Few relics provoke more passion than the Shroud Of Turin. Lovingly cared for and stored by the Roman Catholic church in the Cathedral of St. John at Turin, the 14-1/2 x 3-1/2 foot linen cloth is claimed to be the actual burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth, also called the Christ. A blood-colored image on its surface is purported to be the image of Christ, burned into the cloth at the moment of the Resurrection. There are those who revere the cloth as a Sacred Object, and an equal number of skeptics who insist that it is a fake. The controversy has been raging for over 700 years, despite any and all evidence either way. You would think that in this day of high technology and very sophisticated forensic investigative methods that this would be an easy job, proving its pedigree one way or another.
In 1349, the Hundred Years War was raging between France and England, and the Black Death had finished ravaging Europe. A returning French knight, Geoffery de Charny, who had been an English Prisoner Of War, was in possession of the Shroud, which he acquired in Constantinople by unknown means. He built a church at Lirey, France, and the Shroud was exhibited there as Christ’s Burial Linen. It draws the faithful from all over Europe to view it. In 1355, Geoffery de Charny was once again sent into battle, and was killed in action at the Battle of Poitiers. His estate, including the church, and Shroud was passed down to his son, Geoffery II. In 1389, the Shroud was seized by the Bailiff of Troye, pursuant to a direct order from King Charles VI. It was allowed to be kept in the church at Lirey, but no further exhibitions were allowed. Bishop Pierre d’ Arcis of Tryes appealed to Pope Clement VII at Avignon, describing the shroud as having the very image of Christ on it. The Pope ordered to Bishop to keep silent on the Shroud, under the threat of ex-communication. After a series of letter to Geoffery de Charny II, the Pope allows the exhibitions to resume under agreed upon conditions. This attracted many pilgrims to view the Shroud. In 1390, a Papal Bull was issued granting Indulgences for anyone visiting the church at Lirey, and viewing its artifacts. Geoffery II died in 1398, and his daughter Margaret took the Shroud on a tour of Europe until her death in 1460. The Shroud wound up in the custody of Duke Louis I of Savoy, and was transferred to storage in the Sainte Chapelle at Chambréy. In 1473, the Shroud was transferred to Turin. Over the ensuing years, the shroud was carried around Europe and displayed. The Shroud has survived two fires, and several wars. In the late 1980s, ownership of the Shroud was transferred from the Dukes of Savoy to the Roman Catholic Church.
Many attempts to date the Shroud were attempted, using the best technology of the times, but it wasn’t until the advent of radiocarbon dating in the late 1960s that reliable dating was possible. In 1977, a committee of scientists was formed, called the Shroud Of Turin Research Project (STURP). Development of the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) technique in 1977 allowed more precise dating, and was selected as the best way to date the Shroud. After years of study and examination, the STURP released it’s findings in 1988. The Shroud was created between 1260 AD, and 1390 AD. This coincides with the time of it’s first appearance. Also, exhausting testing of the ‘blood-stains’ proved them to be red ochre, a common reddish pigment used in the Middle Ages.
As to be expected, the results of the tests were immediately attacked. Detractors came up with all sorts of reasons why the proven scientific tests were inaccurate, including a type of fungus present on the cloth (that no one had ever heard of before, and must only exist on the Shroud, and not the hundreds of other things the method was tested on first…) that made the shroud appear younger than it actually was. Others say that there is pollen on the Shroud that could only come from Jerusalem, and that the pollen dates from the Crucifixion ( but no one ever states when the pollen was tested, and by whom, and what methods…). Other accusations are that the Shroud had been repaired after one of the fires, and that the samples had been taken from the repaired area (but this would still not account for the date, since the first fire was at a much later date…).
The majority of the scientific community is satisfied that the dating of the Shroud is accurate, as are all the other tests preformed on it . No further tests have been proposed, and the Shroud is still put on display periodically.
It remains to this day as one of the most persistent forgeries in history.