christ on the so-called Shroud of Lirey-Chambéry-Turin, the author postulated that well before the middle of the fourteenth century people may well have possessed the necessary technical knowledge to produce a photographic negative image on an organic support such as linen or cotton.


On first appraisal the reader may well believe this conclusion to be incomprehensible. Yet, if one reconsiders the phenomenon of the Shroud in isolation, without supplication to either popular misconception, religious orthodoxy or the established dogmas of scientific opinion, that is if one considers the fact as they are presented by the Shroud as Sache selbst, it would seem that the only possible and logical way that the image on the Shroud could have been produced was by a photographically related technique. This conclusion only seems outlandish once it is placed within the context of our present understanding of medieval cultures and their respective levels of technology. It should be further noted that until now no hypothesis has ever been submitted for examination by both the academic and scientific community, which has been able to satisfactorily address every one of the Shroud’s distinctive image characteristics as documented by the various members of the Shroud of Turin Research Project in the late 70s and early 80s.


Briefly, these characteristics of the image, as found on the so-called Shroud of Turin, may be listed as follows: 1


Superficiality: Although it is quite likely that the areas associated with the stigmata are formed from blood, 2 the negative image itself is essentially the enigmatic discolouration of the uppermost fibres of the linen threads which constitute the Shroud’s fabric. This image has not ‘penetrated’ the threads in the sense that it is not visible on the underside of the Shroud. In addition, the image is not visually coherent to the naked eye at close range. 3


Detailed: The Shroud’s negative image, once transformed to a positive state by means of modern photography, is highly detailed, which has allowed medical experts to claim that they are able to detect the presence of such details as rigor mortis, contusion wounds, excoriations and a variety of facial wounds (Barbet 1950:23--45). It should also be considered that without the medium of modern photography it is uncertain if anyone living before c 1898 could have seen these details 4 (that is when Secondo Pia made his historic photographic negatives of the Shroud).


Thermally stable: The Shroud’s image was not affected by the intense heat of a fire which nearly destroyed it in 1532.


No pigment: It is quite certain that no pigment was applied to the Shroud and the image is not caused by pigment, dye or stain, either.


Three-dimensional: The intensity of the image varies according to the distance of the body from the cloth, strongly suggesting that the body did not in fact come into direct contact with the Shroud. The mathematical ratio is so precise that Jackson and Jumper were able to create a three-dimensional replica from the image. 5.


Negative: The image is a negative which is as visually coherent as a positive photograph when its tonal polarity is reversed.


Directionless: The process that formed the image operated in a non-directional fashion. It was not generated according to any directional pattern as it would have been if applied by hand. A painting, for example, shows strong directionality, that is, the direction by which the medium was applied is evident from the brush strokes.


Chemically stable: The straw-yellow discolouration composing the Shroud image cannot be dissolved, bleached, or changed by standard chemical agents.


Water stable: The Shroud was doused with water to extinguish the fire of 1532. Although this has caused a visible water stain, the image itself does not appear to be affected.


If one accepts that water stability and chemical stability may both be covered by the same nomenclature, then there exists a total of eight conspicuous attributes of the image which are peculiar to the Shroud of Lirey-Chambéry-Turin.


Deficient image formation theories


Broadly speaking, there are three major categories of theories which have been postulated since 1898 in futile attempts to account for the images on the Shroud. These totally unsatisfactory image formation theories may be reviewed very briefly as follows:


The image was ‘somehow’ produced by the application of paint/dye/stain/power


Even if an artist were able to apply some staining compound that contained a proportion of red ochre, as was suggested by McCrone, 6 the fibrils would be stained throughout. One must also ask how an ‘artist’ could possibly view what he/she were painting/staining since the image is so subtle that it can only be clearly discerned from some distance. In short, any solution to image formation on the Shroud of Turin which insisted on the employment of pigments, dyes and staining compounds would have to explain why the artist/s concerned would have wanted to produce an image (complete with anatomically accurate details) in the negative, such that its visual information was largely inaccessible to its proposed viewing audience at the time of this manufacture.


The image is an imprint produced by some form of ‘bodily’ contact


There are at least three main variations within this particular category of image-formation theory: The image of the man on the Shroud is


·      a natural chemical reaction between the Shroud and a real corpse


·      a man-made impression caused by covering a red-ochre stained corpse and/or three-dimensional statue with the Shroud


·      a man-made impression caused by laying the Shroud over a chemically treated corpse, or a heated, metal,


·      three-dimensional statue. The latter method would arguably create a negative image by scorching.


All of the above theories may be safely excluded for one major reason viz: if the Shroud came into contact with all areas of the hypothetical corpse/body/statue that is visible in the actual image, then that image should be grossly distorted. P. Vignon (as early as 1902) undertook a series of experiments to prove this very point.


The image was produced naturally by chemical action (vaporography)


According to Vignon (1902), someone spread an unguent on the Shroud (such as myrrh and aloes) ‘thus rendering it sensitive to the action of organic emanations from the body’. Vignon proposed that Christ’s corpse, still covered by a layer of uric acid-rich ‘morbid sweat’ or urea (the latter produced naturally by the body as a result of a highly stressful death) was laid out naked on the Shroud and then covered by it. The urea, starting to ferment, producing carbonate of ammonia. The ammoniacal vapours rose upwards and oxidised the aloes, thus producing a negative image.


Vignon’s ‘vaporographic’ theory (1902), has to be excluded for at least one obvious reason, viz:


Vaporographic images are caused by chemical changes that would be evident throughout the fibrils of the Shroud. The image on the Shroud is in fact visible only on the outer surface of the fibrils.


Photograph of the Shroud of Turin showing the negative frontal image of a tortured man


The need for a paradigm shift


It should be noted that most researchers have at some time or another remarked on the surprising photographic nature of the Shroud’s image and it is accepted by all that in every way the Shroud acts as a negative photographic plate .7 However, no-one to date, 8 has seriously suggested that the Shroud could have been produced by photographic means. This rather obvious solution would no doubt be considered quite ludicrous because (as is well known) photography as the art of fixing stable records of the images of nature through the action of light on light-sensitive materials was discovered only in the early nineteenth century!


Yet, if one reviews the findings of the 1973 and 1978 STURP commissions, both of which carefully analysed the characteristics of this seemingly paradoxical image, one can only conclude that some form of radiated energy (heat or light) could have formed the image, and arguably the simplest way to produce an image by a form of radiated energy is by employing some form of photographic-related technology.


Since 1990 the author has formally conducted a number of experiments which have employed the kind of technology available to certain medieval societies c 1200--1350 AD, and has shown that it is quite possible to produce a chemically stable (fixed) negative photographic image of a human corpse on a piece of linen employing only three substances, all of which were available to people living well before the thirteenth century. These substances are quartz (rock-crystal), the silver salts (specifically silver nitrate (eau prime and silver) and/or silver sulphate (oil of vitriol and silver) and ammonia (urine) (Allen 1993a:23--32; 1993b; 1994:62--94).


More specifically, if a piece of linen, permeated with a dilute solution of either silver nitrate or silver sulphate, is positioned inside a camera obscura , it can record (in the negative) the details of a sun-illuminated subject situated outside the camera obscura.


It must be stressed that this image can only be obtained if it is focused onto the linen cloth by means of a quartz (optical quality, rock-crystal) bi-convex lens. In addition, for this image to be life-sized (for example the dimensions of an adult human corpse), it is necessary for the combined image conjugate and object conjugate distances to total about 8,8 metres.


In other words, the subject to be ‘photographed’ must be positioned (that is outside the camera obscura) some 4,4 metres from the aperture, whilst the screen supporting the prepared linen cloth must correspondingly be placed at a similar distance from the aperture (inside the camera obscura). At these long distances it is essential that the lens should have as large a diameter as possible (for example, well over 60 mm 9;) so that as much light as possible enters the camera obscura.


It is important to emphasise here, that a pinhole and/or lens made from optical quality glass will not suffice for this purpose. Indeed, only optical quality quartz will permit the passage of UV radiation from the subject (corpse) to the specific silver salt which impregnates the linen material, and both silver nitrate and silver sulphate are particularly sensitive to the UV end of the light spectrum (particularly 195 to 240 nm). The image thus obtained is in the negative, and (surprising as it may seem) after immersion in ammonia becomes chemically stable. In fact, by immersing the cloth in urine or dilute ammonia it is possible to remove all traces of silver (reduced or otherwise), and the cloth together with its encoded negative image may be brought out of the camera obscura into the light of day. The image is only visually coherent at a distance of some two to three metres, appears only on the upper fibrils of the cloth and is a record of the illumination of the subject over a period of days. For this latter reason the visual record contains a negative encoding of the three-dimensional characteristics of the original subject.


In this context at least, the image is unlike a modern photographic negative in that it is not a ‘snap-shot’of a particular moment in time, 10 but rather the record of the original subject according to the physical distance of a particular feature of the subject from the prepared organic support (for example linen cloth). If a photographic negative is made from this cloth, then a highly detailed, positive image of the original subject will result. Readers should compare this image with the positive image of the head from the Shroud of Lirey-Chambéry-Turin.


The photographic hypothesis


From the preceding evidence alone it is possible to postulate that somebody in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century may have had the necessary knowledge and materials to have taken either a human corpse or even a life-like bodycast and have suspended it vertically in direct sunlight for an unspecified number of days such that it (the corpse) received an equal amount of morning and afternoon illumination. This subject (corpse or bodycast) would have had to have been situated opposite an aperture (containing a simple bi-convex quartz lens) of a light-proof room (camera obscura).


Inside this room or camera, it would have been necessary for a large screen to support the linen cloth (Shroud), which had been previously treated with a very dilute solution of either silver nitrate (0,5%) or silver sulphate (0,57%). The inverted image of the corpse would have been focused onto this prepared support and after a few days the UV sensitive silver salt would have turned purplish-brown, forming as it did a negative photographic image of the subject.


To achieve the twofold image which now appears on the Shroud of Turin, it would have been necessary for this operation to have been repeated twice to obtain an impression of both the frontal and dorsal images of the sun-illuminated corpse. After both exposures had been completed the linen cloth would have been soaked briefly in a dilute solution of ammonia (5%) or possibly even urine. This latter action would have ostensibly removed all silver (both exposed and unexposed) from the linen cloth and also would have allowed it to be exhibited outside the camera even in direct sunlight, without further discolouration occurring. Even though the silver salt had been removed, the cloth would have still contained a faint negative straw-yellow image -- one which seemed to be encoded in the very structure of the linen itself, albeit on the upper fibrils.


Practical experiments with silver nitrate and linen


The photo-negative images which served to illustrate the hypothetical account stated above were produced during a series of practical experiments conducted between 1990 and 1994 (Allen 1993b).


If re-photographed (by more conventional means), these negative images on linen may be viewed in the positive, in which they reveal a wealth of detail not normally available to the human eye. This phenomenon quite clearly conforms very closely to the characteristics of the image as found in the Shroud of Turin and if this hypothetical account is in any way accurate, it strongly implies that the Shroud of Turin may be the only extant example of a lost photographic technology which is normally assumed to have been first discovered in the early nineteenth century by such people as Thomas Wedgwood and Sir Humphry Davy. However, it would seem to stand to reason that a final proof for the validity of the photographic hypothesis (as briefly reviewed above) would have to wait until the Shroud of Turin was yet again subjected to a series of suitable scientific tests (albeit non-destructive).


Fortunately, however, the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) tests, which were conducted on the Shroud in 1978, have furnished enough appropriate information to allow for a productive comparison of both the characteristics of image formation as found on the Shroud and the characteristics of image formation as found on the various test samples produced by the author between 1990 and 1994. It is therefore possible at least to propose a scientifically verifiable model -- one which explains the nature and the specific cause of the photo-negative image as found on both the Shroud of Turin and the 1992 linen test piece. To this end the more pertinent results of the 1978 STURP commission are reassessed briefly below.


Infrared reflectance spectroscopy and the Shroud of Turin


As a result of a series of infrared reflectance spectroscopy investigations made by J S Accetta and J S Baumgart in 1978 it was possible to compare the spectral features of selected Shroud features (that is areas of ‘bloodstain’, body image, ‘pristine’ linen and scorch and water marks caused by an accidental fire in 1532). In particular, it was found that no notable differences existed between the spectral features of the scorch marks and those areas of the linen which contained details of image. Accetta (1980:1924--5) states that the image areas are


·      those parts of the cloth containing the anatomical attributes of the figure in the cloth. Generally, spectra were taken inthose areas where the image was visually dense ... Spectral comparisons of linen and a moderate scorch ... display similar features in the 3-5- and 8-14-mm bands ... In general, scorch spectra are invariant with respect to visual intensity, showing nearly identical absolute reflectances in both spectral bands. Furthermore, there exists almost negligible spectral variation between scorches and bare linen ... laboratory observations of scorches on linen are similar to scorches on the Shroud. Also shown is a marked similarity between image and scorch areas in both spectral bands.


Accetta (1980:1925) goes on to conclude that the


·      spectral similarity of the image areas to known scorches is noted and is consistent with observation in terms of color in the visible region of the spectrum, however; this result is not without ambiguity since spectral similarities are characteristic of most areas examined as shown by the data in both spectral bands.


Photomicrography and the Shroud of Turin


Another member of the STURP team, S Pellicori, produced a series of photomicrographs of the Shroud in 1978. He noted that although there was a notable difference between the scorch marks and the water marks of 1532, he did observe certain similarities between the scorch marks and areas of image. Pellicori (1981:34--43) informs us that the water stains had some distinct characteristics, notably that they penetrated the linen’s threads to all depths, including around bends and into crevices in the fibre, which made for a darkish brown saturated appearance. The water stains also have an abrupt boundary where the unwetted areas begin. The scorches on the other hand, altered the coloring of the bulk of each fibril to a constant density -- that is, also regardless of bends and crevices. But as might be expected from a scorch, these marks had a diffuse and gradual boundary.


Pellicori (1981:41) also tells us that the body image itself is


·      a uniform, light sepia yellow color on the points of highest relief of the threads, or in other words, on the surface of the Shroud. There is no indication of any artificial coating or pigments on the surface of these darkened fibrils. Some areas, presumably those where contact between the body and Shroud was more complete or direct, simply have more of the darkened fibrils. The images of the cheek, eyes and fingers are primarily registered on the upper crowns of the threads. Yet even in the darkest and atypical of areas -- the heel and nose -- the image stain does not penetrate to the reverse side of the cloth and shows no evidence of any mixture of blood.


The various STURP reports concur with the visual observations made of the test sample produced in 1992 with silver nitrate as well as the more recently produced test (1994) known as the Shroud of Port Elizabeth, the latter being produced with silver sulphate. To this end, a visual comparison of the image as found on the Shroud of Lirey-Chambéry-Turin and on these test pieces reveals that all three images on cloth have the following common characteristics:


·      a straw-yellow discolouration of the upper fibrils of the linen material (Pellicori 1981:34--43; Wilson, 1978:9)

·      the appearance of being photographic negatives which are only visually coherent at distances upwards of two metres (Wilson 1978:9; Ostler 1988:56)

·      no pigment, powder, dye or stain (Stevenson 1981)

·      no directionality

·      thermal stability

·      water stability

·      relative chemical stability in that the author’s test pieces are affected by household bleach to the same degree as any other mild scorch on organic material is altered.


The image as seen in plate 7 was produced by the actions of UV radiation (195--240 nm) (Allen 1993b) on a linen cloth sample (300 x 200 mm) saturated in a dilute solution of silver nitrate (0,5%). This image (which took at least four days to form) was originally a dark purplish-brown colour . After immersion in a dilute solution of ammonia (5%), this image appeared to lose much of its detail and simultaneously assumed its present straw-yellow colour. However, when rephotographed, the negative print reveals a highly detailed, positive image of the original subject (2).


Towards formulating a plausible theoretical model for image formation on the Shroud of Turin


From this visible result, the following hypothesis may be conjectured:


·      the purplish-brown image is caused by reduced silver nitrate in the presence of UV radiation; after immersion in an ammonia solution, most of the silver is removed from the linen cloth, and the resultant straw-yellow image is formed not by the presence of silver but by a structural (chemical) alteration to the linen (cellulose) itself.


To test this hypothesis a number of tests were conducted.


Verification of the photographic hypothesis


To confirm the exact concentration of any possible residual silver nitrate, an ICP-MS analysis of the digested cloth was undertaken by E H Evans. For this purpose six samples of linen material were prepared as previously described. The analyses were performed in triplicate on both blank and treated samples:


Three samples, each measuring 300 x 200 mm, and labelled A¹, A² and A³ respectively, were saturated in a solution of silver nitrate (1%). These were exposed to the sun until they had turned a uniform dark purplish-brown and were dry to the touch.


These samples were each immersed in a solution of dilute ammonia (5%), cursorily washed, dried naturally in sunlight and sealed in sterile plastic envelopes. . Three samples, each measuring 300 x 200mm, and labelled B¹, B² and B³ respectively, were left untreated and sealed in a sterile plastic envelope.


Evans determined the exact levels of silver contained in these samples by employing the following method:


Sub-samples (0,5 g) were cut from each of the six linen samples, and heated gently with concentrated nitric acid (10 ml) for approximately two hours (that is until nitrogen oxide fumes ceased to be given off). The sub-samples were then boiled down to approximately 2 ml and then quantitively transferred to 25 ml volumetric flasks and made up to volume with deionised distilled water. 250 µl of indium solution (10 µ l-¹) was added as an internal standard. Analysis was performed using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. Evans noted that the digestion had not been completely successful, as some undigested material (possible colloidal in nature) settled out at the bottom of each flask. Although it is quite certain that most of the analyte remained in solution, given the high acid concentration, Evans advises that the following test results should only be regarded as semi-quantitative:


ICP-MS test results

Sample ID

Ag concentration (mg g-¹)








B³ (untreated)



A¹ (treated)



A² (treated)



A³ (treated)





6 Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry test results


Considering that the treated samples analysed by Evans had higher concentrations of silver nitrate than was employed in all of the test pieces which contained an image and in addition were not washed as vigorously as pieces containing an image, it is certain that the residue of silver (in any of the test samples containing an image) will be far lower than the figures reflected above. It should also be borne in mind that the concentrations of silver in a piece of linen saturated with silver nitrate (1%) (before being washed with ammonia) would be about 10 000 ppm. This result very strongly indicates that the permanent image as found on the test piece is formed solely by a chemically induced alteration to the linen fibres (cellulose) and not by silver.


Viscosity and methylene blue tests on the 1992 test pieces In the light of the preceding data, it was necessary to deduce what changes were occurring to the linen material which could account for the straw-yellow discolouration of the upper fibrils. To this end, P F Schürek undertook a series of standard tests to determine if there was a change in the degree of polymerisation of the cellulose and hemicellulose in the treated linen samples when compared to untreated linen samples. These were conducted by Schürek in accordance with the procedures laid down by the British Standard Method test for the determination of the cuprammonium fluidity of cotton and certain cellulosic man-made fibres.11


The following results were obtained:


The degree of polymerisation (DP) was reduced from an average of 2 800 (for untreated linen) to an average of 2 100 (for treated linen).


In addition, a standard methylene blue test was conducted in accordance with the procedure as described by Earland and Raven (1971). This test, which is dependent on the absorption rate of methylene blue by cellulose, indicated that the cellulose of the treated linen samples was more oxidised than that of untreated linen samples.




In the light of the work undertaken by the STURP commission in 1978 and from the data reviewed briefly in this paper, it is possible to propose a hypothetical model for both the nature and the causes of the structural alteration which occurs to the cellulose of organic fibres such as linen, cotton and hemp when they are saturated in silver nitrate solution, exposed to UV radiation and immersed in dilute ammonia, viz: The silver salt (for example silver nitrate) is reduced by the actions of the UV range of the light spectrum. This reduction may be expressed chemically as (Ag + NO3) and is thus responsible for the production of free radicals. These are produced by the action of the UV radiation on the nitrate ions that compose the compound. These in turn cleave the molecular chains which form the cellulose structures of the linen fibrils. These cleavages (oxidation) are possible in certain places along the cellulose polymers (that is both branched and linear structures). Briefly these may be identified as follows:


·      oxidation between the ketone groups at C² and C³, one possible example of which is described in (7a); and/or

·      oxidation of the primary alcohol group at C 6 to the aldehyde group, one possible example of which is described in (7b); and/or

·      oxidation of the primary alcohol group at C 6 to the carboxyl group, one possible example of which is described in (7c); and/or

·      esterification of the acetal groups at C¹to the carboxyl groups and subsequent cleavage of the cellulose chain, one possible example of which is described in (7d).


This chemically induced oxidation of the cellulose, which is structurally similar to oxidation caused by natural ageing and scorching, is proportionally more prevalent on the uppermost fibrils which constitute the linen threads and is presumed to be more intense in low crystallinity zones. It is also important to note that in addition to the possible cleavages caused directly by the action of the free radicals (as stated above), the possibility equally exists that these free radicals could give rise to an energy transfer. Briefly stated, as a result of the action of UV radiation the generated free radicals could cleave the hydrogen bond of the hydroxyl group of cellulose. This in turn could liberate a hydrogen ion which could also be responsible for yet further cleavages in any of the following cellulose groups, viz:


·      the carboxyl group

·      the ketone group

·      the adelhyde group.


It is quite certain that it is not possible to achieve the very specific qualities of image as found on the Shroud of Turin and the 1990-1994 test samples by any artistic or natural process which involves the use of vapours, dyes, pigments, powders or stains. It is known that the Shroud was most likely manufactured sometime after the mid-thirteenth century (Anderson 1988:25) (definitely not later than 1357 AD) and is not miraculous. Indeed, the fact that the Shroud is not a miraculous product should not be viewed as a threat to anyone’s religious convictions so long as that faith is not solely dependent on a piece of medieval fabric. It would seem therefore (subject to further corroborative testing of the Shroud itself) that the hypothetical photographic technique, as elucidated earlier in this article, is the only plausible explanation for image formation on the Shroud of Lirey-Chambéry-Turin and indicates that people in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century were indeed privy to a photographic technology which was previously thought to be unknown before the beginning of the nineteenth century.


The implications that this has for the history of technology and the history of art cannot be underestimated and far from condemning the Shroud of Turin as a mere medieval forgery or clever ‘fake’, we should strive to ensure that this remarkable and unique vestige of a lost medieval technology be carefully preserved for future analysis.




1 This list of image formation characteristics is based on the information supplied by Stevenson and Habermas (1981).


2 Pellicori (1980:1916) noted that ‘the absorption spectrum of a blood particle removed from the Shroud independently suggests that blood is present. Furthermore, the resemblance to blood as seen in the photomicrography of these areas is strong. The spectrum suggests denatured met-haemoglobin.’


3 Wilson (1978:9), states that ‘[t]he colour of the imprint can best be described as a pure sepia monochrome, and the closer one tries to examine it, the more it melts away like mist’.


4 It is possible for a person to see the positive image on the Shroud of Turin by staring at its negative image for a short period of time and then observing the after-image which forms on the retina. The author has experimented with this technique with the Shroud of Turin’s image and his own shroud-images.


5 Jackson and Jumper produced three-dimensional models of the man in the Shroud by enhancing the photographs taken of the Shroud in 1931 by G. Enrie. For this exercise, they made use of a VP-8 Image Analyzer.


6 McCrone claimed to have detected the presence of red ochre (which is ostensibly iron oxide and a binder) in the Shroud’s fibres. At first appraisal this would seem to support the notion that some painting medium was employed in the production of the Shroud’s image. However, if one considers that the microchemical tests (as carried out by A. Adler) detected no pigments or even binders for pigments of any kind to a level of less than a millionth of a gram, then surely we are left in no doubt that even if present, red ochre has nothing to do with the image itself (cf. Stevenson 1981:135--8).


7 Ostler’s comments are typical of this myopic condition, viz: ‘the shroud remains as mysterious as ever, reason: it bears an inexplicable life-size image of a crucified body, which is uncannily accurate and looks just like a photographic negative -- occurring centuries before photography was invented’ (1988:56).


8 One exception to this state of affairs came to light only quite recently. Indeed, in August 1994 two Britons, L Picknett and C Prince published a book entitled Turin Shroud: in whose image? The shocking truth unveiled. Although published a few months after the author’s own independent findings, Picknett and Prince claim that since 1988 they have also been exploring the possibility that the Shroud of Turin had been produced by photographic means. However, although at first appraisal this claim would seem to be supportive of the author’s own conclusions, it should be appreciated that these two researchers’ adhere to the somewhat sensationalist notion that the Shroud of Turin is a self-portrait produced by none other than Leonardo da Vinci in 1492. This is some 135 years after the Shroud was first exhibited at Lirey in c 1357!


9 The author originally employed a 40 mm lens for the 1992 test pieces as these only involved small-scale subject matter such as the plaster head (2). However, for full length figures the best results have been obtained with a 180 mm quartz bi-convex lens which has a focal length of 2,2 metres. The large diameter of this piece of apparatus has made it possible for the author to stop down the aperture at will, in an endeavour to calculate the smallest diameter possible for this particular image forming technique.


10 It is interesting to note that Kunz and Räther (1995:120--1) humorously referred to the author’s findings as ‘evidence’ for ‘Schnappschuß aus dem Mittelalter’. This notion is extremely misleading as it fails to take cognisance of the fact that the Shroud would have required several days of exposure to a sun-illuminated subject. In this sense the Shroud is not so much a ‘photograph’ as a ‘solarograph’ and is in effect quite similar to a suntan.


11 Cf BS2610:1978.




Accetta, J S & Baumgart, J S 1980. Infrared reflectance spectroscopy and thermographic investigations of the Shroud of Turin. Applied Optics, 19 (12):1921--1929.


Adler, A D & Heller, J H 1980. Blood on the Shroud of Turin. Applied Optics, 19 (16):2742--2744.


Allen, N P L 1993a. Is the Shroud of Turin the first recorded photograph? The South African Journal of Art History, November 11:23--32.


Allen, N P L 1993b. The methods and techniques employed in the manufacture of the Shroud of Turin. Unpublished DPhil thesis, University of Durban-Westville.


Allen, N P L 1994. A reappraisal of late thirteenth-century responses to the Shroud of Lirey-Chambéry-Turin: encolpia of the Eucharist, vera eikon or supreme relic? The Southern African Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 4 (1):62--94.


Anderson, I 1988. Teams agree on medieval origins of the Shroud ... New Scientist, 22 October:25.


Arcis P d’, 1389. Memorandum of Pierre d’Arcis to anti-pope Clement VII. Collection de Champagne, v 154, fol 138. Paris: Biblioteque Nationale. (Manuscript c 1389 AD.)


Bulst, W & Pfeiffer, H 1991. Das Turiner Grabtuch und das Christusbild, Band II: Das echte Christusbild. Frankfurt am Main: Knecht.


Culliton, B J 1978. The mystery of the Shroud of Turin challenges 20th-century science. Science , 201: 235--239.


Earland, C & Raven, D J 1971. Experiments in textile and fibre chemistry.. London.


Gilbert, R & Gilbert, M M 1980. Ultraviolet-visible reflectance and fluorescent spectra of the Shroud of Turin.


Kunz, M & Räther, F 1995. Schnappschuß aus dem Mittelalter: Spekulation um das Turiner Grabtuch: Es könnte eine primitive Fotografie aus dem 13. oder 14. Jahrhunderd sein. Focus (4):120--1.


Lindberg, D C 1968. The theory of pinhole images from antiquity to the thirteenth century. Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 5:154--176.


Lindberg, D C 1970a. The theory of pinhole images from antiquity to the fourteenth century. Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 6:299--325.


Lindberg, D C 1970b. A reconsideration of Roger Bacon’s theory of pinhole images. Archive for Exact Sciences, 6:214--223.


Lindberg, D C 1976. Theories of vision from al-Kindi to Kepler. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Morris, R A, Swalbe, L A & London, J R 1980. X-ray fluorescence investigation of the Shroud of Turin. X-ray spectrometry, 9 (2):40--47.


New study puts carbon-14 dating in doubt. 1990. Eastern Province Herald, 1 June:9.


Nickell, J 1979. The Turin Shroud: fake? fact? photograph? Popular Photography, (85):97--99, 146--147.


Ostler, N 1988. Debunking the Shroud of Turin. Time, 24 October:56.


Pellicori, S F 1980. Spectral properties of the Shroud of Turin. Applied Optics, 19 (12):1913--1920.


Pellicori, S F & Evans, S M 1981. The Shroud of Turin through the microscope. Archeology , 34 (1):34--43.


Picknett, L & Prince, C 1994. Turin Shroud: in whose image? London: Bloomsbury.


Rinaldi, P M 1972. The man in the Shroud: this is the face of Christ . London: Sidgwick & Jackson.


Stevenson, K E & Habermas, G R 1981. Verdict on the Shroud: evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Michigan: Servant.


Vignon, P 1902. The Shroud of Christ. Westminster: Archibald Constable.


Vignon, P 1939. Le Saint Suare de Turin devant la science, l’archeologie, l’histoire, la logique. Paris.


Weaver, K F 1980. Science seeks to solve ... the mystery of the Shroud. National Geographic, 157 (6):730--752.


Wilcox, R 1978. Shroud. New York: Bantam.


Wilson, I 1978. The Turin Shroud. London: Victor Gollancz.


Wilson, I 1991. Holy faces, secret places: the quest for Jesus’ true likeness. London: Doubleday.




Report: Science & the shroud


from The Mission (the magazine of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio), Spring 1996


Microbiology meets archaeology in a renewed quest for answers


By Jim Barrett


Hoax or holy grail? The argument about the Shroud of Turin spans centuries. No one has proven it is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, but its haunting image of a man’s wounded body is proof enough for true believers.


Researchers from the Health Science Center now appear to have the clue to resolve a scientific contradiction: If the shroud is authentic, why does radiocarbon dating indicate that the cloth is no more than about 700 years old?


The shroud is unquestionably old. Its history is known from the year 1357, when it surfaced in the tiny village of Lirey, France. Until recent reports from San Antonio, most of the scientific world accepted the findings of carbon dating carried out in 1988. The results said the shroud dated back to 1260-1390, and thus is much too new to be Jesus’ burial linen.


Now the date and other shroud controversies are under intense scrutiny because of discoveries by a team led by Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes, MD, adjunct professor of microbiology, and Stephen J. Mattingly, PhD, professor of microbiology. Dr. Garza is a pediatrician from San Antonio, and an archaeologist noted for expertise in pre-Columbian artifacts. Dr. Mattingly, president of the Texas branch of the American Society for Microbiology, is widely respected for his research on group B streptococci and neonatal disease.


After months examining microscopic samples, the team concluded in January that the Shroud of Turin is centuries older than its carbon date. Dr. Garza said the shroud’s fibers are coated with bacteria and fungi that have grown for centuries. Carbon dating, he said, had sampled the contaminants as well as the fibers’ cellulose.


Such startling findings ordinarily would be published in a scientific journal, but the team has waited. The shroud’s ultimate custodian, the Catholic Church, has declined to designate the San Antonio fibers as an official sample. Dr. Garza received them in Turin, Italy, in 1993 from Giovanni Riggi di Numana, who took the official shroud samples for the carbon dating in the ‘80s.


Dr. Garza’s hypothesis, however, transcends the shroud, and it is being taken seriously by archaeologists, microbiologists, and even those most closely associated with carbon dating.


“This is not a crazy idea,” said Harry E. Gove, PhD, co-inventor of the use of accelerator mass spectrometry for carbon dating. Dr. Gove is professor emeritus of physics at the University of Rochester in New York.


“A swing of 1,000 years would be a big change, but it’s not wildly out of the question, and the issue needs to be resolved,” he said.


Toward that end, the University of Arizona in Tucson is preparing carbon dating procedures to test the hypothesis on an ibis bird mummy that stylistically would date back to about 330-30 BC. Physicists will sample collagen from bone, which is relatively unaffected by bacteria and fungi, and compare its date to wrappings from the mummy. Textiles contain large quantities of bacteria and fungi because they have much more surface area by volume than a smooth object of similar size, therefore the mummy wrappings are important for comparison.


Two samples of mummy wrapping will be tested; one that is cleansed of contaminants with conventional methods, and another sample cleansed with a method developed by Drs. Garza and Mattingly. Dr. Garza has said the conventional method fails to remove the bacteria and fungi.


“I’m a bit skeptical, but I don’t want to dismiss the theory. It is possible that contaminants could throw off the dates somewhat, but by how much?” said Douglas J. Donahue, PhD, physics professor at the University of Arizona and principal investigator at the National Science Foundation/Arizona’s Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratories, where the tests are planned in the coming months. The site performed parts of the 1988 carbon dating of the shroud.


The unfolding events have engrossed museum curators, antiquities dealers, and scholars.


“This could be a great breakthrough in understanding the ancient world,” said A. Rosalie David, PhD, keeper of Egyptology at the Manchester Museum in England.


“If the theory is correct, and there seems to be a lot of evidence it is, this would be a spot check to tell if artifacts in museums or for sale on the market are genuine or fakes,” Dr. David said. She has joined the project, and supplied samples from a museum mummy to the Arizona laboratories.


The San Antonio discovery goes back to the ‘80s when Dr. Garza discovered “biogenic varnishes” on an ancient Mayan carved jade called the Itzamna Tun. The artifact had been labeled a fake by two art connoisseurs in New York, he said. Carbon dating failed to come close to the carved stone’s true age, and Dr. Garza identified masses of varnish that prevented accurate dating, thus upholding the jade’s authenticity. The varnishes, he learned, are a plastic-like coating that is a byproduct of bacteria and fungi. In the Itzamna Tun’s case, this bioplastic coating threw off the carbon date of ancient blood on the artifact by about 600 years.


Could this be true of the Shroud of Turin?


In May 1993, Dr. Garza traveled to Turin, and examined a shroud sample with the approval of Catholic authorities. “As soon as I looked at a segment in the microscope, I knew it was heavily contaminated,” Dr. Garza said. “I knew that what had been radiocarbon dated was a mixture of linen and the bacteria and fungi and bioplastic coating that had grown on the fibers for centuries. We had not dated the linen itself.”


Dr. Garza returned to San Antonio with a few threads from the lower right corner of the shroud. He enlisted Dr. Mattingly. Together they applied the principles of microbiology to the evaluation of several archaeological specimens. “Archaeomicrobiology,” as they describe their discipline, had never been used before on the shroud or almost any other artifact.


At the Health Science Center and elsewhere, they examined samples using optical and electron microscopes and sophisticated viewing techniques, and photographed them under high magnification using special dyes and lighting. The researchers delicately sliced fibers to expose cross-sections of the bioplastic coating, and are working with an enzyme process to cleanse contaminated samples.


Because Egyptian mummies appear to have the same contamination on their wrappings, Egyptologists such as Dr. David are eager to learn whether the mummies are correctly dated. The Manchester Museum, for example, has supplied samples from its mysterious mummy No. 1770 for carbon testing using the Garza-Mattingly cleansing technique. British experts cannot fully explain why carbon dating of No. 1770’s wrappings indicate they are 1,000 years younger than the bones.


Until now, archeologists attributed the discrepancy to the ancient Egyptians themselves. “The suggestion was that the body was found in a very damaged condition perhaps 500 years after it was first wrapped. The thinking is that the embalmers were uncertain who this was, but the spot where the mummy was found indicated it might be somebody of importance so they re-wrapped it to give it another chance at eternity. And that is where it was left until this discovery by Dr. Garza,” she said.


In his discoveries about Mayan artifacts, Dr. Garza challenged orthodox thinking and relentlessly pursued his theory, which yielded significant results, said a longtime associate, George E. Harlow, PhD, curator of minerals and gems at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “Many of us in science wander down a low-energy trough, studying the things we want to study, but Dr. Garza doesn’t know or regard conventional wisdom very highly so it is stimulating to find out what he is doing. He deserves much credit for his willingness to challenge authority, pursue investigations and try to be objective.”


Practicing science with the Shroud of Turin puts Drs. Garza and Mattingly in a charged atmosphere. Moving the shroud’s origin back several centuries would place it closer to the time of Jesus’ death, and certainly energize debate about whether the cloth is a hoax or holy grail.


Adding to the atmosphere, a third member of their team has identified a part of the shroud’s markings as that of blood from a human male. No one has conclusively determined how the markings got on the linen, but they appear in bas relief in a perfect negative image. Experts have entertained theories that the markings came from paint, scorching, or accelerated aging. Victor V. Tryon, PhD, assistant professor in microbiology and director of the university’s Center for Advanced DNA Technologies, examined the DNA of one so-called “blood glob” from two separate microscopic shroud samples. He reported isolating signals from three different human genes by employing polymerase chain reaction, which can detect pieces of double-stranded DNA.


Amid the debate, Drs. Garza and Mattingly cannot escape the fundamental question of whether they have real shroud fibers. A transfer of papal authority in Turin and a turn of events three years ago there further cloud the issue.


Turin’s Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini has publicly questioned the authenticity of the sample. On Italian television in January, he was quoted as saying: “There is no certainty that the material belongs to the shroud so that the Holy See and the custodian declare that they cannot recognize the results of the claimed experiments.”


Cardinal Saldarini rejected Dr. Garza’s request in April 1993 to perform tests on shroud fibers. But his refusal came days after Dr. Garza had arrived in Turin, and obtained a sample that remained from the 1988 cutting for radiocarbon dating. He received the sample from Riggi, a scientist appointed by Saldarini’s predecessor, Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero, to do the cutting. Ballestrero retired in 1990.


Where the new testing and other events will lead is uncertain, but few people deny the work of the Health Science Center team has expanded the scope of microbiology. In the process, the researchers have developed methods that promise to enhance the accuracy of radiocarbon dating. They also have given archaeologists a new tool to evaluate antiquities. And perhaps they have even opened a path that leads to an explanation of the enduring mysteries of the Shroud of Turin.




Shroud of Christ? (PBS, 070100)




The history of the Shroud of Turin presents an interesting contrast. Over the past several centuries, every movement, study, and display of the cloth has been the subject of intense scrutiny and meticulous documentation. But the early history of the famed Christian relic is — and perhaps always will be — veiled in shadowy uncertainty.

The Certain History
The first definite historical appearance of the Shroud comes in a document written in 1389, which describes a public exhibition of the Shroud in 1355 in Lirey, France, by French knight Geoffrey de Charny. That same year, the Shroud is first called a forgery — a cunning painting — by Bishop Pierre D’Arcis of
Teachers ToolboxTroyes in a letter to the Pope. The cloth becomes the property of the House of Savoy, Italy’s royal family, in 1453, and remains their legal possession until 1986 when it is bequeathed to Pope John Paul II and his successors upon the death of Umberto II of Savoy. Beginning in 1464, the cloth is housed in a special chapel in Chambery, in the French Alps. It was at the Chambery chapel that a fire, on December 4, 1532, damaged the Shroud, and some believe that event affected the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the material. In 1578 the relic is moved to Turin, Italy, and first became known as the Shroud of Turin. The move, says historian and Shroud expert Ian Wilson, “was partly because a Cardinal from Milan [Charles Borromeo] was going to visit the Shroud and was planning to take the journey on foot from Milan to Chambery, so they brought the Shroud to Turin to save him part of the journey.” Apart from being moved into hiding during World War II, the Shroud has remained in Turin ever since.

Download WallpaperThe Uncertain History
Prior to 1389, the history of the Shroud is more nebulous. “You find cloths called ‘the shroud’ or ‘a shroud,’ being kept in different places,” Wilson says. “There is a shroud referred to in Jerusalem, one in Constantinople in 1204, but there didn’t seem to be a clear pattern of anything that could be built up into a history.” Historical records dating back to at least the 6th century, however, refer to a cloth (not specifically a burial cloth) with an imprint of Jesus. “These references seem to center on one particular cloth which had been taken to Edessa [now in Eastern Turkey] back in the first century AD,” Wilson says. According to legend, “it was instrumental in converting the king of that city, Abgar, to Christianity, shortly after the crucifixion.” That cloth, too, dropped out of history, but apparently reappeared in the 6th century, when it was discovered hidden within the walls of the city gates. “It was immediately hailed as being a miraculously imprinted likeness of Jesus and it became known as the Cloth of Edessa,” Wilson says. “It was not called a shroud, but it became very celebrated. Artists made their likenesses of Jesus from it.”

This illustration shows the Shroud being exhibited to the public and held up by the hands of priests

This illustration serves as an early example of the public exhibition of the Shroud


In 944, the Edessa Cloth was removed from the city by the armies of Emperor Romanus I of Constantinople. “He had a collection of relics of Jesus, things like the nails from the cross,” Wilson says. “He wanted this cloth to join them,” Wilson says. The Edessa Cloth remained in Constantinople until 1204, when Crusaders sacked the city. “Although a crusader describes seeing a cloth with a figure of Jesus on it, he reports that after the city was captured, neither the Greeks nor the French crusaders knew what happened to it.” There is no record of the Edessa Cloth after that point — or, indeed, of any cloth imprinted with the image of Christ — until the cloth that would become known as the Shroud of Turin turns up in the possession of Geoffrey de Charny in the 1350s. Wilson believes that the Edessa Cloth and the Shroud of Turin are one and the same.


Clues and Evidence


In 1988, an international team of scientific experts performed radiocarbon dating on snippets of the Shroud of Turin. The results showed that the famous cloth did not date back to the time of Christ’s crucifixion in the first century A.D. In fact, the cloth seemed to have been manufactured sometime between 1260 and 1390 A.D. The team concluded the Shroud was nothing more than a medieval hoax.

In the years since the stunning announcement, Shroud experts and other investigators have called into question the accuracy of the dating. Some have even argued that damage to the border of the Shroud in December 1532 during a fire in the chapel of the Dukes of Savoy in Chambery, France, might in some way have changed the chemical composition of the cloth and skewed the testing results. Stephen J. Mattingly, a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, also doubts the 1988 radiocarbon results — though he blames not fire, but microbes.

Photo of professor Stephen J. Mattingly

Professor Stephen J. Mattingly at work in his laboratory, demonstrating that bacteria could have influenced the accuracy of the carbon-14 dating of the Shroud


Despite the lingering controversy, the basic science behind radiocarbon dating is disarmingly straightforward. The element carbon exists naturally on Earth in two stable forms, or isotopes, known as carbon-12 and carbon-13; in carbon-13, the nucleus of the atom contains one extra sub-atomic particle called a neutron. A third isotope of carbon with two extra neutrons, known as carbon-14, is produced in the atmosphere when atoms of nitrogen are blasted by high-energy cosmic rays streaming in from space. The atom is unstable — radioactive — and eventually decays back into nitrogen-14. Because some of the radioactive atom always exists at a low level in the atmosphere and on Earth, however, it gets incorporated at a predictable rate into the cells and tissues of all living things, from bacteria to plants to people, when, for example, the organisms suck up C-14 containing carbon dioxide molecules as part of their natural metabolic processes.

After things die, they no longer take in C-14, and so as the isotope decays back to nitrogen-14, its relative abundance steadily decreases over time. Measuring the amount of C-14 in something originally derived from organic material, then — a wooden artifact, say, or the fibers of a linen cloth, which are made from flax plants — tells the amount of time that has passed since the organism it came from was last alive.

What that means, however, is that any contamination with an object that was more recently alive will raise the relative abundance of C-14 atoms, producing an apparently younger age. In the case of the Shroud of Turin, says Mattingly, the younger contaminants were bacteria. “You might imagine that over hundreds of years or several thousand, the Shroud has come in contact with many thousands of species of bacteria and fungi and some were able to grow for short or long periods of time,” he explains. “Some of these organisms would be more recent and be incorporating more recent radiocarbon material. The microbes are not digesting the linen, they are eating one another so to speak. As long as they can grow and incorporate carbon dioxide, which many microbes can do, they are actually making the Shroud appear more recent as time continues.”

Photo of a sample being cut from the Shroud of Turin

This strip was removed from the Shroud in 1988 when scientists used carbon-14 dating to test the age of the cloth


In fact, Mattingly and his colleague Leoncio Garza-Valdes have found several different species of bacteria colonizing pieces of the Shroud, including some organisms that had never been seen before.

They tested samples from an outside strip of the cloth removed during the 1988 dating effort. Giovani Riggi, the scientific caretaker of the Shroud at the time, kept the strip and later provided samples to Mattingly and Garza-Valdes. “The Catholic Church did not sanction the removal and giving of the material to us and would not certify that the pieces were authentic. Nevertheless, we know that they are authentic,” Mattingly says.

Intriguingly, one of the microbe species seems to be producing an unusual material that coats the linen threads “with a brittle plastic-like material that made the linen difficult to cut, much like trying to cut through dry pasta,” Mattingly says. “It appears that this polymer may have actually helped preserve the Shroud linen through time.” Similar coatings on other artifacts — the linen wrappings on mummies, for example — could also be affecting their radiocarbon ages.

Mattingly also suspects that bacteria are responsible for the Shroud’s ethereal image. His idea is that as the crucified man was dying, bacteria such as the common skin microbe Staphylococcus epidermi would have colonized and multiplied in his bloody wounds, creating a thin layer called a biofilm. A biofilm can soak up water like a sponge. After the man died and his body was washed, the biofilm would have absorbed water and become extremely sticky. When the burial shroud was later placed over the body, it would have adhered fast, allowing the transfer of the microbes to the fibers of the cloth. Over time, the degradation of the microbes would have produced a faint yellow imprint of the face and body that slowly darkened like a photographic image. “I have observed the drying of bacteria on surfaces before and noticed that they leave a straw yellow color similar to that observed with the Turin Shroud,” he says. Key to the color change are unsaturated fatty acids normally found within the membranes of all types of cells, including bacteria. The addition of oxygen atoms to the fatty acids molecules — or oxidation — changes their chemical make-up, giving rise to the yellow color. Similarly, says Mattingly, “the yellowing seen in ‘ring around the collar’ is due to fatty acids from the body and bacteria that have rubbed off onto the collar.”

Download ScreensaverIn a series of ongoing experiments to prove his theory, Mattingly has taken samples of bacteria from his own skin and grown them in culture to produce a biofilm. After killing the bugs to prevent infection, he slathers the film back on his skin and drapes it with a linen cloth. The cloth readily adheres, but, more importantly, a photograph-like image forms on the cloth as the bacteria oxidize. In images he has created of his own hand, Mattingly’s wedding ring is clearly visible. The image, he says, is “not perfect, but darn close! The hand is great to use, because it is mainly skin and bone. When you get to the face, there is fatty tissue around the cheeks that cause the image to be flatter, because the linen attaches so strongly to the skin. Take away the fatty tissue and hydrated tissue, as you have in an individual who has lost virtually all of his body fluid, and you would have skin on bone, thereby getting a much better image.” Mattingly is now conducting tests to isolate the chemical compounds responsible for the yellow color. He is also trying to improve the quality of the facial images.


Interview with Mechthild Flury-Lemberg


Mechthild Flury-Lemberg began to spin and weave wool shorn from the sheep on her family’s post-World War II German farm at the tender age of 16, “for fun,” she says. She never imagined that the hobby, which led to a career in textile conservation, would also eventually lead her to head the restoration of one of the most cherished and mysterious relics in Christendom — the Shroud of Turin — or that her examination would produce new evidence that the famed linen dates to the first century A.D., to the time of Christ.

Flury-Lemberg studied weaving at an academy in Hamburg, Germany, then earned degrees in the history of art from universities in Kiel and Munich. She then worked for three decades as head of the textile department of the Abegg Foundation in Riggisberg, Switzerland before she retired in 1994 (she came out of retirement for the restoration of the Shroud). During her tenure, she studied and restored a priceless collection of ancient cloths, including the 13th-century grave garments of St. Anthony of Padua and of King Rudolph I of Bohemia, plus 11th-century liturgical vestments, the Tunic of Christ at Treves, and the cowl of St. Francis of Assisi. Ancient textiles like the Shroud of Turin, which, according to belief (if not necessarily scientific evidence) dates to the first century A.D., are quite rare and generally badly preserved. “The textiles handed down to us are normally grave garments, found in burial sites,” she said. “They were wrapped about a dead body and stayed in a chemical climate which forced their oxidation. We rarely find well-preserved linen or silk fabrics.” The Shroud of Turin is so remarkably preserved, she says, because “this cloth was not kept in a tomb. The crucified man was only for some hours wrapped in that linen.”

Other, even older textiles do exist, however, and Flury-Lemberg has worked on many. One of the most unusual was the 2,200-year-old ‘liber linteus,’ a linen book that had been cut into strips and used to wrap the mummy of a Roman girl. “When the mummy came to Zagreb in 1862, scientists discovered Etruscan characters on the bandages but could not decipher the text,” Flury-Lemberg says. “In 1985 I was asked to reconstruct the linen from which the bandages were once taken.” She pieced the strips into their original positions, which allowed the text to be deciphered — and also provided linguists with about 60% of the Etruscan vocabulary known today. “It is the fascination of my profession to discover hidden information by staying and ‘talking’ with the object during conservation,” she says. “The same is true for the Shroud of Turin.”

Photo of Mechthild Flury-Lemberg at work on the Shroud

Mechthild Flury-Lemberg and her assistant work carefully and methodically to repair and stabilize the damaged fabric


Flury-Lemberg had originally been approached back in the early 1980s to try to date the Shroud by analyzing the structure of the cloth. She refused, “because,” she says, “it is impossible to get a serious result dating a textile by textile analysis alone.” In 1988, the keepers of the Shroud permitted radiocarbon dating of the relic — with unanticipated results. The tests indicated that the cloth had been made sometime between 1260 and 1390 A.D., and thus was a medieval forgery rather than the actual burial shroud of Christ. And yet, when Flury-Lemberg finally did agree to head the restoration and conservation of the linen in the summer of 2002, the Shroud had a far different story to tell her. She first noticed that the entire cloth was crafted with a weave known as a three-to-one herringbone pattern. “This kind of weave was special in antiquity because it denoted an extraordinary quality,” she says. (Less fine linens of the first century would have had a one-to-one herringbone pattern). That same pattern is present on a 12th century illustration that depicts Christ’s funeral cloth, which, she says, is “extremely significant, because it shows that the painter was familiar with Christ’s Shroud and that he recognized the indubitably exceptional nature of the weave of the cloth.” Flury-Lemberg also discovered a peculiar stitching pattern in the seam of one long side of the Shroud, where a three-inch wide strip of the same original fabric was sewn onto a larger segment. The stitching pattern, which she says was the work of a professional, is surprisingly similar to the hem of a cloth found in the tombs of the Jewish fortress of Masada. The Masada cloth dates to between 40 B.C. and 73 A.D. The evidence, says Flury-Lemberg, is clear: “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.”


About this episode


CASE FILE: Shroud of Christ?
THE SCENE: Turin Cathedral, Turin, Italy
LEAD DETECTIVE: Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, textile restorer

In a central part of Turin Cathedral is an elaborate, baroque shrine housing one of the Catholic Church’s most precious and controversial artifacts: a 14-foot-long piece of cloth known as the Turin Shroud. The shroud’s surface bears, in faint shades of brown, the unmistakable image of a man. The body of this individual appears to bear wounds similar to those inflicted during the ancient execution method of crucifixion. For its dedicated believers, this image is that of Jesus Christ himself, burned onto the cloth upon his miraculous resurrection from the dead.


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Could the Shroud of Turin actually be stained with the blood of Jesus Christ? Scientific and historical experts debate the origin of a prized religious relic.


The debate over the Shroud’s origins has raged furiously since its first documented appearance in Lirey, France, in the 1350s. Is it an authentic burial shroud, or just a brilliant medieval fake? In 1532, the Shroud was stationed in Chambery in the French Alps, when the chapel housing it burned down. The corner of the Shroud, folded to fit in a silver casket, was burned through, resulting in a pattern of 24 burn holes. A team of nuns sewed triangular patches over the worst holes and sewed the Shroud onto a linen backing cloth to strengthen it.

In 1988, three of the world’s foremost carbon-dating labs announced in agreement that the Shroud could be dated only as far back as the 13th or 14th century. Then, in the summer of 2002, Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, a renowned textile restorer, was invited to Turin to undertake an unprecedented restoration of the shroud, which called for the removal of both the backing cloth and all the medieval patches. It marked the first time a fabrics expert had worked so closely with the precious relic, and what she eventually uncovered shook the study of the shroud to its foundations.

SECRETS OF THE DEAD: “Shroud of Christ?,” reveals the brand-new forensic evidence that Christianity’s most treasured existing relic is indeed 2,000 years old, dating from the time of Christ. Upon examining a side of the Shroud no one had seen before, Flury-Lemberg’s team found a style of stitching they had seen only once before — amid the ruins of the Jewish citadel of Masada, a town destroyed by the Romans in 74 A.D. Adding to the latest interest are bacteriologists’ experiments that may prove once and for all how the image on the cloth was ever imprinted, and forensic experts’ analysis of the wounds on the image, which appear closely to reflect those of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament.

A new chapter in the history of the Shroud is unfolding. SECRETS OF THE DEAD: “Shroud of Christ?” will document the fabric experts’ work, revisit the forensic science community’s many attempts to accurately date the Shroud, and follow bacteriologists’ quest to prove scientifically once and for all how the relic came to be.




The Shroud of Turin


Includes the latest news on the Shroud, frequently asked questions, a detailed timeline of the Shroud’s known history, information about the 2002 restoration and previous public exhibitions, as well as an interactive examine-the-Shroud activity.


The Shroud of Turin Story


This site poses tough questions for both skeptics and believers of the Shroud. Includes information about the cloth itself, the forensic science that has been used to prove and dispute the Shroud’s authenticity, and details about the mythical scale of the Shroud’s story.