Bronze-level articleShroud of Turin

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The two attributes central to the shroud’s alleged religious significance — that it wrapped the body of Jesus, and is of supernatural origin — are precisely those neither science nor history can ever prove.
—Philip Ball, Nature (May 2008)

The Shroud of Turin is a length of linen cloth claimed by some members of the Christian community to have been Jesus's death shroud.

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Pope Benedict XVI declared it "the authentic burial robe" of Christ.[1] It is unknown whether this declaration was made while casting +2 Papal infallibility.

Sindonology is the "scientific" study of the Shroud of Turin. Unfortunately, most of this "science" is directed at trying to prove that the shroud is the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ, making it on par with Lysenkoism in the sense that it is attempting to prove the already falsified.

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Kinda creepy looking, actually.
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The Shroud is rectangular, measuring some 4.4 by 1.1 meters. The cloth (specifically linen) is woven in a three-to-one herringbone twill composed of flax fibrils. It shows faint but distinctive sepia images of the front and back of a naked man with his hands folded across his groin. The body image is muscular and 1.70 to 1.88 meters, or about 5'7" to 6'2", tall, with wound points as though they could have been caused by the process of crucifixion, but there is no generally accepted theory to explain how the image was impressed onto the cloth. However, it is accepted that the image is not anatomically correct — the head is 5% too large for its body, the nose is disproportionate, and the arms are too long. To the unaided eye the image is not obvious but appears much more defined as a black and white photographic negative, as revealed when the shroud was first photographed in 1898.

[edit] Technical problems

No examples of complex herringbone weave are known from the time of Jesus when, in any case, burial cloths tended to be of plain weave. In addition, Jewish burial practice utilized — and the Gospel of John specifically describes for Jesus — multiple burial wrappings with a separate cloth over the face:

Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself...
John 20:1:6, King James Version

For a shroud that was supposedly wrapped around the body of Christ, the lack of wraparound distortions across the torso, thighs, and legs is striking - the figure does not satisfy the geometric conditions of contact formation.

There are also claims of "bloodstains" on the cloth, but Hebrew law dictated cleansing of the corpse before wrapping and bodies don't bleed after death. Chemist Walter McCrone identified the substance as a "combination of red ochre and vermilion tempera paint." However only fibrils lifted from the shroud on sticky tape were tested for blood (This was done in order to avoid damaging the cloth). It should be pointed out though that the color observed was still an unfaded red, which would not be expected of real blood, which browns with age. Dr M. M. Baden, a pathologist, pointed out the blood trickles from the scalp are evidence of forgery, on the ground that blood from a scalp wound does not flow in rivulets but mats the hair.[1]

[edit] History

Little reliable information is known of the shroud before the 15th century, beyond it being present in France in the 14th century. In 1453 Margaret de Charny deeded it to the House of Savoy, and in 1578 the then-Duke transferred it to Turin. The description of the Turin cloth at this point differs from that of the original cloth first presented in the 14th century. In 1983, the Savoy heirs gave it to the Holy See, who had it restored in 2002. Today it is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin.

The practice of faking holy relics was widespread during the Middle Ages. In 1988 three independent teams of scientists analyzed fragments of the cloth using radiocarbon dating and concluded that it dated from the Middle Ages. However, some critics who were skeptical of the dating claimed that the pieces of cloth which were analyzed were not part of the original shroud but repairs following fire damage in 1532. This claim holds no water, though; as mentioned above, the shroud's latest date of construction according to radiocarbon was around 1390. The Catholic Church has refused further tests.

It should be noted that although the testing dates the cloth to circa 1260 to 1390, it does not necessarily mean the image itself also dates to 1390. The date only proves that is the earliest the shroud cloth was woven.

[edit] Theories

[edit] Leonardo da Vinci

One proposed hypothesis is that Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to replace an earlier version of the Shroud of Turin that was exposed as a poor fake, which had been bought by the Savoy family in 1453 only to disappear for 50 years.[2] Da Vinci created a "new" Shroud of Turin using a camera obscura technique involving a mirror and lens, on cloth impregnated with silver sulphate in a darkened room. The silver sulphate acted as a negative which propagated an image onto the cloth when exposed by light through the lens. Silver sulphate and the camera obscura technique were known in the 15th century. In January 2009, visual arts consultant Lillian Schwartz at the School of Visual Arts in New York, compared the face on the Shroud of Turin with that of a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, and found they matched.[3][4]

[edit] Jacques de Molay

Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas in a 1997 book, The Second Messiah: Templars, the Turin Shroud and the Great Secret of Freemasonry, argue that the image on the Shroud is of Jaques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar. De Molay was tortured and burned at the stake in Paris on March 11, 1314 by orders of the French King Philip IV, Le Bel, when the king succeeded in having the Templar order disbanded by Pope Clement V, and attempted to seize all of the Templar assets. Using the radiocarbon evidence, the Shroud was made sometime between 1260 and 1390.[5] The Shroud is known to have been in France during the fourteenth century, lining up with de Molay's death in 1314. Knight and Lomas contend that the image which allegedly resembles that of de Molay, was created between the time de Molay was tortured and burned at the stake, at the direction of the Chief Inquisitor of France, William Imbert. They speculate that his torture consisted of his arms and legs being nailed in a manner similar to crucifixion, possibly to a large wooden door. Then de Molay was laid on a length of linen cloth on a soft bed. The cloth was then pulled over his head and body and de Molay was left to recover from his wounds, before his later slow death by fire.

The authors based their image of de Molay on a nineteenth-century lithograph by French artist Chevauchet.

[edit] See also

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[edit] Footnotes

  1. Medical World News, Dec. 22, 1980
  2. Prince, Clive & Picknett, Lynn. Turin Shroud: How Leonardo Da Vinci Fooled History, New York: Time Warner, 2006.
  3. Turin Shroud may have been faked by da Vinci
  4. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/5706640/Turin-Shroud-is-face-of-Leonardo-da-Vinci.html
  5. http://www.shroud.com/nature.htm
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