New Website Gives Close Look at Shroud of Turin

News: World News
by David Nussman  •  •  April 15, 2019   

Images from scientific study of the Shroud now available online in time for Holy Week

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DETROIT ( - A new website is providing access to up-close photos of the Shroud of Turin.

The Shroud of Turin is a large piece of cloth bearing faint images of Christ's body, resembling a photo negative. The linen is about 14 feet long. Folded in half, it draped the front and back of Jesus' body.

According to tradition, the Shroud is one of the burial cloths that covered Christ's body in the tomb following His crucifixion and death on Good Friday. It is kept at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.

In 1977–1981, a team of scientists from various fields analyzed the Shroud, aiming to probe its authenticity and learn more about it. Vernon Miller was the photographer for that research project.

But now, Miller's photographs and magnified micrographs of various sections of the Shroud can be viewed online at Shroud Photos.

One of the images on the site shows a photo of the entire Shroud side by side with a diagram highlighting stains and marks on the fabric. The diagram points out, for example, the bruises and scars on Our Lord's back, the result of being scourged at the pillar and carrying His Cross.

Over the years, many scientists have been allowed to analyze and investigate the Shroud. Researchers have hotly debated just about all the scientific findings. Some evidence appears to support the Shroud's authenticity, while other evidence seems to call it into question; and it is rare for scientists to have a unanimous consensus about anything involving the Shroud.

In 1989, radiocarbon dating of three samples from the Shroud seemed to place its origins in medieval times around 1300 A.D. — which would make it a forgery. It being a medieval forgery would explain, skeptics argue, why there are few if any references to the Shroud of Turin in texts written prior to circa 1350 A.D.

But a lot of questions have been raised about those claims, and many scientists have asked Church leaders to permit more extensive radiocarbon dating.

Some scientists point to the kinds of pollen grains found in the Shroud as a sign of its authenticity. Some of the pollen grains are from species of plants unique to Jerusalem and its surrounding areas.

A theory surfaced in 2014 that the earthquake when Our Lord died on the Cross might have impacted the Shroud's radiocarbon results.

Radiocarbon dating is based on measuring radioactive decay, the process by which atoms lose neutrons. The group of scientists in Italy made the case that the tremors on Good Friday possibly caused emissions of neutrons from the earth's crust, impacting atoms in the Shroud's fibers. If atoms in the Shroud were affected by neutron emissions, this would massively skew the results of radiocarbon dating.

Those scientists also speculated that a neutron emission could have set off a series of chemical reactions in the Shroud to produce the now-famous image of Jesus' body.

But some were doubtful of this explanation, arguing that no other materials dated to the early first century A.D. are known to have been impacted by neutron emissions.

In 2009, archaeologists found pieces of a burial shroud from the first century A.D. outside Jerusalem. This shroud's weaving pattern differs vastly from that of the Shroud of Turin. Some used this discovery to further question the legitimacy of the Shroud of Turin. But others argued that the weaving pattern in the Turin Shroud is consistent with other textiles from the time.

Along with Catholics, members of various Protestant denominations also express interest in the Shroud of Turin.

The Shroud was saved from a fire at the cathedral in Turin in 1997. It had previously survived a fire in 1532 and bears a water stain from people's efforts to put out the fire.

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