What is the Shroud of Turin?
What is the Shroud?
The Shroud of Turin is a long linen cloth made of flax and measures 14 feet long and 3.5 feet wide.
It bears the faint image of a bearded, crucified man with bloodstains that match the wounds of crucifixion suffered by Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in all four gospel narratives.
It has been in Turin, Italy since 1578, over 400 years. It was in France for another 200 years beginning in 1356.
The Shroud has been preserved and revered for centuries as the actual burial shroud that wrapped Jesus as recorded in the bible.
It was owned from 1450 to 1982 by the royal Savoy family until the former King of Italy, Humberto II passed away and willed it to the current living Pope.
The Shroud has been displayed during numerous public exhibitions over the past 650 years. While in Italy and France, the Catholic Church has acted as custodian of the cloth though it was officially owned by the Savoys.
The history prior to its arrival in France is not continuous and therefore critics have alleged it is the work of a medieval artist.
However, a key document called the Hungarian Pray Manuscript is dated from 1192 confirms the Shroud was in Constantinople and was stolen by Crusaders during the 4th Crusade. This key document bridges the gap between 1204 and 1356 when the Shroud’s whereabouts were in question and connects it to other references dating back to the 4th century.
This finding is monumental as it supports a historical trail to at least to the year 525 when the “Image Not Made by Hands” was discovered in Edessa (southern Turkey) and became the genesis for all Byzantine icon images of Christ that followed, characterized by long hair, full beard, large eyes, and a long nose. It was also known as the “True Likeness”. Many scholars believe the Shroud and the Edessa Image are one and the same.
Two coins were minted in 692 under the reign of Emperor Justinian II. They were the first coins ever minted with an image of Christ and appear to be based on the Shroud image as indicated by 180 matching points of congruence between the Shroud image and the coin image.
In 944 the cloth was taken from Edessa to Constantinople. The sermon delivered by Gregory the archdeacon of the Hagia Sophia clearly describes a full body image on the linen.
In the 11th century, Greek chronicler John of Skylitzes painted a picture of the same event as part of an illustrated manuscript. It clearly shows the General of the Army presenting a long linen cloth with an image on it to Emperor Romanus I.
Following the 4th Crusade when troops from Venice and France looted and burned the city, a letter of protest was written to Pope Innocent III. The letter documents this horrific event and what was stolen including, “Most sacred of all, the linen in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death and before his resurrection”. These and other historical clues provide a history stretching nearly 1500 years.
There is also the Legend of King Abgar that may stretch its history all the way back to the First Century. It is a story of how a cloth with an image of Jesus on it was sent to Edessa from Israel around the time of Christ. Jude Thaddeus, one of the Apostles, was said to have taken it to him after Abgar’s request for Jesus himself to come. Abgar was dying of leprosy and upon beholding the mysterious image was healed, became a fervent believer in Christ and commanded all pagan idols to be burned.
1898: The Shroud was photographed for the first time. These first pictures led to the discovery that the image on the cloth is actually a negative. The image becomes positive in a photographic negative. This discovery startled the scientific community and stimulated worldwide interest.
1931: Guisseppe Enrie photographed the Shroud again with more advanced film technology confirming that the Shroud is indeed a negative image. Copies of Enrie’s photos were circulated throughout the world prompting more scientific inquiry and interest.
1950: Dr. Pierre Barbet, a prominent French Surgeon, published A Doctor at Calvary documenting 15 years of medical research on the Shroud image. He described the physiology and pathology of the man on the Shroud as “anatomically perfect”.
1973: Max Frei, a noted Swiss criminologist, was given permission to take dust samples from the Shroud that contained much pollen. He discovered 22 pollen species from plants that are unique to areas around Constantinople and Edessa, and 7 pollen species from plants common only in Israel. The pollen trail appears to corroborate the historical trail.
1975: Air Force scientists John Jackson and Eric Jumper, using a VP-8 Image Analyzer designed for the space program, discovered the Shroud image contained encoded 3-D data not found in ordinary reflected light photographs. This discovery indicated that the cloth must have wrapped a real human figure at the time the image was formed.
1978: The Shroud was on public exhibit for the first time since 1933 and was displayed for six weeks. At the close of the exhibition, 33 scientists comprising the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) analyzed the Shroud for five continuous days (120 hours) working in shifts around the clock.
1980: National Geographic magazine published a landmark article on the Shroud further propelling the cloth into the science limelight calling it “One of the most perplexing enigmas of modern times”.
1980: This same year, microscopist Walter McCrone who was not part of the Shroud Project was given several fibers to analyze. After finding iron oxide particles and a single particle of vermilion paint, he broke ranks with the Shroud scientists who had agreed to make all findings public the following year. McCrone proposed that the Shroud was a painting of red ochre paint created from iron oxide particles suspended in a thin binder solution. However, McCrone’s findings in no way agreed with any of the highly sophisticated tests conducted by the other scientists. His claims have all been dismissed. It turns out the iron oxide is a natural result of soaking the flax for days (retting) where iron ions from the water attach to the fibers and oxidize over time. The particles are randomly distributed over the entire cloth.
1981: After three years analyzing the data The Shroud of Turn Research Project (STURP) made their findings public at an international conference in New London, CT. All the scientists agreed upon the following statement: “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 give a positive test for serum albumin.”
1988: The Shroud was carbon dated by three laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona. They indicated a date range from between 1260 to 1390 indicating the cloth to be only about 700 years old. This earth-shattering news seemed to contradict the conclusions of STURP that gave support to the Shroud’s possible authenticity.
1997: Avinoam Danin, prominent Israeli Botanist and a professor at Hebrew University confirmed the presence of flower images on the Shroud. He verified 28 different pollen species and/or plant images. Many are from plants that grow only around Jerusalem.
2002: The Shroud was restored to remove charred debris from the fire of 1532 to aid in the cloth’s preservation. All the burns and patches from the 1532 fire were removed. The Shroud was also attached to a new backing cloth.
2005: Thermal Chemist, Ray Rogers, followed up on new spectroscopic data showing the material of the corner cut for carbon dating may be different from the rest of the Shroud. He obtained thread samples from the C-14 corner and thread samples from the interior of the Shroud. Additional micro-chemical and spectroscopic tests showed the samples were not the same. Results published in a peer-reviewed journal confirmed initial concerns. The sample cut for C-14 dating appears to be from a medieval reweave instead of the original shroud.
“The radiocarbon sample was not part of the original cloth of the Shroud of Turin. The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the shroud.”
The carbon labs violated the original sampling protocol. Three different samples were to be cut; instead, only one sample was used. Ignoring caution from archaeologists, they cut the sample from the most handled area of the cloth, the outside corner edge exactly where it had been grabbed and held by Church authorities for over 200 public exhibitions. It was an area that had the most potential for contamination, damage, and repair.
2011: European researchers with the ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies) were able replicate the depth and coloration of the Shroud image using a 40-nanosecond burst from an UV excimer laser. This is the first time any aspect of the image has been reproduced using light.
2013: Researchers with Padua University in Italy, using multiple samples from other linens of a known age ranging from the current era to 3000 BC, were able to develop a predictable rate of chemical and mechanical decay. Comparing fibers from the Shroud, they determined an estimated date range of 280 BC to 220 AD.
2017: The British museum finally released all the raw data of the 1988 carbon dating tests withheld for over 30 years. A research team reexamined all the data from over 85 separate tests performed in 1988. As published in Archaeometry, numerous dates fell outside the date range published in Nature in 1989. The Shroud sample is therefore not homogenous, and the carbon dating result, famously reported with “95% confidence,” was clearly contaminated and not representative of the entire cloth.
2022: Italian researchers using Wide Angle X-ray Scattering measured the natural aging in a dozen linen fibers spanning 5,000 years. The sample that best correlated with the Shroud was found in Masada, Israel circa 1st century.
Summary of Key Facts
Tests performed by STURP:
- Particle analysis
- Chemical analysis
- Blood analysis
- Photo microscopy
- X-ray radiography
- Infra-red thermography
- X-ray fluorescence spectrometry
- Photo scans from infrared to ultra-violet
- No inorganic pigments present.
- No substances manually applied to cloth.
- No artistic substances are on the cloth.
- No collagen binder as would be used with paint.
- Blood tests positive for heme, bile, serum albumin and other blood components. The blood is type AB with human male DNA (1995).
- “The blood marks seen on the shroud are consistent with a contact transfer to the cloth of blood clot exudates that would have resulted from major wounds inflicted on a man who died in the position of crucifixion.” –Dr. Al Adler
- Purely superficial — penetrates only top 2 micro-fibers. Does not penetrate the cloth.
- No capillary action apparent
- No cementing of fibers to each other
- No substances between threads
- No directionality to image
- No outline to image
- The image is a negative
- Contains distance information similar to a topographical map.
- No image under the blood indicating the blood was transferred to the cloth first, followed by the image of the man as a separate event.
“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.
Copyright STERA, Inc. Barrie M. Schwortz Collection
Burial Shroud of Jesus?
The Shroud of Turin conforms to what is known about First Century Jewish burial practices of using a single linen cloth in the event of violent death with significant loss of blood.
Textile analysis indicates an ancient origin. Threads were hand-spun. The cloth is pieced together in narrow bands with each hank of yarn individually bleached. All indicate an origin earlier than the Middle Ages.
If the shroud wrapped a human corpse as medical forensics may indicate, and if it originated in Israel as botany may indicate, can it ever be proven to be Jesus? Only by inference:
- Blood around head from crown of thorns.
- Abrasions and bruises on face.
- Wound in the side.
- Over 120 scourge (whip) marks.
- Blood on the arms.
- Nail wound in the wrists.
- Nail wound in the feet.
- Legs not broken.
- Postmortem blood flow from side wound and across lower back (not pictured).
- Legs are pulled up due to rigor mortis.
- Blood is from actual wounds and shows evidence of gravity from a vertical position.
- No stains of body decomposition.
Fact or Fiction? Science cannot render a verdict. It remains the world’s greatest unsolved mystery.
“It is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Christ in existence or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever products of the human mind and hand on record. It is either one or the other, there is no middle ground.”—Historian John Walsh
Contact Russ Breault at the Shroud of Turin Education Project, Inc. to schedule a Shroud Encounter for your location today!
Q & A
Answering Common Questions Asked by Protestants, Catholics, and Skeptics
Questions and objections about the Shroud often vary based on religious orientation. Many people come to the subject with strong opinions already formed derived from incomplete or inaccurate information.
Protestants and non-believers are more skeptical but for different reasons. Protestants tend to question certain things associated with the Catholic Church, and non-believers are skeptical of anything religious.
Catholic questions are often more focused on beliefs and traditions within the Catholic faith.
The following addresses some of the more frequent questions.
Common Protestant/Evangelical Questions:
Is the Shroud owned by the Catholic Church?
It’s complicated. The Shroud has been kept in Italy and France for nearly 700 years but was in private ownership by the Royal House of Savoy since 1453. In 1983, the last King of Italy willed it to the current living Pope. The Catholic Church has acted as a custodian of the sacred cloth for centuries but permission to exhibit the linen had to be granted by the King.
How do we know the Shroud isn’t just another bogus relic?
There were periods in history when people peddled relics like good luck charms capable of warding off the plague or other diseases. Some were no doubt legitimate, but how could one know or tell the difference? Protestants avoid things viewed as speculative and not based on their primary authority, the bible. Unlike Catholics, the role of church tradition takes a back seat as a reliable source.
Questions regarding the legitimacy of bones or clothing items associated with a particular saint are common. It is a natural outgrowth of our skeptical age. Other than tradition, how can we ever know for certain? However, if the Shroud could be proven without a doubt to be authentic, it would be far more than just a relic, it would be equivalent to the archaeological find of the century and front-page news around the world.
Testability is the distinctive characteristic of the Shroud that sets it apart from any other relic. It is not a vacant cloth, but one with the image of a crucified man bearing a pattern of bloodstains that matches his wounds as described in all four gospel accounts. We can test the blood and analyze the image. Thousands of hours have been spent on both.
Was the Shroud found with other 1st Century artifacts?
Protestants generally have little regard for relics for reasons already stated but have great respect for archaeological artifacts as they support the historical accuracy of the bible.
The Shroud may be authentic, but it is difficult to apply an archaeological approach because the early church removed the linen from its historical context long ago.
If we discovered it today hidden away in a cave near Jerusalem with other first century artifacts, the controversy would be over. We would have assurance of authenticity based on the location of its discovery. But since the Shroud’s historical trail has some missing intervals, it has caused some to balk at considering it an authentic artifact of the crucifixion.
Hopefully, the historical and scientific research of the past decades, new challenges to the carbon date, and the preponderance of evidence clearly leaning towards authenticity, will one day allow the Shroud to be seen as a true archaeological artifact.
Does the Shroud violate the Second Commandment to not make graven images?
The second commandment of the Old Testament forbids the worshipping of graven images like the golden calf.
In the Old Testament no one ever saw the face of God, not even Moses. The Second Commandment says we are not to make any graven image representing anything in Heaven or on earth for the purpose of creating a pagan idol. However, in accordance with New Testament theology, when Jesus entered the world as the Word of God made flesh, everything changed. People could see the Son of God face to face. Something shifted dramatically between the Old and New Testaments. In Colossians 1:15 (WEB) Paul refers to Jesus as the image of the invisible God. An image is something we see with our eyes, a reflection of the actual object. Paul elevates the importance of seeing Jesus in the flesh as seeing the glory of God himself: The glory of God is revealed in the face of Christ. (2 Cor 4:6) Paul elaborates further in Hebrews: His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance. (Heb 1:3)
The question then arises if the Shroud of Turin is authentic, did it capture “the radiance of God’s glory” at the point of resurrection? Does it contain the “the very image of his substance?”
As a corollary, we can ask why there would be such a dramatic difference between the Old and New Testaments. There is a familiar theological statement first coined by St. Augustine that is perfectly reflected in the Shroud, “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” One definition of “revealed” is, “To cause or allow (something) to be seen” and another is, “to make (something) known to humans by divine or supernatural means.” It appears the Shroud fits perfectly with both definitions.
In response to the evangelical objections, scripture shows that God uses many means to accomplish his will. How can we know what God may or may not use to reach someone? Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 9:22 (NIV) I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. It seems like the Shroud fits perfectly with the plan and purpose of God.
What if the Shroud is not authentic?
This is always a consideration, but it may be the wrong question. What if it IS authentic, and we did nothing with it? Which would be the greater mistake? Is there a middle path that allows the church and individual Christians to use the Shroud for its amazing witness even though we don’t have absolute proof of authenticity? Absolutely yes, it is what I call the middle path. As we explore the mystery—we encounter the message. This remains true whether the Shroud is authentic or not.
How is the single linen Shroud reconciled with John 19:40 where ‘strips’ of linen are mentioned?
All four gospels mention how they wrapped Jesus in linen (sindon) but only John mentions strips. The Greek word used is “othonia” which is a plural term and simply means more than one cloth. John’s Gospel mentions a ‘napkin’ that was about his head rolled up and placed next to the body. Additional strips may have been used to tie the hands and feet and perhaps a strip around the head as a chin band to keep the mouth from opening.
This would also be consistent with the description of Lazarus, who was “bound hand and foot” when Jesus raised him back to life after four days in the tomb. They also needed strips to overcome rigor mortis, the stiffening of the muscles after death. With Jesus, rigor mortis would set in quickly as he lost much blood from the trauma. They would have to break the stiffness to force the arms down from his last position on the cross, with arms outstretched above his head.
The Jews were not winding their dead with strips of linen during the time of Christ. In fact, even the Egyptians had discontinued the practice by the first century. There is some evidence for winding the body in strips during the time of the first temple period, circa 600 BC. However, by the first century, six hundred years later, the winding procedure was no longer performed. In addition, there were different rules for people who died by violent death with significant loss of blood. In such a case, they would not wash the body because for the Jew, life is in the blood and should not be removed from the body, nor would they remove the clothes as they would likely have absorbed blood. Those tending to his burial would wrap the body in a single linen cloth called a “sovev” which means to surround or go around and perfectly corresponds with the Shroud. With Jesus, he was naked because the Romans had cast lots for his clothes. This is also what is observed on the Shroud.
Isaiah 50:6 says the Romans plucked Jesus’s beard:
Evidence on the Shroud shows that the beard on Jesus’s chin was plucked leaving what appears to be a cleft beard. This prophecy does not suggest the beard of the future Messiah would be plucked clean.
Isaiah 52:14 says the Messiah would be so marred and disfigured as to be unrecognizable as a human being:
There is no reference from the New Testament narratives that Jesus was unrecognizable as a human being. However, the Romans rarely scourged those crucified, and certainly not as severely as Jesus. It was unique to the punishment of Christ, as Pontius Pilate did not believe him to be guilty of a crime worthy of capital punishment, which only the Romans could administer.
Pilate had him severely scourged, hoping that would be the end of it, but the Jews still demanded his crucifixion. As brutal as the scourging may have been, it did not turn Jesus into a mass of unrecognizable flesh.
They forced Jesus to wear a crown made of thorns jammed onto his head. He was beaten with sticks driving the thorns even deeper causing blood to pour down from his lacerated scalp.
They punched his face, leaving bruises and contusions. Without question, when Jesus hung lifeless on the cross, it was indeed a tragic scene. Much of this blood was absorbed into a small cloth, or “napkin,” that was wrapped around his face after death.
How could the Shroud image have formed if a napkin covered his face?
John’s Gospel 20:6-7 describes a small cloth called a napkin that was found in the tomb along with the linen shroud. It is believed to be the same cloth known as the Sudarium of Oviedo (Spain) and has a documented history to 614. It measures 84 x 53 cm (33 x 21 inches), about the size of a small bath towel.
The cloth bears a pattern of bloodstains and pleural fluid and is believed to have been used to cover the face of Jesus after he died but while still on the cross.
It was a Jewish tradition to cover the face of the dead. The cloth was kept on the face until the body was taken to the tomb.
Once the body was placed in the tomb, the Sudarium would have been removed from the face and placed next to the body and therefore has no image. The Shroud was then folded over the body lengthwise. The pattern of blood and pleural fluid correlates with what is seen on the Shroud.
In addition, both cloths are stained with type AB blood and also share pollen from the area surrounding Jerusalem suggesting a common geographic origin.
Why have so few Jewish burial shrouds been found?
There are numerous shrouds in existence from Egyptian and other cultures, but extraordinarily few for the Jews. The primary reason is the Jewish burial custom of utilizing ossuaries, also known as a bone box.
The Jews used ossuaries in burials for about 400 years, which included the first century up to about 70 A.D., when the Romans destroyed the Temple.
During that era, when someone died, the relatives would lay the body in a family tomb and wrap it in a shroud, but not as a permanent burial. The body would decompose and after a year or more had passed, members of the family would enter the tomb, place the bones in a limestone box (the ossuary), and etch the name of the deceased on the outside. Any remaining linens would be discarded, most likely burned, or buried.
Many boxes could be stacked in the same tomb, allowing an entire family to be together in burial. The use of the ossuary certainly clarifies why Jewish burial shrouds are rarely found. It may also explain why they would use a cloth designed to pull over the body lengthwise.
Knowing family members would re-enter the tomb the following year to transfer the bones to an ossuary, they would not have performed an elaborate winding of the body with strips of linen as some people believe.
Using a single shroud would have allowed easy access to the bones by simply pulling the cloth back. The intricate wrapping of the body was unnecessary as it was not a permanent state.
What happened to the spices brought to the tomb? Were they applied to the body?
This is a complicated question because the scriptures are not clear on what really happened. Mark tells us that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both members of the Sanhedrin with financial means, bought a hundred pounds of spices made from myrrh and aloes. This is significant as it speaks to the importance of the person they were burying. The quantity of spices was well beyond that of a typical Jewish burial. Jewish tradition shows the more respected an individual, the more spices were brought to the tomb.
The Roman historian Josephus recorded forty pounds of spices were brought for the burial of the highly respected Rabbi Gamaliel. How they used these spices remains in question. Were they sprinkled on the body? Perhaps, but more likely they were bags of spices meant to perfume the chamber and placed around the body or around the tomb.
Most scholars believe the burial of Jesus was hasty because of the impending Sabbath when the Jews were prohibited from work of any kind. This may explain why, in Mark’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, a disciple of Jesus, were returning to the tomb early Sunday morning carrying spices with plans to anoint the body. They intended to complete the burial preparations unfinished on Friday. The lack of spices found on the Shroud does not pose an issue. We do not know what happened or how the spices were used.
However, Dr. Avinoam Danin, one of the leading botanists in Israel with the Hebrew University, analyzed the Shroud and scrutinized all the various image patterns seen on the cloth. He concluded they sprinkled a common spice known as Pistacia on the body as evidenced by stem and berry images seen on the Shroud using high contrast photography.
Are there images on other ancient burial shrouds?
Paris is the home of the famous Louvre Museum complex and contains the Gayet collection of Egyptian burial linens. It comprises three trunks full of 75 burial cloths that belonged to first century Coptic Christians. They were buried in knee length tunics, then wrapped in full length shrouds with strips of linen wound around the outside of the cloth. The linens have all been examined and show no imprints of the face or body. It was as if the bodies melted through the cloth by gradual decomposition, leaving multiple stains of putrefaction. There are no stains of decomposition on the Shroud of Turin. If there was a body in the Shroud, it was not there for long.
Can the Shroud be used as an apologetic argument for Christ?
The gospel narrative found in John 20:1-9 is quite instructive. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb first and sees that the body is gone. She runs to find the apostles and tells them that “someone has taken the body and I don’t know where they have put him.” She thinks the body has been stolen. Peter and John run to the tomb, Peter goes in first and “sees the linen cloth lying there.” Then John goes in and he also “sees the cloth lying there and the napkin that was about his head…and believes.”
It wasn’t the empty tomb that grabbed their attention, it was the vacant linen shroud and becomes the first piece of evidence that Jesus had risen from the dead as he had predicted on at least three documented occasions. John becomes the first person to believe in the resurrection based on the evidence of the empty shroud.
The question must be asked, was the burial shroud left behind only for the benefit of Peter and John? Or was it left for the entire world for all generations?
It is curious how Acts 1:3 says, “After his suffering he showed himself to be alive through many convincing proofs.” No doubt most of these proofs were post-resurrection appearances in six recorded incidents over the course of forty days. But the first proof was the empty shroud lying in the tomb. It is not inconceivable that the first proof was kept, passed down through the generations and now preserved in Turin, Italy.
Why is there no mention of images on the linen?
In fact, there is no mention of the linen at all even though it contained the atoning blood of Christ—that alone should warrant a reference, yet the New Testament is silent. Why? The gospel accounts were written about thirty years after the resurrection when persecution was in high swing. James was killed in 42 and they had arrested Peter to do the same, but he escaped through an angelic intervention. Any mention of the Shroud would have set off a search and destroy mission on behalf of either the Jews or the Romans.
An unwritten code was established among believers known as the “Discipline of the Secret” as a means of minimizing persecution and preserving prized relics of the passion and martyrs of the faith. However, after the edict of Toleration in 314 established by Emperor Constantine, it became safer to be a Christian.
A sixth century liturgy known as the Mozarabic Rite of Holy Week was brought to Spain by Egyptian Catholics known as the Mozarabic sect. They translated John 20:5 in the following manner: “Peter and John ran to the tomb and saw the recent imprints of the dead and risen man on the linens.” Why would they choose to translate the verse in this manner unless it was based on something they had seen or knew about?
Common Catholic Questions:
Does the DNA or blood type of Eucharistic miracles compare with the Shroud?
For Catholics, partaking of the Holy Eucharist (Communion) is …
The source at which Christ’s life is nourished within us with incomparable Food which is His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Holy Eucharist is the highest expression of our life in Christ, for it unites us sacramentally to Christ in the Sacrifice of the Cross, which is always made new in the celebration of the Holy Mass.
According to the Vatican, there are 126 known miracles around the world spanning twelve centuries and venerated at shrines approved by the local Diocesan Bishop. A Eucharistic miracle occurs when the consecrated host (bread wafer) transforms into human flesh with the observation of bleeding. Some of these ‘miraculous’ hosts have survived for centuries.
The question as it relates to the Shroud is whether scientists can compare the blood chemistry.
In fact, all the hosts examined tested positive for AB blood type, which matches the Shroud. The most famous miracle occurred in Lanciano, Italy in 750 AD. It would be interesting to compare the DNA of these hosts with DNA from the Shroud. The Catholic Church has not allowed testing of the blood samples for DNA but maybe they are acting judiciously. In this era of scientific expansion and abandonment of caution, the world doesn’t need a rogue experiment gone bad.
Does the Veronica Cloth compare with the Shroud?
The legend begins when a woman named Veronica wiped the face of Jesus as he was carrying his cross along the Via Dolorosa and resulted with an imprint of Jesus’ face on the cloth. Catholics commemorate this story in the Sixth Station of the Cross. Some versions tell how Veronica later traveled to Rome to present the cloth to Emperor Tiberius. This ‘Veil of Veronica’, supposedly imbued with divine power, could cure blindness, and even raise the dead. The story emerged in the Middle Ages and became the central icon of the Western Church during the 14th century. Some say the cloth disappeared after Rome was sacked in 1527, however artists made replicas of the image until 1616 when the Pope prohibited copies, suggesting the cloth survived the invasion.
Reports indicate the Veil was kept in a chapel deep inside St. Peter’s Basilica but there are no known photographs. In 1907, clerics examined the Veil when it was inspected by a Jesuit art historian. He removed the glass from the frame and could only observe a light-colored cloth with two rust brown stains but was unable to discern any facial details.
Some believe the Veil is a Western version of the Abgar legend that became the genesis of all Orthodox icons of Jesus featuring a front facing image of Christ with long hair, full beard, large eyes, and a long nose. It became known as the True Likeness. Curiously, Veronica is a derivation of two Latin words, Vera (true) and Icon (likeness): Vera Icon = Veronica. What seems to be the most significant stumbling block is that the story is not found in the bible and there is no reference to Veronica or her cloth prior to the twelfth century.
Do visions of mystics compare with the Shroud?
Vision of Sister Faustina:
An uneducated nun with the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, Sister Faustina lived in Poland during the 1930s. Totally devoted to the Mercy of Christ, she wrote a 600-page diary based on messages received from Jesus.
In 1931, she had a vision and saw Jesus dressed in a white robe with his right hand raised in blessing and left hand touching his heart. Two beams of light emanated from the heart, one white and the other red representing blood and water that flowed from the side wound as recorded in John’s gospel. She was told to paint the image she saw in her vision for others to see the love and mercy of God with the inscription, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
Not an artist herself, she commissioned an artist to create the image according to her direction based on her vision. The relationship with the Shroud is that the painted image reveals long hair, full beard, and facial features which match the face on the Shroud. Overlaying the two images show many points of congruence. The picture is known as “The Image of Divine Mercy.”
What is most intriguing is that she received her vision before Enrie’s pictures of the Shroud circulated later in 1931. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 2000 and described her as “the great apostle of Divine Mercy in our time.”
Visions of Maria Valtorta:
Maria Valtorta was born in 1897 in Caserta, Italy. In 1916, she experienced a dream so vivid it remained clear in her memory for her entire life. In the dream, the Lord called her to Himself. She awoke “with her soul, enlightened by something which was not of this world.” During her life, she had 703 visions. They all focused on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In 1948, the Pope told her to publish her visions with no edits. From her first vision, she could never find a picture of Jesus that matched what she saw when he appeared to her … until she received a book on the Shroud in 1942. What she saw jolted her. The hands, the face, the height all matched. Jesus gave her a message on May 20, 1949.
My Shroud, Maria, for those who know how to look, is not only the proof that I really died and rose. It also testifies that I was conceived and born, not according to the laws of humanity. It is therefore a confirmation of the truths which My Religion teaches.
Mel Gibson based much of The Passion of the Christ on the visions of Maria Valtorta. The question as it relates to the Shroud is how much emphasis can we place on dreams and visions? That decision is up to the individual. They are clearly valuable for inspiration and should be approached with that in mind.
Does the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe compare with the Shroud?
One of the most famous Marian apparitions occurred on December 9, 1531, outside Mexico City. A young indigenous man, Juan Diego, was walking in the hills and suddenly heard beautiful singing. He went looking for the source and came upon a young woman wearing a radiant dress. She identified herself as the Virgin Mary, who then requested Juan to appeal to the bishop to build a church in that location so all could come and honor her Son Jesus. Juan Diego obeyed, but the bishop wanted a sign from Mary to confirm the request was true. The next day Juan Diego was on his way hoping to find Mary but received news his uncle was gravely ill and changed course to visit him. Mary was aware and intercepted him along the way telling Juan that God would heal his uncle. She instructed Juan to climb to the top of a hill and pick all the flowers he saw. Roses and various flora covered the hill, which was unusual for winter and that part of Mexico. Juan collected them in his tilma, a typical cloak worn by Aztec farmers. He then traveled back into town to present the flowers to the bishop. As Juan opened his apron to release the flowers, the bishop saw a miraculous image of Mary imprinted on the cloak.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is now the most visited Catholic Shrine in the world visited by over twenty million per year. People have attested to its mystical properties such as the preservation of the Tilma made from cactus which should have deteriorated long ago. Unlike the Shroud, which is a monochrome image with no variation in color, the Tilma image is quite colorful and after almost 500 years, the colors are still vibrant even though painted copies have long since faded.
The difference between the Tilma and the Shroud is the amount of research and analysis. Those who have observed it say the image on the cactus fibers seems to rest only on the surface, reminiscent of the Shroud. Others see the reflection of Juan Diego in Mary’s eyes. While the Tilma may have received cursory analysis, nothing has been published in a peer-reviewed journal to know if other scientists can confirm any of these observations. The Tilma is fascinating, but it does not rise to the level of the Shroud in terms of scientific scrutiny.
Are there miracles associated with the Shroud?
Unlike Our Lady of Lourdes in France, with 67 confirmed miracles since 1858, there are no recent claims regarding the Shroud except for a young girl who was partially healed in the 1950’s. Some may point to the Doctrine of Addai from the 5th century when legend says King Abgar during the 1st century was healed of leprosy upon seeing the folded-up Shroud brought to him by the Apostle Jude. Others point to 544 when the sacred cloth was paraded around the walls of Edessa and is credited with delivering the city from the conquering army of Persia. Sometimes people relate the authenticity of a relic based on miraculous events associated with it, but I believe the Shroud serves a different purpose. As a visual gospel written on linen, the message is about the crucifixion and resurrection, the core belief required for salvation as declared by the Apostle Paul. (Rom. 10:9) Millions of people have placed their hope in Christ through the witness of the Shroud, the miracle of faith.
Were there coins over the eyes?
Both eyes appear to be closed, but on close inspection, some researchers can see circular objects over the eyes and believe they may be buttons or coins. First discovered in the late 1970s by Father Francis Filas of Loyola University in Chicago, he believed markings seen over the right eye in photographs taken in 1931 may have been Roman coins. Filas claimed they originated in 29 A.D. with the letters “UCAI” in the proper sequence to reveal a portion of the inscription that read “Tiberius Caesar.” As compelling as this evidence would be, it does not show up in all photography and is therefore not definitive.
Common Objections to Authenticity Posed by Skeptics
The image is too tall for a 1st century man:
The Shroud image shows the man’s height between 5’10” and 6 feet. Some say it is too tall for it to be a first century Jewish male. This is not true. King Saul, the first king of Israel, was a full head taller than other Jews of his time. (1 Samuel 9:2) In fact, excavations of a Jewish cemetery as reported in the Israel Exploration Journal found ten adult male skeletons, one measured six feet in height and another was 5’10”. The man on the Shroud therefore falls within the range of heights common among first century Jews.
Use of a Roman flagrum is not verified.
Some critics allege the dumbbell shaped scourge marks on the Shroud are not verified to be that of a flagrum. However, excavations of Herculaneum, a Roman city that suffered the same fate as Pompeii and was buried by a volcanic explosion, yielded an intact flagrum with dumbbell shaped tips matching the scourge marks seen on the Shroud. A medieval artist would have no knowledge of what a Roman whipping instrument might look like. This information has been learned through modern excavations in Israel.
Doesn’t Jewish tradition require the body to be washed?
While this may be true in most instances, it is not true in the event of violent death with significant loss of blood. The 16th century Code of Jewish Law states, “If his body was bruised and blood flowed from the wound, and there is apprehension that the blood of the soul (blood that flowed at the time of death) was absorbed in his clothes, he should not be cleansed.”
Placement of the arms over pelvis was for artistic modesty, not a real burial.
Dr. Siegfried H. Horn, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology and History of Antiquity, he states,
Ancient Egyptian mummies do not show uniformity in the position of arms and hands. Frequently bodies were mummified with their arms crossed over their chests and sometimes lying stretched out along their sides. However, a few mummies have been found that show the arms and hands in the same position as those of the Shroud, namely so that the hands cover the pubic area. There are five mummies, all found at Thebes together with the mummies of many royal personages, show their arms and hands in the position just as those of the image on the Shroud. They were published by G. Elliot Smith, the first physician and anthropologist who made a systematic examination of all the Royal Mummies in the Cairo Museum.
Excavations made in Masada, Israel in 1960 revealed graves containing multiple skeletons of Jewish males from 70 A.D. They often found the dead buried in the same position as seen on the Shroud: on the back, face up, with elbows protruding from the way the hands folded over the pelvic area. No difference from the Shroud.
A History Channel documentary claims DNA on Shroud shows the man was of a Druze bloodline, not Jewish:
The History Channel program did not represent this info very well. There are traces of human DNA on the cloth from anyone who ever touched the Shroud. The highest concentration of an ethnic cluster found on particles vacuumed from the cloth in 1978 and 1988 appear to be from the Druze community which originated in Egypt and lived throughout the Middle East. It does not mean that Jesus descended from the Druze but rather that people of Druze descent held and handled the Shroud at some point in history.
This is interesting corroborating data that correlates with pollen found on the Shroud from plants that are unique to the Middle East as well as limestone particles that match the hills and tombs surrounding Jerusalem. It further indicates the Shroud originated outside of Europe and was most likely manufactured in Egypt or Syria both with loom technology capable of weaving the Shroud.