Sindonology (Shroud of Turin)

Archives 2009

(October 11, 2009) More information about the tentative reproduction of the Shroud of Turin, made by an Italian researcher, came out in the last few days. Luigi Garlaschelli made public a few digital images of the result of his reproduction on the Web. The result is clearly not like the Shroud.
Tentative Reproduction of Luigi Garlaschelli
Full frontal view after using red ocreAfter washing off the red ocre
Face negativeNegative of full frontal view

Here are the major differences of this reproduction compared to the Shroud of Turin:

    The anatomical details of the face and body do not have the precision of the Shroud.
  • The 3D effect does not have the precision found on the Shroud. On the tentative reproduction there are many locations where no image appears whereas one is perceivable on the Shroud of Turin. This is due to the technique used: an image made by contact.
  • The color of images of the reproduction has a red hue (images after washing red ocre) whereas on the Shroud of Turin it has a yellow-straw hue.
  • No microphotographies of the reproduction are provided. They should show that the images are superficial like the Shroud of Turin. Based on the technique used to create these images, we can infer that the images are not superficial.
In summary, the tentative reproduction of Luigi Garlaschelli is very far from being a reproduction of the Shroud of Turin.
(October 9, 2009) A few days ago, in a press release that made it around the world, an Italian professor, Luigi Garlaschelli, from the Univeristy of Pavia, claimed to have reproduced the Shroud of Turin. Such claim appears frequently and have a flavor of deja vu: a photo resembling the frontal side of the Shroud of Turin with no further proof.

A group of called Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics financially supported Garlaschelli for an undisclosed amount. The fact that it was supported by any particular group does not disprove the claim. Actually, the more financial assistance, the better.

But, where is the proof that a reproduction was made? Only a photo was released to the public. That proves nothing. Actually, the technique describes by Garlaschelli to reproduce the Shroud demonstrates that he did not reproduce it. For example, he added blood stains after he created the image. On the real Shroud of Turin, there is no image underneath the bloodstains. A basic fact known since 1978.

As stated by Garlaschelli, he did this and that to make it look like the Shroud. But what makes the Shroud of Turin really unique is not the look, but the chemical and physical properties of the image.

To show that his shroud is a reproduction similar to the Shroud of Turin, Garlaschelli needs to provide much more: photomicrographs to show that his reproduced image is superficial, like on the real Shroud, a negative image to show that 3D data is embedded in the image, etc.

Let see if in the coming weeks such proofs are provided. But I doubt that they will prove a real reproduction since the technique used does not even come close to what is needed to reproduce the Shroud.


(August 17, 2009) The Shroud of Turin is kept in the Royal Chapel in the Cathedral of Turin, Italy. Next year, in the spring, the Shroud will be shown to the public. A rare event, as there were only three exhibitions in the previous forty years: 2000, 1998, and 1978. It is also the first public exposition of the Shroud since the 2002 restauration.

Below is the outside of the Turin Cathedral, thanks to Google. You can move the image by holding the mouse button on any region and mousing in any direction. You can double-click on any region of the image to get closer to that section. So you can virtually walk around the piazza and the cathedral. If you are curious you can also walk downtown Turin and enjoy a view of the cafes and restaurants. As a start, go down the "Via 20 Settembre" on your right to visit the lively city. You can enlarge the image by clicking the "View Larger Map" link below (you will need to use the back bottom of your browser to come back to this page). Or even better, click on the right top square icon (inside the image) to get a full screen view. Have a nice virtual trip.

View Larger Map


(April 29, 2009) The Archdiocese of Turin has officially announced the dates of the 2010 public exposition of the Shroud in Turin: Saturday, April 10 to Sunday, May 23. Pope Benedict XVI should also visit Turin during the exposition although the date of has not been announced yet.

It will be an exceptional exposition as it will be the first time the Shroud is shown since its major restoration in 2002. During that restoration the 400-year old patches were replaced with smaller and less obstructive ones and the backing sheet was replaced with a new one.

It is usually the case that other events (e.g., scientific meeting) are organized during the Shroud exposition. I will post more information about these on this Web site when they are announced.


(April 18, 2009) I presented a paper at the 2005 Shroud Dallas Conference that the Shroud of Turin was not flattened when the images formed. The paper is available from this Web site (see Papers). Yet, I am often asked to explain the importance of such a detail. I think it is quite important: 1) It reveals some non-obvious fact about the Shroud; 2) that the skeptics, who often claim, that the Shroud is obviously a hoax based on the fact that you cannot project the body image on a cloth without getting major distortions, are wrong. Not only do these skeptics provide no data to support their claim, they claim that this fact is obvious and that anybody thinking otherwise does not want to see this simple fact and is blinded by their belief in the authenticity of the Shroud. Ironically, their handwaving arguments are proved to be wrong and their own beliefs made them get wrong conclusions.

First, there are often arguments that the Shroud must have been made flat by somebody or something for the images to form without major distortions. There is no necessity for this. This is what the paper shows in detail. It also shows that this is true even though a real body rest underneath the cloth. That answers the skeptics that say that the Shroud images must have been made from a low profile bas-relief to avoid the image major distortions and keep the blood stains aligned with the images (e.g., blood stains that appear to be on arms, are over the arm images). These skeptics do not show any data and simply argue from handwaving arguments that major distortions must occur just like a Mercator map projection distorts the continents once projected on a sphere. This is actually not the case for a cloth loosely covering a body.

Second, there are simple basic facts that show that the Shroud was not flattened. These facts are easy to see on the Shroud: the blood stains are not off register vertically. Note the important detail: vertical. That is, for example, the blood marks over the arms are indeed naturally occuring over the arm images. The blood stains are not off the arms; and the blood stains over the head are not off the head vertically. So the Shroud cannot have been flattened, otherwise these blood stains would be off the head or arms. (You can look at the Shroud and see that the blood stains over the arms are there with a precision to the millimeter. They are not off the arms, above or below.)

I think that this is quite an extraordinary detail that also shows that handwaving arguments against the authenticity of the Shroud are common but wrong.


(April 7, 2009) The Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reports that Barbara Frale, an historian and an expert on the Knights Templar, has uncovered evidence from the Vatican Secret Archives that the Shroud of Turin was in the hands of the Templars between the time it disappeared from Constantinople in 1204 and its appearance in Lirey, France, in 1357. The document relates the account of a young Frenchman, Arnaut Sabbatier, in 1287: "I was shown a long piece of linen on which was impressed the figure of a man and told to worship it, kissing the feet three times".

This discovery would answer an old question about the whereabouts of the Shroud of Turin between Constantinople (1204) and France (1357). It is not clear, though, how the Shroud would have been given to Geoffroy I de Charny, in France.


(April 5, 2009) A Shroud conference was held at the O'Hare center, at the Nativity Church in Menlo Park, California, on Saturday, April 4 (yesterday). The speaker was Roland Deptuch, Ph.D., a chemist and physicist working in Silicon Valley.

The room was packed (I had to stand up in the back with the door of the conference room opened). The presentation was at a nice pace with lots of slides.

One comment and a question from the audience caught my attention:

  • The danger of supporting one's faith on the Shroud when eventually it could be proven with certainty that it is not authentic.

    The other was somehow the opposite.

  • How can one needs faith if the Shroud proves with certainty that the resurrection occurred?

Several people from the audience, and the speaker, responded to these questions. One answer was very well articulated with lots of details about what the STURP accomplished (although the acronym STURP was not used, but a reference to the researchers from Nasa was mentioned). It would be difficult to summarize these answers.

My answers would have been the following.

To the comment, I would say that the Shroud gives a great answer to the believers that the resurrection was a real event that left physical traces on such a simple thing as a linen cloth. To the non-believers, the Shroud is a sign. It is an object on which scientific rationality can be applied and a conclusion can be reached. It is not an end in itself, though. It is a route towards something beyond the Shroud.

To the question: the Shroud is not perceived by many people (read millions of people) as being so convincing a proof that the resurrection did occur. There are many objections that can be used to weaken the arguments of authenticity. To sort out the facts, some attention to details must be taken. This is this study that by itself is very interesting. The physical details of the Shroud are quite extraordinary, and someone can see and study these in details. The Web has even made this study easier. It is up to the true seeker to look into these facts and come to a conclusion.


(March 26, 2009) Arvo Pärt has just released a new album called In Principio (In the beginning) based on the text of the first 14 verses of the Gospel of John and the Shroud of Turin. This new album has a piece titled La Sindone (The Turin Shroud). I think the music is inspiring. You can get an album at Amazon or at the iTunes store at a very reasonable price. You can even listen to a short excerpt from these Web sites.
(March 15, 2009) Barrie Schwortz was the invited speaker at the conference that took place on March 14 in Stockton, California. Barrie Schwortz is the editor and publisher of the largest Shroud Web site in the world at Shroud.com. He was the official photographer of the STURP group that studied the Shroud for five days and nights in 1978. I learned on the day of the conference that it was starting at 9AM, so I missed the morning sessions and unfortunately missed his first presentation. But I saw his second one at the end of the day. It was a personal question/answer period. Barrie would answer what he thought about the Shroud based on the questions from the audience (more than 50 people). It was interesting to hear Barrie presents his own point of view on various aspects of the Shroud. Barrie has published a lot of material on his Web site, but it does not mean he agrees with all of it. Since he made these statements publicly, I take the liberty of repeating them here (I do this from memory and the answers are not exact quotes from Barrie):

Question: Can we discern coin(s) over the eye(s) on the Shroud?

Barrie: I do not think so. It is very difficult to see these images. The purported coin inscriptions are very small, almost not discernible. The resolution of the images we have does not enable us to be conclusive on this. Moreover, it is very unlikely that Jews of the first century, followers of Jesus, would have put roman coins (a pagan symbol of the occupier) over his eyes. And the researchers promoting this view always use Enrie's photograph and are unable to find the coin images on all other Shroud photographies (1898, 1978, etc.).

Question: the wounds on the Shroud, are they images of wounds or were they made by contact with the Shroud (blood transfer)?

Barrie: interesting question. The answer is: both! There is even a case (on one of the arm) that one wound is part blood and part image of the wound. That is, the wound starts with a clear blood trace then along the way changes into a full image with no blood trace.

Question: since the first radiocarbon dating of the Shroud in 1988 is so controversial and that the sample that was taken to do it appear as inadequate, why isn't there a second radiocarbon dating?

Barrie: a second radiocarbon dating must be authorized by the Pope but his decision is mainly based on the advises of his counselors. These counselors include the custodian of the Shroud, Cardinal Severino Poletto. Remember the first radiocarbon dating: the late Cardinal Ballestrero, custodian of the Shroud in 1988, had to announce to the world the result of a medieval date. But more importantly, he was also under enormous pressure from different scientific groups, with different goals, to modify the protocol of the radiocarbon dating. The result was a poor protocol that did not meet a high level scientific standard. For example, the cutting of the sample: during the meeting to take a Shroud sample they were still arguing about the exact location to cut. They finally selected one of the worst locations. This is unthinkable, but this is what has happened. It sheds a bad light on the preparation of the 1988 radiocarbon dating. The current authorities do not want to be blame for similar reasons.


(Jan 1, 2009) I have added a new entry in the menu found on the left: Length Measurements on the Sudarium . It is based on a digital photograph that was kindly provided by Mark Guscin. The interface is similar to the length measurements for the Shroud. I have not yet added a section about the Sudarium of Oviedo in this Web site but that will come.

The Sudarium is believed to have been used to cover Christ's head. It has no image but several blood stains. Mark Guscin wrote several articles and a book about the relation between the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo.