BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

The Shroud of Turin: Anything Left to Say?

The history of Christianity’s most controversial relic.

Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is a linen sheet long claimed to feature the image of the tortured body of Jesus of Nazareth. It has been kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Turin.
Credit: Photo by Giuseppe Enrie, 1931, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Today many consider the Shroud of Turin—the alleged burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth—to be the most important relic of Christianity.1 It is a linen sheet measuring about 14.5 by 3.5 feet and featuring a monochromatic image on the front and back of a naked male figure. This figure appears to bear marks from flagellation and crucifixion as well as various red spots corresponding to the blows. The human image is the result of a change in the color of the linen fibers, but it remains to be fully understood how such coloration occurred. Two scorch marks, which appear as black lines, and a series of vaguely triangular holes caused by burns, run lengthwise down the fabric, on either side of the human figure. This damage is believed to have occurred due to fire in 1532.

The Shroud was first photographed in 1898, and this year is commonly considered to mark the emergence of sindonology (from the Greek word sindōn, used in the Gospels to define Jesus’s burial cloth), that is, the science—or, rather, set of scientific disciplines—that set out to prove the authenticity of the Shroud. Over the past 120 years, sindonology has produced hundreds of books and articles dedicated to the relic, involving every possible field: chemistry, physics, forensic medicine, palynology, numismatics, and so on. Although the field is dominated by the so-called hard sciences, some authors have also dealt with the relic’s history. These accounts recount what can be inferred from historical documents. But because such are only available from the Middle Ages onwards, historians often use imagination to fill the large chronological gap between the first and 14th centuries. It is telling to see how the historiography of the Shroud during the early modern era and until the turn of the 20th century strove to remove any untoward aspects from its history by suppressing inconvenient documents and creating new legends.

Shroud of Turin - Deposition of Christ

Deposition of Christ (1620), by Giovanni Battista della Rovere, portrays the imagined origins of the Shroud of Turin. It shows Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and John the Evangelist wrapping Jesus’s body in a burial cloth. The angels above display the resulting image.
Credit: Galleria Sabauda, Turin

There are two irreconcilable positions on the authenticity of the Shroud: The camp of sindonologists assert the relic’s authenticity, and the other side insists the Shroud is a pious medieval forgery. The overwhelming majority of scholars has supported the latter view, while the former has always enjoyed support in religious circles as well as a great deal of coverage by media outlets, always hungry to report on the supernatural and mysterious.

Thanks to the tenacity of sindonologists, the Shroud has survived even the most severe blows that brought down the structure of a belief in its authenticity. Historically, the first substantial blow came at the end of the 19th century, when prominent French historian and canon Ulysse Chevalier published and commented on the medieval documents referring to the moment the relic surfaced in the historical record. In particular, Chevalier reported on the position expressed by two contemporary bishops of the city of Troyes, the diocese in which the relic appeared in the 14th century, who denounced the relic as a forgery and forbade people from venerating it as the real shroud of Christ. Another critical assessment of the Shroud came from archaeological studies of the type of cloth and Jewish burial practices used at the time of Jesus that suggested the relic was from the Middle Ages.

The most serious blow then came from modern scientific analysis of the artifact. The radiocarbon dating of the fabric carried out in 1988 in three different laboratories indicated a date range of between 1260 and 1390. As is well known, this evidence failed to convince the Shroud’s supporters, who continue to produce literature to the contrary, discrediting the radiocarbon results on a variety of grounds. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has not allowed any new scientific examination of the cloth, alleged human blood, or the nature of the image.

Understandably, the authenticity discussion has almost completely stalled out. With no new data to consider and the two camps entrenched in their positions, is there anything left to say about the Shroud? If we do not want to engage in the fight over its authenticity, is the Shroud still an object deserving of further study?

We need to recognize that the issue of authenticity is only one among many. As a professional historian born in Turin and familiar with the Shroud from childhood, I felt very uneasy when I reviewed the extant scholarship on the subject and realized that very little had been published on the relic’s history and archaeology. This is due in part to the fact that professional historians and archaeologists—most of whom consider the Shroud to be a medieval artifact—prefer to keep their distance from such a controversial subject. As a result, the Shroud is absent from history textbooks and studies of ancient or medieval Christianity or Christian archaeology. It remains a disputed object that scholars prefer to ignore. Most books on the Shroud either have copied from each other or are shaped by devotional interests. Their authors usually lack sufficient training in historical-critical methods, and their coverage of historical and archaeological aspects is insufficient.

It was in this spirit that I set out to investigate the historical and archaeological sources, devoting approximately a decade to the study of the Shroud. In my research, I considered both published sources and unpublished documents from public and private Italian, Vatican, and French archives.2

Although knowing the origin of a relic is certainly important, it would be a mistake to focus all efforts on this point. The issue of origin and authenticity is only one among many. Cynically speaking, most relics are intrinsically worthless objects—materially, the Shroud is nothing but an old piece of cloth. Relics only gain importance when someone attributes it to them. It would also be a mistake to focus on a single relic. Expanding the focus beyond one particular object to examine also all that surrounds it has the potential to highlight the power of symbolic language and to understand the historical underpinnings and meanings.

The Veil of Veronica is one of the multiple shrouds and veils historically associated with Jesus’s execution and burial. This painting by Lorenzo Costa is titled Saint Veronica (1508).
Credit: Shonagon, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On the latter point, it is important to note that until the second half of the sixth century, no one had ever looked for Jesus’s burial cloths, and that there was no record of them. It was only in the sixth century that burial cloths began to appear among the references to various relics of Christ. It is very instructive to follow the stories of these “sister” shrouds, which increased in number over time. They came, one by one, from Palestine and entered collections in all the most important cities of the world. Since the Carolingian period (eighth to ninth centuries), France has stood out as the place with the highest concentration of shrouds. Although some of them vanished, others still exist: The shroud of Cadouin was venerated until 1933, when it was proved to be a medieval Islamic cloth; or the shroud of Carcassonne, also from the Middle Ages. In Spain, the shroud of Oviedo is still regarded as a relic despite its dating from approximately the eighth century.

Among the dozens of alleged shrouds and sudaria (or, small cloths), the Shroud of Turin is unique because it, unlike the others, bears the image of Jesus’s tortured body. There were cloth relics with the image of Jesus already in late antiquity, but those depicted only his face: the Veil of Veronica, Mandylion of Edessa,3 and the Camouliana.

My recent study of historical documents corrects a great many misconceptions about the Shroud of Turin and provides a clear description of the first decades of life of this cloth, which appeared practically out of nowhere around 1355, in a country church in the middle of France. At the time, ecclesiastics, bishops, nobles, and even the king of France and the Pope all took interest in the matter.

Shroud of Turin - 1933 Exhibition

Since the 16th century, the Shroud of Turin has been a powerful religious relic and political tool. This photo is of the 1933 exhibition of the Shroud in the Cathedral of Turin. Credit: Archivio Arcivescovile di Torino

When it first appeared, two local bishops declared it to be a forgery, the king of France tried to seize it, and the pontiff forbade people from describing it as the authentic linen cloth that once enveloped Jesus in the tomb. However, matters took a different turn in 1453, when, after a series of events worthy of a historical novel, the Duke of Savoy illegally purchased the Shroud, invalidating all previous acts of censorship. When it was transferred to Chambéry and then, in 1578, to Turin—the two capitals of the Duchy of Savoy that later became the Kingdom of Italy—the relic became the most precious religious object of the sovereign family. It also played a political role in the hands of the House of Savoy.

Following the history of the Shroud means touching on multiple themes related to theology, devotion, literature, art history, and politics. The relic may seem frozen in time, but it is not a static artifact; rather, it has very much reflected changing historical circumstances, and its role in history has evolved together with societal changes. It first had to face the criticism of the Protestant world, then that of the Enlightenment, then critiques from modern historians and scientists, and finally—after the authentic documents had surfaced and opposition to the relic even by prominent ecclesiastics—the disaffection of those who had come to view the cult of relics as nothing but the survival of old superstitions. Yet, through waxing and waning fortune, the Shroud has survived to this day.

 


About the Author

 
Andrea Nicolotti is Professor of History of Christianity and the Churches at the University of Turin. A leading specialist on the history of relics and shrouds, he has published two books on the subject in English: From the Mandylion of Edessa to the Shroud of Turin: The Metamorphosis and Manipulation of a Legend (Leiden: Brill, 2014) and The Shroud of Turin: The History and Legends of the World’s Most Famous Relic (Waco: Baylor Univ. Press, 2020).


Notes:

1. This article discusses how the Shroud of Turin has been viewed, studied, and interpreted throughout history and does not present arguments for or against its authenticity.

2. I presented the results of this investigation in my book The Shroud of Turin: The History and Legends of the World’s Most Famous Relic (Baylor Univ. Press, 2019). Art historians, in their turn, may examine the Shroud in the context of the artistic culture of early modern Italy: Andrew R. Casper, An Artful Relic: The Shroud of Turin in Baroque Italy (Penn State Univ. Press, 2021).

3. See Strata, “Is This the Face of Jesus?” BAR, July/August 2011.

 


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34 Responses

  1. jeffrey erwin says:

    Prof. Nicolotti asks in his article’s title, “ANYTHING LEFT TO SAY?” I think that what our good professor means by this question is that, in his recent book, he has covered all bases, and said everything that can be said of the Shroud. In regards to this hypothesis, I would refer readers to Emanuela Marinelli’s recent review of Nicolotti’s book which is found in the Winter 2021 issue BSTS Newsletter and also at http://www.academia.edu/63809003/The desire for total darkness

    I haven’t read Nicolotti’s book, so it would be unfair of me to criticize it, but in comparing
    Ms. Marinelli’s observations to my own about what I find written on this page by Andrea, I notice a similar distortions.
    1. Nicolotti defines sindonology as “the science . . .that set out to prove the authenticity of the Shroud.” Here he insinuates that those scientists who have studied the Shroud have an agenda to prove authenticity, something that is just not true.
    2. Then he says that “The overwhelming majority of scholars has supported the later view” (that of a medieval origin for the Shroud.) Has Nicolotti taken some kind of poll? If so, is the authenticity of the Shroud now subject to a majority vote? The fact of the matter is that contradicting the infallible pronouncements of the British Museum could be detrimental to one’s academic career so its better to side with the medieval camp.
    3.He goes on to say that authenticity “has always enjoyed support in religious circles.” He ignores the many scientists who have provided peer-reviewed papers as well as Catholics who have glowing reviewed his own anti-authenticity book.
    4. He cited the British Museum’s hypothesis that the Shroud’s C14 evidence is proof of a date but ignores the evaluation of the recently released raw data by Tristan Casabianca et al. which proves that data to be “heterogeneous.”
    5. He claims that “the authenticity discussion has almost completely stalled out.” Perhaps our knowledgeable professor of history has not bothered to read nuclear engineer Robert Rucker’s recent articles on shroudresearch.net where the Shroud’s 14C data has been found to be compatible with the hypothesis of a neutron radiation event. And perhaps he has not read the BSTS Newsletter article by Fanti and Kowalski which noted that the spectrum produced by a blood crust taken from the Shroud was missing its nitrogen.
    FYI Prof. Nicolotti, nitrogen becomes converted to carbon fourteen when irradiated with neutrons.

    I could go on.

  2. Frances Dixon says:

    About 5 years ago, I saw an interesting cable program about the shroud.
    (It was probably National Geographic, History Channel or Discovery Channel.)
    A forensic anthropologist and a chemistry professor did experiments to recreate the blood stain patterns using a live volunteer and a mannequin. (No, he wasn’t harmed.) They were unsuccessful.
    But an artist DID show a technique of imprinting an image on cloth using a heated bust.
    I have NOT double checked any of the info, but here is an article about it.
    https://www.history.com/news/shroud-turin-forensic-study-not-jesus-burial-cloth
    It has a link to the published results in “Journal of Forensic Science,” but only paying subscribers or a local library link can read the entire article.
    Personally, I think it is a medieval forgery.
    B-U-T the shroud’s authenticity has no bearing either way on my Christian belief –
    Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

  3. Alisa says:

    There is no argument regarding the Shroud. The most interesting part is God allowed for it to remain. I believe it is man’s final warning that Jesus is The Savior of the world. I got saved back in 1983 before I ever knew about the Shroud and met and knew personally a man who worked on the shroud committee. But my faith never rested in the Shroud.My faith was already established beforehand. But I personally believe it will be God’s use of judgement upon those who refused to believe in Jesus. Everyone has an opportunity to come to Him for their life for forgiveness…but man refuses to humble himself before God. This is an unbelievable, extraordinary miracle. But no different than your or my life…we are “living” miracles…so is all God created. Folks…stop playing God…believe and “live” the real life He intended for you…then eternal life forever! Who could ask for more!!!!!!!

  4. Jose Luis Fernandez says:

    The Shroud of Turin is a very complex and controversial object, so reductionism in its explanation is not the best way to deal with it. I am not expert in history but as engineer I can not explain how the Shroud image was formed. Physics, medicine and other disciplines are important as well to explain this complex object. The articles published defending its authenticity are written by physicians, engineers and other scientific domains experts as important as historical annalysis. Currently the only way we have to reproduce the Shroud of Turin image is using infrared femtosecond pulse laser or UV laser not available in the middle ages. See the following paper published in Applied Optics, by researchers at universities in France, C. Donnet, J. Granier, G. Vergé, Y. Bleu, S. Reynaud, and F. Vocanson, “2D reproduction of the face on the Turin Shroud by infrared femtosecond pulse laser processing,” Appl. Opt. 58, 2158-2165 (2019) .

  5. Stephen J Ross says:

    Interesting article. I found in the Chronicles of Georgia (Europe) a section where they sent their wise men to Jerusalem to investigate the news. They got there on the day of His tragedy. They left with His robe (shroud?)

  6. Richard says:

    The author, Andrea Nicolotti, obviously has an ax to grind against the Shroud for reasons that he fails to discuss – yet are obvious from his one-sided arguments. For example, he claims, when speaking about the Sudarium of Oviedo, that it dates “from approximately the eighth century” making the Sudarium an obvious forgery. Yet history clearly shows that the Sudarium is well attested to in extending back to approximately 570 A.D. when Antoninus of Piacenza, writes that the Sudarium was being cared for in the vicinity of Jerusalem in a cave near the monastery of Saint Mark. Such shoddy scholarship should never see the pages of BAR.

    1. Timothy Ehrlich says:

      I agree with Richard completely, the author cannot even concede that the image is of a man that has been crucified and whipped, nor to mention that the whipping left marks that correspond to the scourge used by Romans in the 1st Century. And oh by the way the only scientific study that was done on the shroud, called the Shroud of Turin Research Project, completed in 1978 it concluded that the Shroud is likely an authentic burial cloth of a first century man who was put to death by crucifixion after having had a scourging with a Roman whip and having a series of punctures in his scalp consistent with someone having a crown of thorns placed on their had and pressed into the scalp.. Among many other convincing discoveries about the shroud are these: the blood stains – hands, feet, and side are confirmed human. The soil sample at the feet is from soil consistent chemically with soil in Jerusalem. Pollen samples taken from multiple locations on the shroud only come from plants native to the Jerusalem region. How ridiculous it is to suggest that a 13th century European forger would use human blood instead of readily available animal blood, or that he would get soil from Jerusalem to sprinkle on the cloth just in case.

      1. Andrea Nicolotti says:

        The arguments you present are very banal and all explained in my book. For example, the pollen argument has been largely denied and is unusable. The argument of the scourges was founded in a long article that demonstrates that the scourge of the Shroud has absolutely nothing to do with the alleged Roman scourge: https://www.academia.edu/34385622/The_Scourge_of_Jesus_and_the_Roman_Scourge_Historical_and_Archaeological_Evidence

        1. Andrea – so what if you are wrong ? You’ve given that any thought at all ??

          The idea that you’ve spent so much time and energy in your life ‘disproving’ something God left for us, must have entered your mind at least once.

          Clearly, the Shroud can’t be proven to be the burial cloth of Jesus.

          But, none of the ‘scientific experts’ in the world can explain how the ‘artist’ created the image back in the Middle Ages either.

          With all the science we have at our finger tips in this modern world no one can come up with hypothetical method that the artist used.

          Doesn’t that bother you ? And if no, why not ??

          What will you tell your maker on Judgement Day if it turns out you’ve wasted your life and career. And for what ??

          It’s a serious question, I’m asking you today, in no way Rhetorical.

          Give us an answer, pls.

    2. Andrea Nicolotti says:

      Before criticizing the work of others, you should at least read the book you want to criticize. There, for example, you would discover that the alleged sudariums of Christ in the Middle Ages are numerous, in different and incompatible places. There is no logic that leads to make the sudarium of Oviedo coincide with that of Antonino of Piacenza. This is not “shoddy scholarship”, but it is the simple way of dealing with ancient sources without believing everything they tell. About the sudarium of oviedo (VIII century ca.) I wrote an article: https://reunido.uniovi.es/index.php/TSP/article/view/11790

    3. Ben Lapke says:

      I agree. The bias first exhibits when he makes a reference to the “so-called hard sciences.” That would be chemistry and physics. What the author has done is ignored the scientific evidence and instead relies on untested opinions about it being a forgery. The one item of scientific evidence he does discuss is the radiocarbon dating, and dismisses it, saying “[a]is well known, this evidence failed to convince the Shroud’s supporters, who continue to produce literature to the contrary, discrediting the radiocarbon results on a variety of grounds.” No, the Shroud’s supporters are not producing “literature to the contrary,” the are producing scientific evidence demonstrating that the radiocarbon dating methodology was flawed, rendering the test results invalid. Specifically, the radiocarbon samples were to be taken from different locations of the Shroud, but they were all taken from the same location. And this location is the site of a medieval repair. An article appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal Thermochimica Acta, which proved that the carbon 14 dating was flawed because the sample was invalid. Moreover, this article, by Raymond N. Rogers, a well-published chemist, and a Fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, explained why the cloth was much older. It was at least twice as old as the radiocarbon date, and possibly 2000 years old.

      The radiocarbon dating is the only scientific evidence that Shroud doubters had to discredit the Shroud. All the other scientific evidence points to the Shroud’s authenticity. I’ll take “so-called sciences” over soft sciences any day.

  7. G. David. Foster says:

    Why would anyone go to such a length of compexity and accuracy to create a forgery that long ago?

    1. Nick Gotts says:

      Money and power. There was a well-established relic-forging industry in medieval times. A church or monastery that could boast a good relic attracted pilgrim trade, from which the neasest town also benefited.

      1. So the artist painted the image on the cloth ?

  8. Charles Gwin says:

    The Israelites adopted the preparation of burial from the Egyptians during their 400 years of bondage. The method of wrapping the body with linen (swaddling). Jn. 19: 40. Strong’s #1779 in the Greek. The aloes were used to fragrance the smell of death, and myrrh is a tree sap similar to shellac. Aloes would be placed next to the body. The body would be wrapped with the linen bandages ( think of the linen bandages like an ace bandage mummification). Myrrh would be used to coat the linen to keep it from unwrapping. Jn. 20: 8 “…and he saw and believed “. What did he see to make him believe? An empty cocoon of linen and myrrh? Jn. 20: 7 makes reference to a napkin which covered the head, not a shroud. Remember the Romans were pagans at the time of Jesus. They never ” converted ” until 321AD. John was an eyewitness!

  9. Steve Lusk says:

    At least John’s Gospel says Jesus’ head had been covered by a separate cloth, not a full=length shroud. Would not the authenticity of the Shroud tend to destroy Biblical inerrancy?
    Given the many relics medieval bishops accepted as genuine, the fact that two said the Shroud was a fraud is pretty convincing to me.

  10. Dr Jim. robinson says:

    contrary to the opinion of some, the SCIENCE provides overwhelming evidence for the 1st century nature of the shroud of Turin. Comparing the shroud forensically to the head cloth known as the suderium of Oviedo mentioned in John 20 v.8, the science demonstrates convincing evidence that both clothes touched the same body. microscopic, blood, and pollen evidence would, in my opinion, satisfy any court of law.

    1. Nick Gotts says:

      Utter nonsense. The carbon-14 dating alone establishes that the shroud is medieval in origin, and of course we have statments from bishops at the time it appeared that it is a forgery.

      1. .dr jim robinson says:

        Microscopic and forensic examination of the shroud indicate that it was repaired many times over the centuries. It was repaired extensively after the damage caused by the fire in the 1500s. If you examine carefully where the samples were taken for carbon dating it appears that the samples were taken from an expert the repaired section of the shroud. It’s a sample contains newer repair fabric as well as original fabric it would completely skew the results of the carbon dating. Opinions of 15 century bishops certainly can’t be compared to the scientific evidence that we have today. No one as far as mentioned that the image on the shroud is only on the most superficial layer of the fabric. It’s about the thickness of a soap bubble. No one has yet been able to explain how that image got in the cloth. Even with all of our current science and technology we cannot fully explain how that image was created .

      2. Dr jim robinson says:

        Scientific evidence indicates that the shroud has been repaired many times over the centuries. It was extensively repaired after the fire of 1515. If you look carefully at the section of the cloth that was removed for carbon dating it’s right along an edge that was previously repaired. Since more modern fibers were mixed with original fibers it seems obvious that the carbon dating could be inaccurate. Microscopic pollen grains from plants that only grow in the Jerusalem area and bloom in April in our present on the shroud further confirm that it’s not a forgery. Also microscopic dirt particles which have a signature such as travertine Argonite Match with the soil in the Jerusalem area. Since there were no microscopes during the time of the supposed forgery it’s pretty hard to avoid that scientific evidence.

  11. Ngallendou Dièye says:

    Even if it were possible to establish a 1st-century CE date, Judean provenance, from a crucified male, the cloth would have no bearing at all on the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, would it? Well, maybe, since crucified corpses were seldom, if ever, afforded a descent burial, and most burial shrouds rotted away with their contents. Unless it was customary at that time in history for buried individuals — at least one of them — to resurrect with cloth-transforming brilliance. Still, I suspect that it be a forgery, or some kind of religious souvenir.

    1. Dr him robinson says:

      According to the biblical account Jesus died about 3 PM. Because that day was the day before a holy day Jewish law required that the body be taken down from the cross and put in a tune before 6 PM which was the starting time of the holy day. The biblical account also states that a rich man from Arimathea placed the body in the tomb and wrapped it in a linen cloth. It seems obvious that the short timeframe remaining for the burial means that the cloth was laid on the rock in the body laid on the shroud and the other half of the shroud pulled over the body as a temporary measure. We know that on the day following the holy day the women went to the tomb to finish the burial process. When they discovered the empty tomb and reported to Peter and John they ran to the tomb to investigate. John got there first but did not go inside but Peter did. The scripture says he saw the linen cloth laying there in the head cloth folded and laying in a place by itself. This is clear evidence of two cloths. The first was an expensive linen cloth and the other was a rag. The head cloth was wrapped around his head in and removed when he was placed in the tomb. Interesting that the blood spots on the rag match in over 70 places with a blood spots around the head area of the shroud. In my opinion this more than confirms that both cloths had touched the same head. Considering that the head cloth has a written confirmed history going back to at least the 600s that makes sense the shroud is much older than the carbon dating indicates. In my opinion no forger in the 11th century would have the ability to identify microscopic pollen from plants that bloom in the Jerusalem area in April. The presence of a number of plants Pollins on the shroud provide overwhelming evidence that this is not a forgery.

      1. Janet says:

        Please watch this video and you will understand why the NT account is not true.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmSa0T94164
        1. No one would go back after 3 days to prepare a body.
        2. Women would not prepare a mans body

      2. jeffrey erwin says:

        Good observations, Dr. Robinson. We might consider that on that fateful Friday the Sabbath was fast approaching. Unexpectedly, the great Rabbi’s followers needed a burial shroud, but all of the shops would have been closed. What might have been available was the 14 foot long tablecloth of their recent meal. Shrouds are usually more square in shape and are wrapped around the corpse. In this case, they had to improvise using what was at hand, a long tablecloth.

  12. William Skibinski says:

    There was a documentary on TV about a comport artist, Ray Downing that spent a year studying the shroud of Turin trying to figure out the true image of the face from a flat cloth and did many computer simulations until he finally produced a colorized image of what Christ looked like at the time of resurrection.

    1. Frances Dixon says:

      Ah, I should have finished reading ALL the comments before I posted.
      I saw it too. Wasn’t it the same program with the forensic anthropologist I posted about?
      Glad someone who saw it posted

  13. Thank you, Professor Nicolotti, for this well-written summary of the critical issues surrounding the history of the Shroud. I appreciate your nod to the “power of symbolic language” as well as to the political realities through time that affected various views of and treatment of the Shroud. As a writer of historical fiction, I can see all sorts of wonderful possibilities for a whole series of novels on this subject! Your even-handed approach to the continuing controversy is a good example of how thoughtful scientists and academics can present materials and ideas without offense but with enlightened questions. I’ll be looking up your book!

    1. Andrew Casper says:

      Andrea Nicolotti is a friend of mine and his book is great, highly informative. My own book An Artful Relic: The Shroud of Turin in Baroque Italy (mentioned and linked in the article’s footnotes) discusses the history of the Shroud’s emergence as a religious image in the late 1500s and 1600s. Check it out too!

      1. jeffrey erwin says:

        Bot Prof. Nicolotti and Prof. Casper are well known Shroud sceptics who’s views are extremely one-sided. See Marinelli’s review of Nicolotti’s book that is titled: “Against the Shroud, But With Mixed Cards” for an understanding of just how skewed Nicolotti’s work actually is. Casper also has a very prejudicial outlook regarding the Shroud and he complains about the “rampant pre-occupation with authenticity.”

  14. William R. Mayor says:

    This is an interesting article, but it seems to ignore that an analysis if the raw data from the 1988 carbon dating, which has only been available for peer review for less than 5 years, does not support the claimed dating. Rather it indicates a systemic flaw in the process, thus rendering any conclusion regarding the dating as meaningless. There are likewise some historic texts that suggest that there was a full-length image of a tortured human on a linen cloth in Constantinople during the time when the Mandylion was there. Whether or not these two images are one and the same is a matter of conjecture though. And scientists, as well as other scholars, who have studied the data regarding the Shroud since 1989 to the present day tend to overwhelmingly find that either the dating of the Shroud is inconclusive ir that it might well date to the 1st century, without statements as to whether it was the burial cloth of Jesus or not.

    1. Andrea Nicolotti says:

      I do not ignore of the “raw data”. In fact, those data had already been known for many years. Even if the criticisms were correct (I think it is not), this would absolutely not change the result significantly, but at the most it would move the dating by a few years or decades, always in the Middle Ages. No radiocarbon expert believes that dating is significantly modifiable. As for the other topics, they are all explained in the book. Including the alleged shrouds of Constantinople.

      1. jeffrey erwin says:

        Nicolotti’s comment reveals how ill-informed and prejudicial his views are. His statement, ” . .. those data had already been known for many years” is not incorrect. The British Museum had refused to release that data until forced by a court order in 2017. An analysis of that data by Tristan Casabianca, et al. concluded that the results were not homogeneous (meaning not from the same sample.) As nuclear physicist Robert Rucker points out, that should not be true since the three samples were all part of single piece that was cut from a corner of the Shroud.
        Nicolotti’s hypothesis that ” . . this would not change the result significantly” ignores the possibility that a systemic error might have been present in the Shroud’s 14C data. Rucker, a nuclear engineer of thirty years experience, has written a paper titled, “The Shroud’s Carbon Fourteen Dating is Explained by Neutron Absorption,” which can be seen at his website, shroudresearch.net.
        Contrary to what Nocolotti states, many radiocarbon experts have published papers that discredit the British Museum’s Interpretations.

  15. Phil Ruffin says:

    Has anyone ever tried to explain why there is not enough space between the heads for the top of Jesus’ head? Was this Flat Jesus? Isn’t that obvious?

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34 Responses

  1. jeffrey erwin says:

    Prof. Nicolotti asks in his article’s title, “ANYTHING LEFT TO SAY?” I think that what our good professor means by this question is that, in his recent book, he has covered all bases, and said everything that can be said of the Shroud. In regards to this hypothesis, I would refer readers to Emanuela Marinelli’s recent review of Nicolotti’s book which is found in the Winter 2021 issue BSTS Newsletter and also at http://www.academia.edu/63809003/The desire for total darkness

    I haven’t read Nicolotti’s book, so it would be unfair of me to criticize it, but in comparing
    Ms. Marinelli’s observations to my own about what I find written on this page by Andrea, I notice a similar distortions.
    1. Nicolotti defines sindonology as “the science . . .that set out to prove the authenticity of the Shroud.” Here he insinuates that those scientists who have studied the Shroud have an agenda to prove authenticity, something that is just not true.
    2. Then he says that “The overwhelming majority of scholars has supported the later view” (that of a medieval origin for the Shroud.) Has Nicolotti taken some kind of poll? If so, is the authenticity of the Shroud now subject to a majority vote? The fact of the matter is that contradicting the infallible pronouncements of the British Museum could be detrimental to one’s academic career so its better to side with the medieval camp.
    3.He goes on to say that authenticity “has always enjoyed support in religious circles.” He ignores the many scientists who have provided peer-reviewed papers as well as Catholics who have glowing reviewed his own anti-authenticity book.
    4. He cited the British Museum’s hypothesis that the Shroud’s C14 evidence is proof of a date but ignores the evaluation of the recently released raw data by Tristan Casabianca et al. which proves that data to be “heterogeneous.”
    5. He claims that “the authenticity discussion has almost completely stalled out.” Perhaps our knowledgeable professor of history has not bothered to read nuclear engineer Robert Rucker’s recent articles on shroudresearch.net where the Shroud’s 14C data has been found to be compatible with the hypothesis of a neutron radiation event. And perhaps he has not read the BSTS Newsletter article by Fanti and Kowalski which noted that the spectrum produced by a blood crust taken from the Shroud was missing its nitrogen.
    FYI Prof. Nicolotti, nitrogen becomes converted to carbon fourteen when irradiated with neutrons.

    I could go on.

  2. Frances Dixon says:

    About 5 years ago, I saw an interesting cable program about the shroud.
    (It was probably National Geographic, History Channel or Discovery Channel.)
    A forensic anthropologist and a chemistry professor did experiments to recreate the blood stain patterns using a live volunteer and a mannequin. (No, he wasn’t harmed.) They were unsuccessful.
    But an artist DID show a technique of imprinting an image on cloth using a heated bust.
    I have NOT double checked any of the info, but here is an article about it.
    https://www.history.com/news/shroud-turin-forensic-study-not-jesus-burial-cloth
    It has a link to the published results in “Journal of Forensic Science,” but only paying subscribers or a local library link can read the entire article.
    Personally, I think it is a medieval forgery.
    B-U-T the shroud’s authenticity has no bearing either way on my Christian belief –
    Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

  3. Alisa says:

    There is no argument regarding the Shroud. The most interesting part is God allowed for it to remain. I believe it is man’s final warning that Jesus is The Savior of the world. I got saved back in 1983 before I ever knew about the Shroud and met and knew personally a man who worked on the shroud committee. But my faith never rested in the Shroud.My faith was already established beforehand. But I personally believe it will be God’s use of judgement upon those who refused to believe in Jesus. Everyone has an opportunity to come to Him for their life for forgiveness…but man refuses to humble himself before God. This is an unbelievable, extraordinary miracle. But no different than your or my life…we are “living” miracles…so is all God created. Folks…stop playing God…believe and “live” the real life He intended for you…then eternal life forever! Who could ask for more!!!!!!!

  4. Jose Luis Fernandez says:

    The Shroud of Turin is a very complex and controversial object, so reductionism in its explanation is not the best way to deal with it. I am not expert in history but as engineer I can not explain how the Shroud image was formed. Physics, medicine and other disciplines are important as well to explain this complex object. The articles published defending its authenticity are written by physicians, engineers and other scientific domains experts as important as historical annalysis. Currently the only way we have to reproduce the Shroud of Turin image is using infrared femtosecond pulse laser or UV laser not available in the middle ages. See the following paper published in Applied Optics, by researchers at universities in France, C. Donnet, J. Granier, G. Vergé, Y. Bleu, S. Reynaud, and F. Vocanson, “2D reproduction of the face on the Turin Shroud by infrared femtosecond pulse laser processing,” Appl. Opt. 58, 2158-2165 (2019) .

  5. Stephen J Ross says:

    Interesting article. I found in the Chronicles of Georgia (Europe) a section where they sent their wise men to Jerusalem to investigate the news. They got there on the day of His tragedy. They left with His robe (shroud?)

  6. Richard says:

    The author, Andrea Nicolotti, obviously has an ax to grind against the Shroud for reasons that he fails to discuss – yet are obvious from his one-sided arguments. For example, he claims, when speaking about the Sudarium of Oviedo, that it dates “from approximately the eighth century” making the Sudarium an obvious forgery. Yet history clearly shows that the Sudarium is well attested to in extending back to approximately 570 A.D. when Antoninus of Piacenza, writes that the Sudarium was being cared for in the vicinity of Jerusalem in a cave near the monastery of Saint Mark. Such shoddy scholarship should never see the pages of BAR.

    1. Timothy Ehrlich says:

      I agree with Richard completely, the author cannot even concede that the image is of a man that has been crucified and whipped, nor to mention that the whipping left marks that correspond to the scourge used by Romans in the 1st Century. And oh by the way the only scientific study that was done on the shroud, called the Shroud of Turin Research Project, completed in 1978 it concluded that the Shroud is likely an authentic burial cloth of a first century man who was put to death by crucifixion after having had a scourging with a Roman whip and having a series of punctures in his scalp consistent with someone having a crown of thorns placed on their had and pressed into the scalp.. Among many other convincing discoveries about the shroud are these: the blood stains – hands, feet, and side are confirmed human. The soil sample at the feet is from soil consistent chemically with soil in Jerusalem. Pollen samples taken from multiple locations on the shroud only come from plants native to the Jerusalem region. How ridiculous it is to suggest that a 13th century European forger would use human blood instead of readily available animal blood, or that he would get soil from Jerusalem to sprinkle on the cloth just in case.

      1. Andrea Nicolotti says:

        The arguments you present are very banal and all explained in my book. For example, the pollen argument has been largely denied and is unusable. The argument of the scourges was founded in a long article that demonstrates that the scourge of the Shroud has absolutely nothing to do with the alleged Roman scourge: https://www.academia.edu/34385622/The_Scourge_of_Jesus_and_the_Roman_Scourge_Historical_and_Archaeological_Evidence

        1. Andrea – so what if you are wrong ? You’ve given that any thought at all ??

          The idea that you’ve spent so much time and energy in your life ‘disproving’ something God left for us, must have entered your mind at least once.

          Clearly, the Shroud can’t be proven to be the burial cloth of Jesus.

          But, none of the ‘scientific experts’ in the world can explain how the ‘artist’ created the image back in the Middle Ages either.

          With all the science we have at our finger tips in this modern world no one can come up with hypothetical method that the artist used.

          Doesn’t that bother you ? And if no, why not ??

          What will you tell your maker on Judgement Day if it turns out you’ve wasted your life and career. And for what ??

          It’s a serious question, I’m asking you today, in no way Rhetorical.

          Give us an answer, pls.

    2. Andrea Nicolotti says:

      Before criticizing the work of others, you should at least read the book you want to criticize. There, for example, you would discover that the alleged sudariums of Christ in the Middle Ages are numerous, in different and incompatible places. There is no logic that leads to make the sudarium of Oviedo coincide with that of Antonino of Piacenza. This is not “shoddy scholarship”, but it is the simple way of dealing with ancient sources without believing everything they tell. About the sudarium of oviedo (VIII century ca.) I wrote an article: https://reunido.uniovi.es/index.php/TSP/article/view/11790

    3. Ben Lapke says:

      I agree. The bias first exhibits when he makes a reference to the “so-called hard sciences.” That would be chemistry and physics. What the author has done is ignored the scientific evidence and instead relies on untested opinions about it being a forgery. The one item of scientific evidence he does discuss is the radiocarbon dating, and dismisses it, saying “[a]is well known, this evidence failed to convince the Shroud’s supporters, who continue to produce literature to the contrary, discrediting the radiocarbon results on a variety of grounds.” No, the Shroud’s supporters are not producing “literature to the contrary,” the are producing scientific evidence demonstrating that the radiocarbon dating methodology was flawed, rendering the test results invalid. Specifically, the radiocarbon samples were to be taken from different locations of the Shroud, but they were all taken from the same location. And this location is the site of a medieval repair. An article appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal Thermochimica Acta, which proved that the carbon 14 dating was flawed because the sample was invalid. Moreover, this article, by Raymond N. Rogers, a well-published chemist, and a Fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, explained why the cloth was much older. It was at least twice as old as the radiocarbon date, and possibly 2000 years old.

      The radiocarbon dating is the only scientific evidence that Shroud doubters had to discredit the Shroud. All the other scientific evidence points to the Shroud’s authenticity. I’ll take “so-called sciences” over soft sciences any day.

  7. G. David. Foster says:

    Why would anyone go to such a length of compexity and accuracy to create a forgery that long ago?

    1. Nick Gotts says:

      Money and power. There was a well-established relic-forging industry in medieval times. A church or monastery that could boast a good relic attracted pilgrim trade, from which the neasest town also benefited.

      1. So the artist painted the image on the cloth ?

  8. Charles Gwin says:

    The Israelites adopted the preparation of burial from the Egyptians during their 400 years of bondage. The method of wrapping the body with linen (swaddling). Jn. 19: 40. Strong’s #1779 in the Greek. The aloes were used to fragrance the smell of death, and myrrh is a tree sap similar to shellac. Aloes would be placed next to the body. The body would be wrapped with the linen bandages ( think of the linen bandages like an ace bandage mummification). Myrrh would be used to coat the linen to keep it from unwrapping. Jn. 20: 8 “…and he saw and believed “. What did he see to make him believe? An empty cocoon of linen and myrrh? Jn. 20: 7 makes reference to a napkin which covered the head, not a shroud. Remember the Romans were pagans at the time of Jesus. They never ” converted ” until 321AD. John was an eyewitness!

  9. Steve Lusk says:

    At least John’s Gospel says Jesus’ head had been covered by a separate cloth, not a full=length shroud. Would not the authenticity of the Shroud tend to destroy Biblical inerrancy?
    Given the many relics medieval bishops accepted as genuine, the fact that two said the Shroud was a fraud is pretty convincing to me.

  10. Dr Jim. robinson says:

    contrary to the opinion of some, the SCIENCE provides overwhelming evidence for the 1st century nature of the shroud of Turin. Comparing the shroud forensically to the head cloth known as the suderium of Oviedo mentioned in John 20 v.8, the science demonstrates convincing evidence that both clothes touched the same body. microscopic, blood, and pollen evidence would, in my opinion, satisfy any court of law.

    1. Nick Gotts says:

      Utter nonsense. The carbon-14 dating alone establishes that the shroud is medieval in origin, and of course we have statments from bishops at the time it appeared that it is a forgery.

      1. .dr jim robinson says:

        Microscopic and forensic examination of the shroud indicate that it was repaired many times over the centuries. It was repaired extensively after the damage caused by the fire in the 1500s. If you examine carefully where the samples were taken for carbon dating it appears that the samples were taken from an expert the repaired section of the shroud. It’s a sample contains newer repair fabric as well as original fabric it would completely skew the results of the carbon dating. Opinions of 15 century bishops certainly can’t be compared to the scientific evidence that we have today. No one as far as mentioned that the image on the shroud is only on the most superficial layer of the fabric. It’s about the thickness of a soap bubble. No one has yet been able to explain how that image got in the cloth. Even with all of our current science and technology we cannot fully explain how that image was created .

      2. Dr jim robinson says:

        Scientific evidence indicates that the shroud has been repaired many times over the centuries. It was extensively repaired after the fire of 1515. If you look carefully at the section of the cloth that was removed for carbon dating it’s right along an edge that was previously repaired. Since more modern fibers were mixed with original fibers it seems obvious that the carbon dating could be inaccurate. Microscopic pollen grains from plants that only grow in the Jerusalem area and bloom in April in our present on the shroud further confirm that it’s not a forgery. Also microscopic dirt particles which have a signature such as travertine Argonite Match with the soil in the Jerusalem area. Since there were no microscopes during the time of the supposed forgery it’s pretty hard to avoid that scientific evidence.

  11. Ngallendou Dièye says:

    Even if it were possible to establish a 1st-century CE date, Judean provenance, from a crucified male, the cloth would have no bearing at all on the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, would it? Well, maybe, since crucified corpses were seldom, if ever, afforded a descent burial, and most burial shrouds rotted away with their contents. Unless it was customary at that time in history for buried individuals — at least one of them — to resurrect with cloth-transforming brilliance. Still, I suspect that it be a forgery, or some kind of religious souvenir.

    1. Dr him robinson says:

      According to the biblical account Jesus died about 3 PM. Because that day was the day before a holy day Jewish law required that the body be taken down from the cross and put in a tune before 6 PM which was the starting time of the holy day. The biblical account also states that a rich man from Arimathea placed the body in the tomb and wrapped it in a linen cloth. It seems obvious that the short timeframe remaining for the burial means that the cloth was laid on the rock in the body laid on the shroud and the other half of the shroud pulled over the body as a temporary measure. We know that on the day following the holy day the women went to the tomb to finish the burial process. When they discovered the empty tomb and reported to Peter and John they ran to the tomb to investigate. John got there first but did not go inside but Peter did. The scripture says he saw the linen cloth laying there in the head cloth folded and laying in a place by itself. This is clear evidence of two cloths. The first was an expensive linen cloth and the other was a rag. The head cloth was wrapped around his head in and removed when he was placed in the tomb. Interesting that the blood spots on the rag match in over 70 places with a blood spots around the head area of the shroud. In my opinion this more than confirms that both cloths had touched the same head. Considering that the head cloth has a written confirmed history going back to at least the 600s that makes sense the shroud is much older than the carbon dating indicates. In my opinion no forger in the 11th century would have the ability to identify microscopic pollen from plants that bloom in the Jerusalem area in April. The presence of a number of plants Pollins on the shroud provide overwhelming evidence that this is not a forgery.

      1. Janet says:

        Please watch this video and you will understand why the NT account is not true.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmSa0T94164
        1. No one would go back after 3 days to prepare a body.
        2. Women would not prepare a mans body

      2. jeffrey erwin says:

        Good observations, Dr. Robinson. We might consider that on that fateful Friday the Sabbath was fast approaching. Unexpectedly, the great Rabbi’s followers needed a burial shroud, but all of the shops would have been closed. What might have been available was the 14 foot long tablecloth of their recent meal. Shrouds are usually more square in shape and are wrapped around the corpse. In this case, they had to improvise using what was at hand, a long tablecloth.

  12. William Skibinski says:

    There was a documentary on TV about a comport artist, Ray Downing that spent a year studying the shroud of Turin trying to figure out the true image of the face from a flat cloth and did many computer simulations until he finally produced a colorized image of what Christ looked like at the time of resurrection.

    1. Frances Dixon says:

      Ah, I should have finished reading ALL the comments before I posted.
      I saw it too. Wasn’t it the same program with the forensic anthropologist I posted about?
      Glad someone who saw it posted

  13. Thank you, Professor Nicolotti, for this well-written summary of the critical issues surrounding the history of the Shroud. I appreciate your nod to the “power of symbolic language” as well as to the political realities through time that affected various views of and treatment of the Shroud. As a writer of historical fiction, I can see all sorts of wonderful possibilities for a whole series of novels on this subject! Your even-handed approach to the continuing controversy is a good example of how thoughtful scientists and academics can present materials and ideas without offense but with enlightened questions. I’ll be looking up your book!

    1. Andrew Casper says:

      Andrea Nicolotti is a friend of mine and his book is great, highly informative. My own book An Artful Relic: The Shroud of Turin in Baroque Italy (mentioned and linked in the article’s footnotes) discusses the history of the Shroud’s emergence as a religious image in the late 1500s and 1600s. Check it out too!

      1. jeffrey erwin says:

        Bot Prof. Nicolotti and Prof. Casper are well known Shroud sceptics who’s views are extremely one-sided. See Marinelli’s review of Nicolotti’s book that is titled: “Against the Shroud, But With Mixed Cards” for an understanding of just how skewed Nicolotti’s work actually is. Casper also has a very prejudicial outlook regarding the Shroud and he complains about the “rampant pre-occupation with authenticity.”

  14. William R. Mayor says:

    This is an interesting article, but it seems to ignore that an analysis if the raw data from the 1988 carbon dating, which has only been available for peer review for less than 5 years, does not support the claimed dating. Rather it indicates a systemic flaw in the process, thus rendering any conclusion regarding the dating as meaningless. There are likewise some historic texts that suggest that there was a full-length image of a tortured human on a linen cloth in Constantinople during the time when the Mandylion was there. Whether or not these two images are one and the same is a matter of conjecture though. And scientists, as well as other scholars, who have studied the data regarding the Shroud since 1989 to the present day tend to overwhelmingly find that either the dating of the Shroud is inconclusive ir that it might well date to the 1st century, without statements as to whether it was the burial cloth of Jesus or not.

    1. Andrea Nicolotti says:

      I do not ignore of the “raw data”. In fact, those data had already been known for many years. Even if the criticisms were correct (I think it is not), this would absolutely not change the result significantly, but at the most it would move the dating by a few years or decades, always in the Middle Ages. No radiocarbon expert believes that dating is significantly modifiable. As for the other topics, they are all explained in the book. Including the alleged shrouds of Constantinople.

      1. jeffrey erwin says:

        Nicolotti’s comment reveals how ill-informed and prejudicial his views are. His statement, ” . .. those data had already been known for many years” is not incorrect. The British Museum had refused to release that data until forced by a court order in 2017. An analysis of that data by Tristan Casabianca, et al. concluded that the results were not homogeneous (meaning not from the same sample.) As nuclear physicist Robert Rucker points out, that should not be true since the three samples were all part of single piece that was cut from a corner of the Shroud.
        Nicolotti’s hypothesis that ” . . this would not change the result significantly” ignores the possibility that a systemic error might have been present in the Shroud’s 14C data. Rucker, a nuclear engineer of thirty years experience, has written a paper titled, “The Shroud’s Carbon Fourteen Dating is Explained by Neutron Absorption,” which can be seen at his website, shroudresearch.net.
        Contrary to what Nocolotti states, many radiocarbon experts have published papers that discredit the British Museum’s Interpretations.

  15. Phil Ruffin says:

    Has anyone ever tried to explain why there is not enough space between the heads for the top of Jesus’ head? Was this Flat Jesus? Isn’t that obvious?

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