The Most Studied Artefact

Shroud of Turin, positive and negative image

The Shroud of Turin is a linen cloth believed to be over 2000 years old on which is somehow “scorched” the image of a crucified man who has been tortured by scourging and wounds to the head and body.  It is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus.  What evidence for this belief do we have?

  • A remarkable consistency exists between the gospel accounts and the forensic pathological findings depicted on the Shroud (eg: blood marks from nail wounds at wrist and feet, shoulder abrasions, scourge marks, large flow of blood and fluid from a side wound, puncture wounds of the head).
  • Pollen grains of the plant Zygophyllum dumosum were found embedded in the shroud cloth. As this grows only in Israel, Jordan and Sinai, its presence helps to definitively limit the Shroud’s place of origin.
  • The Shroud matches blood stains from the Sudarium of Oviedo, the head cloth used to cover Jesus in burial. It is mentioned in St. John’s gospel at 20:7. There is documentation that it was brought to Spain after the Persian invasion of Syria in the seventh century. When the two cloths are compared, the blood stains match up identically. Traces in the cloth also match well with the type of limestone characteristic of the rock of Calvary in Jerusalem.
  • The Shroud for the most part is now known to be at least two thousand years old according to pollen analysis and dating. The carbon dating, once suggesting it was a medieval fake, is now widely thought of as meaningless as it was only done on a medieval repair patch.  An alternative dating method conducted in 2015 pointed to 372 AD with an accuracy of plus or minus 400 years
  • The image is a photographic negative which was an undiscovered technique at the time when the image was created. It is thought that intensities of the order of several billion watts of energy would be needed to produce the image (research paper in National Geographic 2015)

Modern science has completed thousands of hours of detailed study and intense research on the Shroud. The dedicated website  https://shroud.com/  keeps those interested updated with current research and lets you interact with the researchers themselves.  Teenagers and children may find the interactive site  https://discovermercy.github.io/  very interesting and give them a marvel to focus upon as they grow in faith.  Why not encourage them to take a look?  If you missed the article in last week’s newsletter, you might like to read all about the similarities between the Shroud and the Divine Mercy image when they are superimposed.

The Shroud provides an incredible access point to learn more about our Lord’s Passion, burial and Resurrection. It has an amazing history, made only more intriguing by new scientific methods.  But it also gives us a unique glimpse at the likely appearance of Jesus when the negative is processed.  It is used as part of the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.