Many years ago while browsing in an antiquity book shop in France, I came across a book on the Shroud. Not only was it old, but tuck inside was an old newspaper clipping which had a text about the Shroud. It had been written in 1935 by the French writer Paul Claudel. I bought the book with the clipping. Back in Canada, I translated it from French to English. I just included the text titled Your Face, Lord (the original French text: Votre Face, Seigneur... ) in this Web site.
Once you know what Claudel experienced in his life, how skeptic he was about Christ. And Paul Claudel is a very good writer. But this you can only appreciate if you read the original French text, as my translation, I am afraid, does not do justice to his text.
On Sunday, Nov 16, I attended a presentation on the Shroud of Turin organized by the East Bay Atheists. It took place at the Berkeley public library, California, USA. There was twenty one persons in the meeting room, including the speaker, Ken Miller. Since it is short, I quote the abstract:
Ken Miller will speak on “The Shroud of Turin”. You thought the Shroud of Turin was dead and buried. Think again! The shroud-crowd is at it once more. They want a new test to prove it is genuine. Ken will discuss how absurd such a proposal would be.Naturally, according to the speaker, the Shroud was inauthentic. No proof was needed for that. The talk, therefore, was to show how ridiculous anybody would even think that it could be authentic. I do not think any person in the audience would have even raised the possibility, as remotely as you can imagine it, that the Shroud could be genuine. I think most of the audience did not even believe that Jesus ever existed. So, to believe that the Shroud was probably authentic would have been ridiculous.
Ken has a BA 1949 and a MA 1950 in Economic History, both from Stanford. Teaching Assistantship at Stanford in Modern European History 1958-62. Raised as a Catholic but converted to skepticism during army service in World War II.
Be sure to listen to this interesting lecture, and to participate in the discussion afterward.
My interest was to see, first hand, how the subject is presented to such an audience. I was not surprised: common urban myths are repeated, completely erroneous facts are stated, some research work completely misunderstood, etc. And most importantly, there is no analysis, whatsoever, of the most basic facts about the Shroud itself.
The presentation was clear, though, in the form of a chronological history of the events surrounding the Shroud. (I was late by fifteen minutes, so I missed the beginning.) It went from the Lirey time (c 1356) to the radio-carbon C14 dating of 1988. There was a very brief mention of a possible second radio-carbon dating in the near future, but no elaboration on this. It was simply declared absurd to do so, without any explanation of why it would be absurd. All the typical anti-authenticity proofs were given: the D'Arcis memorandum that claims to have found the painter who made the Shroud, the Lirey collegiate that never stated where it was coming from, the anti-pope Clement VII that forbids its showing without declaring it inauthentic, the 1988 radio-carbon dating, etc.
Famous names in the field of Shroud research (past and present) were mentioned: Ian Wilson, John Jackson, Eric Jumper, Alan Adler, Walter McCrone, Harry Gove, Alan and Mary Whanger, Yves Delage, etc.
About Yves Delage: the speaker mentioned that he presented to the French academy of science a series of supporting arguments for the authenticity of the Shroud. He never stated what they were and quickly dismissed the whole set of arguments as pure non-sense. The speaker never mentioned that Delage was an outspoken atheist, like most people of the audience. Either he did not know, which is surprising since it is a well known fact, or simply skip it not to raise any doubts to his mostly atheist audience.
There was some odd statements that show very little understanding of what some researchers had done. In particular, the work of the Whangers showing similarities between the Shroud face image and the face of Jesus as depicted in the Byzantine churches. The speaker stated that the similarities were based on paintings done from memory of the believers and therefore that trying to find similarities was absurd since these paintings were done several century after Christ died. What he never mentioned is that the Shroud is believed to have been in the hands of the Byzantine emperors. This is based on many facts, among them the similarities found between the Shroud face image and the paintings produced in the Byzantine churches. It does not prove the authenticity of the Shroud. It supports that the history of the Shroud can be traced back to the Byzantine empire.
Most of the factual statements were given without any reference. For example, the speaker mentioned that there was some paintings in the medieval ages showing crucifixion of Jesus with nails in the wrists, therefore disproving the statement that the Shroud is unique on this matter. But no such paintings were shown or any reference given. Almost all of the medieval paintings, if not all, show the nails in the palms.
I heard many false facts. For example, that Harry Gove's laboratory participated in the 1988 radio-carbon dating. (He actually wrote an entire book on the subject and states very clearly that his laboratory was not selected to date the Shroud. He certainly participated in trying to get selected.). Another famous one: the laboratories that dated the Shroud were given unidentified samples one of which was from the Shroud. This one keep being repeated, but it is false. The paper published by the three laboratories clearly states that the Shroud samples were clearly identified to the laboratories before they were dated.
And again the speaker stated as truth this common urban legend: the amount of claimed true cross relics is so large that you could build a ship (even a complete armada!) with them. It is fun to state, but it has little ground into reality. This has been proved false a long time ago. (As far back as 1870 by Charles Rohault de Fleury in his book “Les instruments de la Passion”.)
One question that intrigued the audience: is the Shroud on permanent display? How can we see the real thing? This was the surprise of this presentation: why would they be interested? The speaker correctly answered that it was not on permanent display but that it is shown only on special occasions. (He did not mention that it is planned to be shown again in 2010. I do not think he knew as he could not answer how often it is shown.) That prompted the only question showing some form of a discussion: why is it not shown often, and permanently, to make more money? (The speaker had stated that it was shown only to make money.) The answer: the Shroud is considered to be too sacred to be shown so frequently. I guess money was no longer the issue.
That gives me an opportunity to mention a simple fact: there was never, to my knowledge, an entry fee to see the Shroud. As a matter of fact, in 1998, I saw it three times during the five days of its ostentation without paying any fee to reserve a place. You do have to be a bit patient though, since the line of visitors is very long. Yet, it is a reasonable wait. As best as I can remember, I waited something like twenty minutes since most visitors scheduled their visit by Internet, phone or mail, and were advised to come at a certain time and date.
As for the discussion after the presentation, it was very short, and not really a discussion. I asked two questions to the speaker to try to get into a discussion mode but without success. My first question: “did you see the Shroud in Turin”? The answer was, of course not. My second question: “you mentioned that the D'Arcis memorandum allude to a painter that would have painted the Shroud. Do we know anything about this painter?” He stated, correctly, that the memorandum does not state any name and that we have no idea who made the Shroud.
Honestly, I did not expect any deep analysis of the unique properties of the Shroud. For example, there was never any mention of how superficial the image is, how difficult it is to reproduce, etc. Anybody listening to such a presentation could not understand why the Shroud is so unique, and certainly the speaker was not there to promote such an objective. It is unfortunately a frequent way the Shroud is presented.
I invite the atheists to look at the basic facts of the Shroud with an open mind.
I have now in my hands a book describing the "invisible reweaving technique" titled "The Frenway System of French Reweaving". It was "privately printed and published" in 1951 by the Fabricon Company, Chicago, Illinois. The introduction begins in a very favorable way to anyone looking for a new career . It reads:
Although an intense search has been going on during the last several years for job opportunities, a very satisfying occupation, FRENCH INVISIBLE REWEAVING, has been overlooked. In a sense, this is surprising because the occupation does not require great strength or unusual physical attractiveness, does not require expensive office space or elaborate equipment, and does not demand a special knack for dealing with people. All that is necessary is sufficient intelligence to understand simple instructions, normal eye-sight -- with or without glasses, and the patience to learn the art and to practice it to perfection.
It goes on in describing the reasons this technique is not so well known and practice:
Probably the reason this art of reweaving has gone relatively unnoticed is the great secrecy which has heretofore kept all but a few people in the world in ignorance of the techniques involved. These secrets have been closely guarded and handed down from generation to generation to a select few. The only exceptions were people who paid huge sums in order to receive knowledge of the art. Every novice reweaver had to spend years as an apprentice.
Some textile experts have stood by the statement that "invisible reweaving" does not really exist since any reweaving always leave some trace. Looking at some of the results shown in this book, it is not so certain considering the many pieces that have been cut in the area near the 1988 radio-carbon dating.
Yet, reading the description of the techniques in this book, it is not clear that the reweaving is invisible on the reverse side. The threads that are added are not joined to the threads of the cloth. They are tuck underneath so that their ends could appear on the reverse side.
Actually, perhaps even the trace of the reweaving is gone entirely with the radiocarbon sample that was cut.
I end this post by quoting one last paragraph of the introduction of "The Frenway System of French Reweaving":
There is considerable satisfaction in taking a beautiful cloth garment, table cover, or something else of woven material which has been ruined by accident, carelessness, or wear, and restoring it to its original attractiveness and durability. This is not mere sewing or mending. This is the art of reweaving -- replacing by hand the INDIVIDUAL threads that have been damaged, following the same weave as the machine or hand-weavers that produced the original cloth. The occupation never becomes monotonous because the art of textile-weaving has, through the ages, created an inestimable variety of patterns by means of variations in weaving patterns, colors, and thread sizes.
The theory that the Shroud radiocarbon dating sample was part of an (invisible) reweaved patch is not without merit. There is one aspect of this theory that I have yet to convince myself: how invisible can it be done? Interestingly, Barrie Schwortz kindly published the front page of a book claiming just that: a technique to do invisible reweaving (The Frenway System). It would be much interesting if someone would web-publish a summary of the technique and if someone could do a demonstration of this technique on a piece of cloth that would be a clear proof that this is possible. Or I will order the book and try this out myself! Strangely, I have tried to find French web pages on this technique, and nothing came out. It appears that the French system is not available in French but mostly in English.
In the Spring of 1902, a series of French letters was published in the French Revue Scientifique about the Shroud. The protagonists were Paul Vignon, Yves Delage, Charles Richet and Maurice Vernes. The exchange of letters were fueled by the recent 1898 Pia's photograph of the Shroud and the Vignon and Delage analysis of it. The late Dominique Autié made the letters available on the web via his blog. Unfortunately, M. Autié left this world in May 2008. But his beautiful exposition of these letters is still available. The letters are in French, but Google translate can help you out if you cannot read French. The letters are very instructive. In particular, the one by Yves Delage that summarizes the main reasons the Shroud appears authentic.
I have written a short essay about some particular wounds in the back of the man of the Shroud. The idea to write it came up to me when Barrie Schwortz (see Barrie's web site) provided the close up photograph you will find in that essay. It shows that for such particular wounds, it is very hard to imagine that the Shroud is a made by human hands.
Shroud conference ended on August 17, 2008. Unfortunately, I could
not attend the conference. On the other hand, soon, I hope to report
and comment some of the papers that were presented. In particular, the
paper by Sue Benford and Joe Marino regarding a possible reweaving of
the Shroud where the C-14 radiocarbon dating sample was taken in
1987. Meanwhile, the reader can access audio presentations of the papers
A very high definition
photograph of the Shroud has recently been done. It is reported to be
over 12 billion pixels, which is probably over 50GB in size. It was
done by taking almost 1,300 individual photographs over the entire
Shroud. I think this is very good news! The company HAL9000 has done
the technical work. I have always been a promoter of such a photograph and I am happy to
see that it was finally done. Let see how this photograph, or photographs, will be made
available to Shroud researchers. A lot of new and interesting results will
come out by analyzing these photographs. More details can be seen
at Shroud of Turin Gets High-Def Scrutiny.
It is being reported in the
press that Christopher Ramsey, the director of the Oxford University
Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, one of the three laboratories that
radiocarbon dated the Shroud in 1988, is reconsidering the results of
the 1988 dating based on a new hypothesis. A documentary by David Rolfe
to be shown during Easter will cover this story. Christopher Ramsey,
though, does not think the new hypothesis will substantially change
the 1988 radiocarbon dating.
Feb 29, 2008
Feb 25, 2008
A very high definition photograph of the Shroud has recently been done. It is reported to be over 12 billion pixels, which is probably over 50GB in size. It was done by taking almost 1,300 individual photographs over the entire Shroud. I think this is very good news! The company HAL9000 has done the technical work. I have always been a promoter of such a photograph and I am happy to see that it was finally done. Let see how this photograph, or photographs, will be made available to Shroud researchers. A lot of new and interesting results will come out by analyzing these photographs. More details can be seen at Shroud of Turin Gets High-Def Scrutiny.
It is being reported in the press that Christopher Ramsey, the director of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, one of the three laboratories that radiocarbon dated the Shroud in 1988, is reconsidering the results of the 1988 dating based on a new hypothesis. A documentary by David Rolfe to be shown during Easter will cover this story. Christopher Ramsey, though, does not think the new hypothesis will substantially change the 1988 radiocarbon dating.