The Shroud of Turin-Who Can He Be?

Shroud History

The history of the Shroud can be divided into three phases.

  • The period from 1901 AD to the present day has been an era in which our knowledge of the Shroud has been massively increased through the efforts of researchers worldwide who are keen to unlock the mysteries surrounding this enigmatic cloth.
  • There is a widely accepted, continous historical record that traces the existance of the Shroud back to 1355 AD, when it was first exhibited in Europe by a French nobleman named Geoffroi de Charny. However, no one knows how de Charny came to possess the Shroud and so the trail ends here.
  • There are no undisputed historical records that cover the period from 33 AD to the fourteenth century but there are several manuscripts and accounts that date from these years which allude to a miraculous image of Christ that was “not made by hands”. By piecing together these references, it is possible to complete a historical jigsaw which traces the Shroud back to first century Judea.

The most notable details of the Shroud’s two thousand year history are shown below. Use the tab labels shown to see details of the most significant historical events from each of the three phases of its history.

33 to 1204 AD

33AD

The Shroud is first mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all of which describe how the body of Jesus was wrapped in a linen cloth and laid in a tomb following His crucifixion.

“When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple. He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock.”

Gospel of Matthew, 27: 57-60

The bible doesn’t mention what happened to this cloth but it seems reasonable to assume that the followers of Jesus would have carried it away and hidden it during the periods of Christian persecution. There is however a bible passage that suggests that the Shroud was used to help spread the message of Christianity. In a letter from St. Paul to followers in the Roman province of Galatia, where some of the new converts were having their faith tested by heretics, he writes:

“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”

Galatians, 3: 1

He cannot have been referring to them having been eye-witnesses of the crucifixion as it had taken place several years earlier and hundreds of miles away in Jerusalem. Instead, it seems likely that they could have witnessed the markings of the crucifixion that can be seen on the Shroud.

c. 33 – 50 AD

According to the traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church, following the crucifixion, the apostle Thomas sent a disciple of Jesus known as Thaddeus to Edessa to heal King Abgar V. Edessa is known today as Urfa, or in Arabic, Şanliurfa, and is the capital city of the Şanliurfa province in south eastern Turkey. Thaddeus had brought a cloth containing a miraculous image of Jesus and after seeing the image, the king was cured. Abgar converted to Christianity and allowed Thaddeus to preach the Christian message throughout his kingdom. He also replaced a pagan image that was mounted above the city gate with the miraculous image.

After the death of Abgar, his son came to the throne and reverted to paganism. He ordered the image of the pagan god to be displayed once again in its former position and commanded that the image of Christ be destroyed. However, a bishop saved the sacred image by sealing it in a wall of the city gate, where it remained for nearly five hundred years.

544 AD

The city of Edessa miraculously survives an attack by the powerful Persian Army in 544 AD. A contemporary account by a Syrian scholar named Evagrius Scholasticus describes how the Persians laid siege to the city during which they constructed a large mound of timber to help them scale the city walls. The Edessans tried to set the timber mound on fire but without success. On the brink of defeat, they brought out the image of Jesus ‘not made by hands’, washed it with water and sprinkled the water over the timber. It immediately caught fire and quickly reduced to ash and cinders, causing the Persians to abandon the siege.

c. 550 AD

Following this miraculous defence of the city, copies of the Image of Edessa, which became known as the Mandylion, begin to adorn churches throughout the Byzantine Empire. This leads to a stylised representation of Christ and the oldest surviving example is the Christ Pantocrator icon of St. Catherine’s monastery in Sinai, which dates from approximately 550AD. The facial features of Christ on this and other Byzantine icons painted during this period appear to have been copied from the image seen on the Shroud today.

944 AD

The Image of Edessa, or Mandylion, remained in the city until 944 when it is taken to Constantinople by the Byzantine emperor Romanos Lecapenos. Its arrival is officially celebrated on August 16th that year, a date that became established as a permanent feast day for the image and is still observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The presence of an image of Jesus ‘not made by human hands’ in Constantinople is documented in several manuscripts dating from the tenth to the thirteenth century.

1203 – 1204 AD

A thirteenth century book called ‘The Conquest of Constantinople’ written by a French knight named Robert de Clari provides more evidence of the Shroud’s presence in Constantinople. He was part of the Fourth Crusade, which had stopped in Constantinople to restore the rightful Emperor to the throne. After this had been achieved the crusaders camped outside the city for several months awaiting their reward. During this time, de Clari explored the city and witnessed the display of a Shroud-like cloth in one of Constantinople’s churches. He wrote:

“And among those other there was another church which was called My Lady Saint Mary of Blachernae, where there was the sheet in which Our Lord had been wrapped, which every Friday, raised itself upright, so that one could see the form of our Lord upon it and no one, either Greek or French, ever knew what became of this sheet when the city was taken.”

Robert de Clari, ‘The Conquest of Constantinople’

After losing patience waiting for their reward, the crusaders attack the city, ransacking palaces, houses and churches for their treasures and prized relics. Their murderous assault of one of the most sacred Christian cities leaves a trail of death and destruction which horrifies Pope Innocent III, who excommunicates the Crusaders.

1204 – 1355 AD

According to de Clari, no one knew what had happened to the Shroud following the sack of Constantinople. Whoever came to possess the Shroud may well have chosen to keep it hidden until this horrendous crime became a distant memory. There are traces of evidence which suggest that it had been in the possession of the Order of Knights Templar, which was eventually purged and disbanded by King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V. In 1314, Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Templars, is burned at the stake alongside the Order’s Master of Normandy, a man named Geoffroi de Charny. Intriguingly, the man who will come into possession of the Shroud some forty-one years is also named Geoffroi de Charny.

1353 to 1900 AD

1353

The first known expositions of the Shroud are held in Lirey at a church built by Geoffroi de Charny. He never disclosed how he came to be in possession of the Shroud but some believe that it had come to him from Constantinople. Large crowds of pilgrims are attracted and special souvenir medallions are struck, one of which still survives and can be found today at the Cluny Museum in Paris.

1356

Geoffroi de Charny is killed by the English at the Battle of Poitiers, during a last stand in which he valiantly defends his king. The Shroud remains in the de Charny family’s possession.

Pilgrim Medallion

1389

The d’Arcis Memorandum

Bishop Pierre d’Arcis of Troyes complains to anti-pope Clement VII at Avignon about the exhibiting of the Shroud at Lirey. He describes the cloth as bearing the double imprint of a crucified man and that it is being claimed as the true Shroud in which Jesus’ body was wrapped, attracting crowds of pilgrims. A draft copy of his letter to the pope, known as the dArcis memorandum, survives to this day.

The following year, Clement VII wrote to Bishop d’Arcis, ordering him to keep silent on the Shroud, under threat of excommunication. On the same date Clement writes a letter to Geoffroi II de Charny (son of Geoffroi de Charny) stating the conditions under which expositions could be allowed.

1453

Margaret de Charny, daughter of Geoffroi II de Charny, receives from Duke Louis I of Savoy the castle of Varambon and revenues of the estate of Miribel near Lyon in return for ‘valuable services’ which are thought to have been the bequest of the Shroud. This is an extraordinary exchange which indicates that Duke Louis could have been in no doubt whatsoever about the authenticity of this sacred relic.

1502

After spending several years moving around with the Savoys during their travels, the Shroud is given a permanent home in the Royal Chapel of Chambéry Castle. The Shroud is displayed on the Chapel’s high altar, then entrusted to the care of archdeacon and the canons of the Chapel, who place it in its case and deposit it behind the high altar, in a special cavity hollowed out of the wall. Access to the cavity is secured by an iron grille with four locks, each opened by separate keys, two of which are held by the Duke of Savoy. Pope Sixtus IV confers on the Chambéry chapel the title Sainte Chapelle.

1532

Fire breaks out in the Sainte Chapelle, seriously damaging all its furnishings and fittings. Canon Philibert Lambert summons the help of a blacksmith to prise open the grille to rescue the case containing the Shroud. The relic is left with a series of burns, as well as water stains resulting from efforts to extinguish the fire. Fortunately, the burns barely touch those areas of the linen cloth that are marked with the image of Christ. Two years after the fire, Poor Clare nuns repair the Shroud by sewing patches over the fire-damaged areas of the Shroud and a large support sheet to the back of the Shroud

1578

The Shroud is moved to a new permanent home in the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista in Turin. In the years that follow, the House of Savoy grows increasingly powerful and eventually becomes the ruler of Italy.

1898

Secondo Pia with a photographic negative of the Shroud

Following a public exposition, Secondo Pia, an Italian amateur photographer, makes the first photograph of the Shroud of Turin. The astonishing discovery that the photographic negative reveals a clear, lifelike image of Christ ushers in a new era in the Shroud’s history: the era of science.

1902

The publication of Secondo Pia’s photographs at the turn of the century causes waves within scientific circles. Professor Yves Delage, who had been agnostic, presents a paper on the Shroud to the Academy of Sciences, Paris, in which he argues for the Shroud’s medical and general scientific convincingness. He concludes by stating that in his opinion, the Shroud had wrapped the body of Christ.

This proves to be a controversial presentation. Marcelin Berthelot, the Secretary for the physics section of the Academy and a resolute atheist, immediately orders Delage to rewrite his paper prior to publication so that it makes no reference to the Shroud or to Christ.

Yves Delage

1931

Giuseppe Enrie photographs the Shroud, the first person to do so since Secondo Pia in 1898. The photographs are taken in the presence of the now seventy-six year old Secondo Pia and scientists of the French Academy. Pia had been publicly accused of having manipulated the photographic negatives of the Shroud and so his reputation is finally restored when those taken by Enrie show the same remarkable characteristics.

That year, Dr. Pierre Barbet begins experiments with cadavers to reconstruct the Passion of Jesus as exhibited in the Shroud’s bloodstains and wound marks. His research confirms that the crucifixion nails to the hands had to penetrate the wrists rather than the palms, otherwise they would tear through the skin between the fingers under the weight of the body.

1946

Italy becomes a republic and King Umberto II of Savoy goes into exile in Portugal, never to return.

1969

Turin’s Cardinal Michele Pellegrino gives approval for the Shroud to be secretly taken out of its casket to allow a team of experts to study its state of preservation. They examine and photograph the Shroud over the course of three days but do not perform any direct tests. During this same period, Giovanni Battista Judica-Cordiglia takes the first ever colour photo of the Shroud.

1973

Max Frei

The Shroud is secretly examined by a new Commission of experts, brought together by Cardinal Pellegrino. Professor Gilbert Raes removes samples from the Shroud: a 40 x 13 mm sample from the end edge of the Shroud and a 40 x 10 mm portion from the side-strip, together with one 13 mm warp thread and one 12 mm weft thread. Dr. Max Frei, a Swiss criminalist who had made some notable contributions to forensic science during his career, is also present. He is allowed to take twelve samples of surface dust from the Shroud’s extreme frontal end by pressing adhesive tape onto the surface of the fabric.

1976

In 1976, a group of scientists who are using a VP-8 Image Analyzer to evaluate x-rays, put a 1931 Enrie photograph of the Shroud of Turin into the device. This is an instrument that had been designed in the 1970s which converts the light and dark shading of an image into vertical relief. When applied to normal photographs, the result is a distorted and inaccurate representation of the original image. However, when it is applied to the Shroud, the result is an accurate, ‘three-dimensional’ image showing the correct, natural relief characteristics of a human form. Two of these scientists, Dr. Eric Jumper and Dr. John Jackson, are so intrigued by this extraordinary and unexpected result that they decide to form a research team, the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) to investigate the image on the cloth.

John Jackson and Eric Jumper with the VP-8 Image Analyzer

1978

People queuing to watch ‘The Silent Witness’

The scientific discoveries that had been made during previous studies of the Shroud had caught the attention of author Ian Wilson and film producer David Rolfe. Ian Wilson’s 1978 book, The Turin Shroud, becomes an international best seller and David Rolfe’s film, The Silent Witness released at Easter that year, smashes box office records and wins a British Academy Award. The result is an upsurge in interest in the Shroud, particularly in the English-speaking world and by the late 1970s, this ancient relic in now an object of intense twentieth century media curiosity.

At the end of a public exposition in Turin, the Shroud is removed from public display and taken into the Hall of Visiting Princes within Turin’s Royal Palace to be examined, photographed and sampled over a period of five days. The scientists involved included the STURP team from the USA plus specialists from Europe including Max Frei, Giovanni Riggi di Numana and Professor Pierluigi Baima-Bollone. The Shroud is examined and photographed using photographic floodlighting, low-power X-rays and narrow band ultraviolet light. Dozens of samples are removed from the fabric surface using sticky tape and apparatus is inserted between the Shroud and its backing cloth to examine the underside, which has not been seen in over 400 years. The bottom edge (at the foot of the frontal image) is also unstitched and examined. Baima Bollone obtains samples of a Shroud bloodstain by mechanically disentangling warp and weft threads in the area of the ‘small of the back’ bloodstain on the Shroud’s dorsal image.

Preparing the Shroud for the 1978 STURP Examination

STURP continues its examinations around the clock performing dozens of tests, taking thousands of photographs, photomicrographs, x-rays and spectra. A total of 120 hours of continuous testing is carried out, with team members working on different parts of the Shroud simultaneously. This is the most in-depth series of tests ever performed on the Shroud of Turin.

1981

After three years of exhaustive study and evaluation of the data collected in the 1978 Shroud examination, STURP issues its Final Report. This concludes that:

“The answer to the question of how the image was produced or what produced the image remains, now, as it has in the past, a mystery.

We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”

1983

King Umberto II of Savoy dies in into exile in Portugal. He bequeaths the Shroud to the Pope and his successors.

1988

Removal of the Shroud C-14 dating sample

In April, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Tite of the British Museum, a 7 cm by 1 cm strip of cloth is removed from a corner of the Shroud. Postage-stamp sized samples are cut from the strip and given to representatives of three radiocarbon laboratories based in Arizona, Oxford and Zurich. These are taken back to the laboratories to be dated along with three control samples.

The tests are conducted by the laboratories over the summer and results are reported to Michael Tite for analysis by his team of British Museum Statisticians. The result is eventually announced on October 13th at two press conferences, one held in Italy by the Cardinal Ballestrero, Archbshop of Turin and one in the UK held by Michael Tite, along with Edward Hall and Robert Hedges from the Oxford laboratory. They announce that the Shroud is medieval in origin, dating to the period 1260-1390 AD.

1989

The radiocarbon test report is eventually published four months after the result announcement and immediately causes concern within scientific circles for what appear to be errors in the reporting and analysis of the results. After failing to obtain any satisfactory explanation for these errors, several scientists request to see the laboratory test data but these requests are repeatedly refused. The test data will remain hidden for another twenty eight years.

1997

Fire breaks out in Turin’s Guarini Chapel, quickly threatening the Shroud’s bulletproof display case. Fireman Mario Trematore uses a sledgehammer to break open this case and the Shroud, in its traditional casket, is taken temporarily to Cardinal Saldarini’s residence. Signs of arson are found in the Royal Chapel, the walls of which are very badly damaged. Also damaged are the whole High Altar end of the cathedral and the part of the Royal Palace directly adjoining the Chapel

We are grateful to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, Department of Fire Corps, Public Rescue and Civil Defense, Command of the Turin Fire and Rescue Service for the inclusion of the film of the fire in the Guarini Chapel.

A small group of textile experts, headed by Mechthild Flury-Lemberg of Switzerland perform a radical restoration of the Shroud under the auspices of the Archbishop of Turin and his advisors and with the full permission of the Vatican. They remove the thirty patches sewn into the cloth by Poor Clare Nuns in 1534 to repair burn holes from the 1532 fire and replace the backing cloth (frequently referred to as the “Holland Cloth”) that was sewn onto the back of the Shroud in 1534 to strengthen the fire damaged relic. The Shroud is handled without gloves and is exposed to bright light and airborne pollution for the thirty-two day duration of this work.

This restoration is carried out in secret, without consulting any of the world’s Shroud experts that could have helped ensure that no valuable scientific or historical data was lost or damaged during the restoration. The way the restoration is handled attracts considerable criticism from within the Shroud research community.

2005

Ray Rogers

Former STURP member Ray Rogers publishes a peer-reviewed scientific paper in the Thermochimica Acta journal. Amongst the findings reported in this paper is the result of chemical tests of Shroud threads that indicate that it is much older than the date given by the radiocarbon test. His tests had detected the presence of vanillin, a substance found in linen which slowly decays over time but which can be detected in medieval samples of linen. In contrast, vanillin could not be found in threads from the Shroud. Rogers concludes that the Shroud must be at least 1300 years old.

2013

A group of Italian scientists led by Professor Giulio Fanti of the University of Padua develop three new and innovative ways of dating minute samples of linen. These involve measurements of spectroscopic and mechanical properties of flax. After calibrating their equipment by testing samples of known age dating back to 3500 BC, they use these techniques to date samples of Shroud material. All three tests give results that are close to the first century, with a mean value of 33 BC.

The extraordinary image seen on the Shroud continues to defy science. During the past century, several scientists have had the opportunity to examine the image in detail in an attempt to understand how it was formed. However, no-one has yet been able to explain how the image was created and despite many attempts, no-one has been able to produce an image with the characteristics of the image of the Man of the Shroud.

The Faint Image

Those people who are fortunate enough to have closely examined the Shroud agree that whilst the faint image of the Man of the Shroud is visible from a distance, the markings cannot be seen when viewed at close quarters. In the words of author Ian Wilson, “The closer one tries to examine them, the more they seem to melt like the mist.”.

A microscopic examination of threads from the image areas of the Shroud reveals a number of fascinating characteristics.

  • The markings are caused by extremely superficial yellowing of the surface of the fabric.
  • There are no colour changes in the threads other than in topmost two or three fibres and the discolouration only affects the external cell wall of these fibres.
  • The hue of the discoloured fibres doesn’t change: it is the same in both the light and dark shaded areas. The variation in shade intensity is instead caused by differences in the number of yellowed fibres present in a given area.
  • No discoloured fibres have been found beneath the bloodstains on the Shroud, which indicates that the bloodstains must have been present when the image was formed.

© Performco Ltd.

The image is formed by discolouration of the surface fibres in the fabric

The Photographic Negative

Ever since the Shroud was photographed for the first time in 1898, people have been fascinated by the photographic negative image. The light and dark areas are reversed, revealing an unusually realistic perfection which has so far proved impossible for artists to replicate. Indeed, a British artist and agnostic named John Weston became convinced of the Shroud’s authenticity after attempting to produce, tone by tone, a duplicate Shroud for the film The Silent Witness.

The 3-D Effect

Another unique feature of the Shroud image was discovered in 1976 when it was scanned by Dr. John Jackson and Dr. Eric Jumper using a VP-8 Image Analyzer. This is an instrument which is able to convert a two-dimensional black and white image into a three-dimensional representation, by generating a vertical relief profile based upon the intensity of shading on the image. When this device was used with photographs or paintings, the result was a distorted and inaccurate representation of the original image. However, the Shroud image produced an accurate three-dimensional representation of the Man of the Shroud, with facial features, arms, legs and chest all contoured correctly. The two scientists later demonstrated this to Peter Schumacher, the inventor of the device. He later recalled his astonishment:

I had never heard of the Shroud of Turin before that moment. I had no idea what I was looking at. However, the results are unlike anything I have processed through the VP-8 Analyzer, before or since. Only the Shroud of Turin has produced these results from a VP-8 Image Analyzer isometric projection study.

Peter Schumacher

The VP-8 image of the Shroud Face

STURP Image Investigations

Moving the Shroud to the STURP Examination Table

The primary purpose of the 1978 STURP examination was to determine the scientific properties of the image on the Shroud of Turin, and what might have caused it. They were able to examine the Shroud for five days, during which they also took numerous X-Ray, Ultraviolet and natural light photographs and obtained surface samples by pressing adhesive tape onto the surface of the Shroud. After three years of studying all the data which they had collected, they published their report conclusions.

“No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found on the fibrils. X-ray, fluorescence and microchemistry on the fibrils preclude the possibility of paint being used as a method for creating the image. Ultra Violet and infrared evaluation confirm these studies. Computer image enhancement and analysis by a device known as a VP-8 image analyzer show that the image has unique, three-dimensional information encoded in it. Microchemical evaluation has indicated no evidence of any spices, oils, or any biochemicals known to be produced by the body in life or in death. It is clear that there has been a direct contact of the Shroud with a body, which explains certain features such as scourge marks, as well as the blood. However, while this type of contact might explain some of the features of the torso, it is totally incapable of explaining the image of the face with the high resolution that has been amply demonstrated by photography.

The basic problem from a scientific point of view is that some explanations which might be tenable from a chemical point of view, are precluded by physics. Contrariwise, certain physical explanations which may be attractive are completely precluded by the chemistry. For an adequate explanation for the image of the Shroud, one must have an explanation which is scientifically sound, from a physical, chemical, biological and medical viewpoint. At the present, this type of solution does not appear to be obtainable by the best efforts of the members of the Shroud Team. Furthermore, experiments in physics and chemistry with old linen have failed to reproduce adequately the phenomenon presented by the Shroud of Turin. The scientific concensus is that the image was produced by something which resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself. Such changes can be duplicated in the laboratory by certain chemical and physical processes. A similar type of change in linen can be obtained by sulfuric acid or heat. However, there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image, nor can any combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances explain the image adequately.

Thus, the answer to the question of how the image was produced or what produced the image remains, now, as it has in the past, a mystery.

We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”

The investigation had achieved a notable success as it had confirmed that the image on the Shroud wasn’t the work of an artist. Unfortunately however, it failed to unlock the mystery of how the image had been formed.

Reproducing the Image Characteristics

One group of scientists have attempted to reproduce one of the unusual characteristics of the Shroud image. A team of Italian scientists led by physicist Paolo di Lazzaro succeeded in producing the same highly-superficial discolouration of linen fibres using Excimer Lasers. This was achieved by directing short, high-energy pulses of ultraviolet light at a small, one square centimetre sized sample of linen fabric. They calculated that to scale this up to a Shroud-sized linen cloth would require pulse durations of less than one forty-billionth of a second and intensities of the order of several billion watts!

Paolo di Lazzaro and colleagues

Forensic science is an important tool used by justice systems all over the world to help analyse evidence found at a crime scene. A bloodstained cloth found at a murder scene can reveal a great deal about the crime and the cause of death, which often helps to establish the guilt or innocence of a suspect. Although the death of Jesus Christ took place two thousand years ago, the same techniques can be applied to study the Shroud. These studies have produced some remarkable findings which tell us a great deal about the cloth and the body that had been wrapped inside it.

Forensic Analysis of the Cloth

There are several textile-related characteristics of the Shroud that are entirely consistent with it having a first century, middle eastern origin.

  • The dimensions of the cloth are 4.4 metres by 1.1 metres, which corresponds to 8 by 2 Assyrian cubits, the unit of measure that was used in that region during the time of Christ.
  • Most Egyptian linen yarn at that time was spun anti-clockwise which produces a ‘S’ twist but the Shroud yarn was spun clockwise, producing a ‘Z’ twist, which was typical of textiles from the Syro-Palestinian region during the first century.
  • According to textile expert Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, the seam stitching used to attach a side-strip to the main body of the Shroud is unusual and closely resembles Jewish textiles found at Masada, the Jewish fortress which was overthrown by the Romans in 73 AD.
  • Some cotton fibres have been found in the linen yarn of the Shroud. The small quantities suggests that they are stray fibres from earlier work with cotton by the weaver who produced the Shroud. The cotton fibres have been identified as Gossypium Herbaceum, a type of cotton native to the Middle East. However, no wool fibres have been found, which is to be expected if the textile workers were observing the Mosaic law of the Jews, which prohibits the mixing of linen and wool.

Forensic Analysis of the Blood Evidence

© Barrie M. Schwortz Collection, STERA Inc.

Shroud with highlighted bloodstains

From a forensic viewpoint, all the blood marks depicted were in agreement with the historic descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion:

  • The presence of flog marks.
  • The blood flow on the arms indicates they were elevated and in an extended position.
  • The presence of what appears to be a lance wound.
  • Marks on the head that could be attributed to a crown of thorns.
  • Wounds on the wrists and feet consistent with being nailed to the cross.

The nail wounds on the wrist have been shown to be forensically correct. Pierre Barbet’s experiments with cadavers showed that nails driven through the palms as shown in most artistic renditions of a crucifixion will not support the weight of a suspended human body.

Blood images also appear thickened on the edges which is consistent with them being formed from clotted blood rather than fresh flowing blood. There are also visible serum rings, which would be expected due to serum being exuded from the blood as scabs are formed. The shape of the stain on the wrist and the direction of flows of blood on the forearms indicates that the arms were approximately 65 degrees above the horizontal at the time of the blood flow. The divergence of the streams suggests that two positions were adopted with an angle difference of about 10 degrees. This indicates that the victim elevated his body by pushing up from the feet to relieve the pressure on the chest and then changing position to take the full body weight on the wrists.

Over the years, several highly qualified medical scientists have performed detailed examinations of the Shroud including:

  • Dr. Yves Delage, Professor of Comparative Anatomy, Paris
  • Dr. Paul Vignon, Professor of Biology, Paris
  • Dr. Pierre Barbet, Professor of Anatomy, Paris
  • Dr. Robert Bucklin, MD, Forensic Examiner, Los Angeles
  • Dr. Frederick Zugibe, Chief Medical Examiner, New York
  • Dr. Pierluigi Baima-Bollone, Chief of Forensic Medicine, Turin

They all reached a common conclusion: the Shroud had wrapped the body of a crucified man and the bloodstains and other markings are consistent with the Gospel descriptions of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Chemical Analysis of the Blood

A chemical analysis of the blood deposits on the Shroud confirmed the presence of typical blood constituents such as protein, hemin, bilirubin, and albumin. In contrast, no mercury compounds or iron oxides were found which would typically be expected had these marks been made by an artist. The blood also contained both type A and type B antigens, characteristic of blood group AB.

Although blood stains usually darken over time, traumatic shock of the type experienced after flogging and crucifixion causes red blood cells to rupture. The released haemoglobin is degraded by the liver to form bilirubin, which causes the blood stains to retain a reddish-orange hue, matching the appearance of the blood stains on the Shroud. The chemical evidence of the Shroud blood indicates that not only was it human blood, but that it was shed by someone who suffered a traumatic death.

How the Shroud was wrapped around the body

The imprint on the burial cloth represents the body of an adult male, approximate 5 feet eleven inches in height (1.8 metres) and weighing between 160 to 170 pounds (72.5 to 77.1 kilograms). The general appearance of the body indicates stiffness suggesting that rigor mortis is present.

There is a three inch (eight centimetre) wide, full length linen strip sewn onto the side of the Shroud with a clearly visible seam. When this is photographed with the Shroud lit from behind, it reveals banding caused by inconsistencies in the yarn used to weave the Shroud. The banding marks on both sides of the seam match exactly, which indicates that the so-called side strip had been part of the cloth when it was woven but had been cut out and later stitched back into its original position.

Photograph showing the banding which is continuous across the seam

John Jackson demonstrating how the side strip was used to wrap the Shroud

Dr. John Jackson has experimented with a life-sized model of the body and a replica of the Shroud to see whether the bloodstains on the cloth align with the wounds around the head, hands, side and feet. He believes that after the body had been placed in the Shroud, one end of the strip was tied tightly around the feet, before wrapping the strip around the knees to keep the legs together, then around the torso and finally around the head before tying the other end of the strip beneath the chin.

When the body is wrapped this way, the bloodstains on the cloth are perfectly aligned with the wounds and the image aligns with the body’s shape and position. This use of the side strip also explains a passage in the Gospel of John which describes what he and the apostle Peter found when they entered the empty tomb following the resurrection:

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

Gospel of John, 20: 6-7

The reference to linen clothes, rather than a linen cloth, has caused some bible scholars to question whether John was referring to the Shroud. However, if Dr. Jackson’s side strip explanation is correct, it accounts for why the apostle referred to the linen clothes when he saw the Shroud lying with the side strip.

Forensic Analysis of Dust Deposits

Pollen Deposits

Max Frei

Max Frei, a criminalist who specialised in forensic analysis, examined the Shroud on two occasions, in 1973 and 1978, during which he pressed adhesive tapes against the surface of the Shroud to extract surface dust and other deposits. He found pollen grains when he analysed the dust deposits under a microscope and was subsequently able to identify the species of plant that these were from. Some of these species were plants native to France or Italy but approximately half of them were not found in Europe. There were pollen grains from species that were specific to areas of Palestine, including the Dead Sea area, as well as from plants that are only found in the Anatolia region of Turkey, which is where the city of Urfa, formerly Edessa, is located. He also found pollen from species found only in the area of Istanbul, formerly Constantinople.

The pollen evidence supports the claims of some historians that prior to its arrival in Europe, the Shroud had spent periods of time in Judea, Edessa and Constantinople.

Mineral Deposits

Some of the surface dust samples that had been collected using sticky tape were analysed by Joseph Kohlbeck, an optical crystallographer. After discovering some limestone particles amongst the Shroud’s fibres, he visited Jerusalem in order to obtain samples from the limestone of the ancient rock-cut tombs to see if there might be any kind of match between the characteristics of the Jerusalem limestone and the particles found on the Shroud. Both had a crystalline structure that indicated an uncommon form of limestone known as Travertine Aragonite and they both contained small quantities of iron and strontium, but not lead, which was another unusual similarity.

Dr. Ricardo Levi-Setti of the University of Chicago took this analysis a step further by putting both Shroud and Jerusalem dust samples through his high-resolution scanning ion microprobe. This confirmed that the samples were an unusually close match.

There were high concentrations of this dust found around the foot area of the Shroud but some was also found in the areas corresponding to the tip of the nose and the left knee. This is consistent with the Christian tradition of Jesus walking barefoot carrying a cross and falling under its weight.

The Shroud has also been shown to contain traces of aloe and myrrh, which are substances associated with traditional Jewish burial practice during the first century.

Spectra produced by limestone found in Jerusalem and limestone dust extracted from the Shroud

In 1988, three radiocarbon laboratories dated samples of the Shroud of Turin and boldly announced that it was a medieval forgery, dating to the period 1260-1390AD. This conclusion was completely incompatible with the findings from the previous ninety years of Shroud studies, but as far as the radiocarbon scientists were concerned, and most of the world’s media, this was now the only evidence that mattered.

This dating result and the conclusion that the Shroud was a medieval forgery made headlines worldwide and was devastating news for the millions who had believed the Shroud to be a sacred relic. However, it wasn’t long before details emerged revealing how this test had fallen short of acceptable scientific practice, with several breaches of agreed test protocols and a controversial statistical interpretation of the dating measurements. Sadly, these revelations failed to generate a fraction of the publicity given to the controversial C-14 dating result.

Fortunately, there are other ways of determining the age of historical objects. There are a number of very distinctive markings on the cloth, such as the body and facial images, wounds, bloodstains and scorched areas. Various historical artefacts have been discovered which have an extraordinarily close match to some of these features, including iconography created by artists who appear to have copied from the Shroud. We know the age of many of these artefacts and these effectively provide date-stamped snapshots tracing the Shroud’s history. Scientists have also developed new and innovative ways of measuring the age of ancient linen fabric which have been used to date small samples of material from the Shroud.

You can access details of this dating evidence from the timeline below. As you will see, there is overwhelming evidence that the Shroud of Turin is much older than the C-14 test indicated.

Dating Evidence Timeline

Coins over the Eyes?

In 1980, Professor Francis Filas of Loyola University in Chicago and Michael Marx, an expert in classical coins, detected patterns on coins which had been placed over the eyes. The coin on the right eye appeared to be a lepton, a coin minted between 29 and 36AD by Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor of Judea which depicts a staff circled by the words TIBERIOU KAISAROS. When viewing photographs of the Shroud at high magnification, Filas identified the staff and the letters UCAI. This almost matched the lepton coin but curiously the letter C was found where he expected to see a letter K. This initially undermined his findings until two lepton coins with exactly the same misspelling came to light.

This was regarded by many as a particularly important discovery as it appeared to confirm the presence of the Shroud at both the time and place of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, several scholars have doubts that it was the custom in first century Jewish burials to place coins over the eyes of the deceased, particularly pagan coins celebrating a Roman Emperor. Shroud scientists who specialise in photography and image processing have also questioned the photographic processing that was used to reveal the alleged lepton markings. Filas had made progressively enlarged, high-contrast copies of an original 1931 photograph taken by Giuseppe Enrie, a process which produces clumps in the grain structure of the film that can alter the image. In addition, some of the markings appear to correspond to threads in the weave of the Shroud.

The reliability of the coin evidence discovered by Professor Filas has clearly been undermined by the opinion of these experts. However, until it is proven that there aren’t any discoloured fibres which correspond to the alleged lepton markings, the possibility that coins were placed over the eyes of the Man of the Shroud cannot be dismissed.

A forensic analysis of the markings and bloodstains found on the Shroud of Turin reveals a remarkable amount of detail about the brutal injuries sustained by the Man of the Shroud. These injuries are entirely consistent with the gospel accounts of the trial, torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Shroud therefore provides a visual record that corroborates those accounts but unlike the gospels which were written several years after the crucifixion, this record of events was created at the time that they occurred. This sacred cloth can be considered to be a Fifth Gospel which provides us with a powerful, visual account of the vicious brutality which Jesus Christ endured in the hours before his death on the cross.

1

“And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?”

John 18:22

There is evidence of a swelling on the right cheek, just below the eye and indications of other blows to the face, to the nose and above the eyes.

2

“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.”

John 19:1

The back of the Man of the Shroud is covered with distinct marks from the shoulders down to the backs of the calves. There are a smaller number of similar wounds found on the front of the body. The shape of these markings is consistent with the wounds produced by a violent flogging with a Roman flagrum. There are at least 120 such markings over the body and their position indicates that the scourging was carried out by two men, one on each side of the body.

3

“And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe.”

John 19:2

There are bloodstains all around the head showing that sharp objects, such as thorns, had pierced the scalp in several places. The position of these bloodstains suggests that the crown of thorns was not a circlet as often depicted, but a cap which circled the head and covered the crown. It seems quite likely that the Roman soldiers, who were intent on mocking Jesus as ‘King of the Jews’, would have loosely plaited a cap-shaped crown of thorns from a clump of thorny branches, rather than taking the trouble to replicate the traditional shape of a crown.

Traces of pollen from a species of thorny thistle called Gundelia Tournefortii have been found around in the head area of the Shroud. This finding provides further endorsement of the gospel accounts.

4

“Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.”

John 19:16-17

Although the scourge marks are quite clear and distinct, the marks around the shoulders and shoulder blades appear to be smudged. After examining the Shroud, forensic pathologist Robert Bucklin noted that these appeared to be abrasions of the skin surfaces. These abrasions were consistent with a heavy object, such as a beam, being carried on the shoulders and rubbing against the skin. We do not know whether the Man of the Shroud was forced to carry a full cross or just the cross beam.

5

“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”

John 19:17-18

There are bloodstains on the arms of the Man of the Shroud which emanate from nail-sized wounds in the wrist. The pattern of the blood flow from the wounds and down the arms conforms with the angle of outstretched arms in crucifixion. Although artists down the centuries have consistently depicted the nail wounds as being in the palms of the hands rather than the wrists, a French surgeon named Pierre Barbet has demonstrated that nails in this position would tear through the fingers under the weight of the body. He also suggested that a nail through the wrist would damage the median nerve, causing the thumb to retract. This explains why the thumbs cannot be seen on the Shroud.

6

“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”

John 19:17-18

There is a flow of blood from the heel area of the Man of the Shroud and a pool of blood around the ball of the foot. It is possible that two nails could have been used to hold the feet but a recent discovery of the skeleton of a crucifixion victim revealed that a nail had been driven through the area near the heel and ankle. This nail position would be capable of supporting the weight of a man and could have produced the blood stains seen around the foot area of the Shroud.

7

“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs.”

John 19: 31-33

Breaking the legs of a crucified person was a way to ensure that they died quickly. With legs broken, the victim cannot push themselves up to breathe, causing death by suffocation. The image of the Man of the Shroud shows that his legs were unbroken.

8

“But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”

John 19: 34

There is a large wound on the right which appears to penetrate the body between the fifth and sixth ribs. The shape of this wound matches the leaf shaped blade of the Roman Lancea and the stains around the wound appear to be a mixture of blood and a clear, plasma-like fluid. Some physicians have suggested that the clear fluid would have emanated from the pericardium, which is membrane surrounding the heart which would have been pierced by the spear. Others believe it to be a plural effusion caused by trauma to the chest from the severe flogging. Both camps do however agree that it is entirely plausible that blood and water would have flowed from the spear wound.

(original source)

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