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Shroud of Turin

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The Shroud of Turin is a centuries-old linen cloth with an imprint of an apparently crucified man. Many people believe this is the cloth that covered Jesus of Nazareth when he was placed in his tomb, while some argue that the image on the Shroud is that of Jacques de Molay, and that the imprint was caused by bodily emissions following his torture. Others contend that the shroud is the artwork of a clever medieval hoaxer. Occam's Razor would suggest that this is the case, but if fake, the workmanship of the image makes it a genuine anachronism by anyone's measure.

The earliest documented appearance of the Shroud is about in 1350. At this time, in fact, the French knight Geoffrey de Charney wrote to pope Clement VI that he wanted to build a church in Lirey[?] (St. Mary of Lirey), in which he would have kept the Shroud (many historians believe he had bought it in Constantinople). During the following decades, the Shroud was publicly exposed, even if not continuously, given that some bishops prohibited this cult. But its property was contested by the King Charles VI of France, who vainly ordered his sheriffs to obtain it and bring it to Troyes. In 1390, the antipope Clement VII[?] asked for silence on the matter, in order to calm down the faithfuls' excitement. But in the following June, Clement VI prescribed indulgences for those who celebrated the Shroud, and the cult continued.

In 1418, Humbert of Villersexel, Count de la Roche, Lord of Saint-Hippolyte-sur-Doubs, who had married the grand-daughter of Geoffrey de Charny, moved the Shroud to his castle at Montfort, officially to protect it from criminal bands. It was later moved again, to Saint-Hippolyte-sur-Doubs[?]. After the death of Humbert, a judicial battle was fought by Lirey canons, who wanted the widow to return the cloth, but the Parliament of Dole first, and the Court of Besançon later, left it to the widow. She travelled with the Shroud, for several expositions (like in Liege and in Geneva).

In 1453 the widow sold it (for a castle in Varambon[?]) to Ludovico Duke of Savoy, who stored it in the castle of Chambery[?] (capital town of the Duchy), in a new-built Sainte-Chapelle, which pope Paul II soon after elevated to the dignity of collegiate church. In 1464, the duke had to recognize an annual rent to the Lirey canons, and on their side these formally recognized his property on the cloth. In 1471 the Shroud was moved to Vercelli[?], and in the following years it was in Turin, Ivrea[?], Susa, Chambery[?], Avigliano[?], Rivoli, Pinerolo[?]. In 1483 the cloth is described by two sacrists of the Sainte-Chapelle as "enveloped in a red silk drape, and kept in a case covered with crimson velours, decorated with silver-gilt nails, and locked with a golden key". It followed the Savoy family in every travel they made.

In 1506, following the repeated requests by the Savoyards, pope Jukius II[?] allowed the cult of the Shroud, which included a mass and a rite. Since that date, the Shroud is celebrated every May 4.

The Shroud remained in the property of the House of Savoy until 1946, when, at the end of their kingdom of Italy, it was given to the Holy See.

A scientific approach to the Shroud

Which is not to say that the image is perfect. The physical stature of the man is quite large for both the time it was purported to be from and the time of its supposed hoaxing.

Further, his shoulders are unnaturally spaced and facial structure is misproportioned in subtle but anatomically improbable ways.

Radiocarbon dating was used to determine the age of the material in the shroud and found an age approximating to the Middle Ages, around the time of the first known accounts of the shroud, making it around a thousand years newer than its supposed origin.

Some proponents of the shroud note that the shroud had been partially burned in a church fire and claim this would have an effect on the proportion of carbon isotopes. Fire is a two-step process where flammable material is vaporized before the resulting gases burn. It is conceivable that some atmospheric carbon was deposited on the shroud as soot. Whether this soot contaminated the sample is unknown and permission for any further testing of the shroud has been denied by the Vatican.

Other proponents also claim that the Resurrection caused the release of a large number of neutrons which generated excess carbon-14 in the cloth. Yet others claim that bacteria feeding on the shroud would affect the proportion of isotopes.

Comparison of the Shroud with the Sudarium of Oviedo indicates that they covered the same head, which had many puncture wounds.

The shroud was partially damaged by fire in 1997.

The study of the Shroud is called Sindonology (from Greek sindón, the word used for the Shroud and also for a cloth worn by someone in the Gospel of Mark).

External links

  1. The Shroud of Turin Website (http://www.shroud.com/)
  2. speech by Pope John Paul about the shroud (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/travels/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_24051998_sindone_en)
  3. Archaeological Forgeries (http://www.sniggle.net/archforg.php)



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