The Shroud of Turin is believed by many to have been used to inter
Jesus Christ. It is made of linen, is essentially rectangular (4.3 by
1.1 meter) and bears the front and back images of a human body. It is
named Shroud of Turin
since it is kept in
Turin, that is, Torino, a city in the North of Italy, not very far from
France. You can
see the cathedral of Turin via this webcam.
The Shroud is securely
stored in the cathedral, in a protective sealed reliquary, fully
unrolled on a flat surface. The reliquary is filled with an inactive
gas (i.e., argon) to reduce oxidation of the linen of the Shroud. The Shroud itself is not
visible to visitors although a copy can be seen near the reliquary.
|The Turin Cathedral,
and the Royal Chapel, located in the back of the cathedral. The Chapel
was damaged by fire in 1997 and it is still being restored. We can see
the reconstruction of the dome of the chapel in progress. The Shroud
of Turin is normally kept in the Chapel but has been moved in the cathedral
during its restoration.
The linen cloth is a fine rare weave: a 3-1 herringbone. Its
average thickness is less than half a millimeter, around 0.25 mm. It
is shown only on rare occasions, most recently in 1998 (celebrating
the 100 years anniversary of the first photography of the Shroud),
2000 (the new millennium), and in the Spring of 2010. The next
exposition of the Shroud is going to be from April 19 to June 24, 2015.
The history of the Shroud is complex and we will only make a cursory
exposition of it.
Note: The whereabouts of the Shroud before 1357 is not
known with very strong certainty. Some would say that the
Shroud did not exist before the 14th century, which, of course, would
imply that the actual Turin Shroud is not authentic. But
multiple evidences support that the Shroud existed before 1357. Some of the
following statements about the history of the Shroud, prior to 1357,
are considered controversial. The most obscure periods are the first
three centuries and the years 1204 to 1356.
Edessa and Constantinople (-1204)
For several centuries, the Shroud appears to have been kept
in the city of Edessa, now known as Şanliurfa in Turkey, near the
Syrian boarder. The Shroud would have been the Image of Edessa. This theory
was first proposed by Ian Wilson.
It is most likely that only the reliquary containing the Image of
Edessa was displayed to the public and artistic copies of the face only
was shown to the public. Confusion about the image of Edessa might have been
caused by such copies.
Byzantine Emperors likely used the Shroud in many of their
ceremonies and as a true representation of Christ for their icons,
coins, paintings, and other artistic renditions.
In 944, the Image of Edessa was transferred
to Constantinople, Turkey (known as Istanbul since 1930).
It was last seen, in the Eastern world, in Constantinople in 1203,
before its reappearance in Lirey, France around 1357. In 1203, Robert de
Clari, a Knight of the Fourth Crusade, reported a public display,
in Constantinople, of a shroud similar to the Turin Shroud, with an
image on it which he interpreted as being Jesus-Christ. It is
possible that the Shroud was kept in Constantinople for many years
after the city was sack by the crusaders.
Constantinople to Lirey (1204 - 1357)
Historians have proposed several scenarios for the transfer
of the Shroud from Constantinople to France, its next well documented
location. I present a few scenarios here (this is not a comprehensive list):
- The Knights Templar
The Templars would have owned the Shroud for over a century until
the order was disbanded in 1312. This scenario is based on the
description by some templars of a "Baphomet", a bearded head, used in
the initiation ritual. But almost all of these descriptions were
obtained by the Inquisition under torture. The "Baphomet" would have
been the Shroud. For some unclear reason, the Knights Templar would
have given the Shroud to Geoffroy I de Charny. Ian
Wilson has proposed this scenario in his book The Shroud of
This scenario has several major weaknesses, two of which are: 1) the "Baphomet"
was always described as a tridimensional object made of only a head; 2)
how would the Shroud passed from the Templars to Geoffroy de Charny is
On April 6, 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 finding has been critized by
several historians and scholars as an incorrect interpretation of an already known
- Battle of Smyrna
Geoffroy I de Charny, the first owner of the Shroud in France, would have acquired it
as a gift from Humbert II after he participated at the battle of
Smyrna (1345-1346) (croisade du Dauphin), then bring it back to Lirey,
There are several weaknesses to this scenario, two of which
are: the Shroud was never reported to be in Smyrna, it is not clear that
Geoffroy I de Charny participated at the battle of Smyrna.
- The de la Roche Family
de la Roche would have owned the Shroud while in Athens,
This possibility appears very unlikely because it is based on
many erroneous statements made in the 1714 dissertation on the Shroud
of Besançon in the manuscript 826 of the Archives of the Bibliothèque de Besançon.
In any case, several subscenarios are based on the assumption that Othon
de la Roche once owned the Shroud. The following mentions two such subscenarios.
- The Besançon hypothesis
Othon de la Roche would have transfered it to Besançon, France, around
1206. This scenario is mostly based on the presence of a shroud in
Besançon in the 13th and 14th century and someone stole
it during the fire of the Saint-Etienne church in 1349.
Daniel Scavone, an historian, has written several
articles describing the Besançon hypothesis. See
Besançon and Other Hypotheses for the Missing Years: The Shroud
from 1200 to 1400.
Yet, this theory has several major weaknesses, one
of which is that we have no report of any public exposition of the
Shroud in Besançon before the 16th century. (Note: it is well
established that the later shroud in Besançon, that is, from the 16th
century to 1792, was a painting.)
- Jeanne de Vergy
Another scenario does not include Besançon but assumes that the
Shroud was passed down from Othon de la Roche to Jeanne de
Vergy, the second wife of Geoffroy de Charny. This scenario would
contradict the statement by Marguerite de Charny, the
grand-daughter of Geoffroy de Charny, who stated that the Shroud was
from his grand-father and not his grand-mother.
- Sainte-Chapelle de Paris
The Mandylion, that is, the image of Edessa, is assumed to be
the Shroud of Turin. The Mandylion would have reached the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris when Louis IX
acquired several relics from the emperor Baudoin II in Constantinople. The
Mandylion would be described as a "toile" (cloth), inserted in a box (the reliquary),
in the list of relics.
The Mandylion would have been kept in a reliquary until the French
Revolution, but the Mandylion would have been removed from the
reliquary before 1535 because the inventories of the relics of the
Sainte-Chapelle of that period, and all the following inventories, do
not mention a "toile" (cloth) but only a description of the reliquary
with the image of the face of Jesus Christ in it (named as a Veronica).
It is assumed that the the kings of France, from Louis IX to
Philippe VI de Valois or Jean II le Bon, as well as the clerics
responsible for the safeguard of the relics, would not have known that
an image existed on the "toile". They would have confused the painted
face of Jesus Christ (named by the clerics as a Veronica) in the
reliquary as the main relic. Meanwhile the cloth, which would have been
folded in the reliquary, remained unidentified by the clerics for over a century.
This confusion is possible, because it is well documented
that the "toile" was considered a secondary relic among all the relics
received from Baudoin II. It was never listed in the first articles in
the list of relics (more important relics, such as the Crown of Thorns
were listed first) and no mention about its relation to the Mandylion
was ever done by the Latin owners when they took power in
Constantinople. In other words, the Mandylion and its image was
unknown by the Latin. In the West, the Veronica was well known, and
this is the term used by the clerics to describe the face they saw at
the bottom of the reliquary where the Mandylion was kept.
Philippe VI or Jean le Bon would have given the
Mandylion to Geoffroy de Charny, founder of the collegiate church at Lirey, for his services to the kings of France.
But the king would not have known the real value of the relic.
Lirey, France (1357-1418)
The Shroud of Turin makes its entry in the Western world in France. We have
strong historical records of its existence around 1357 at Lirey, France, a
small village about 200 km southeast of Paris. For example, a medallion reproducing the Shroud
was found in 1855 in the Seine river (see A Souvenir From Lirey). The
medallion clearly depicts the Turin Shroud and it holds the
ecussons of de Charny family and de Vergy family (14th
century), his second spouse. This is corroborated with a report from the same period
that a shroud of Christ was on display at Lirey around 1357 at the collegiate church founded
by Geoffroy I de Charny.
|The small Lirey village on Google map. |
In 1453, Marguerite de Charny, daughter of Geoffroy II de Charny, gives the Shroud
to the DukeLouis de Savoie, in Chambéry, France.
Marguerite de Charny dies not long after, in 1460.
View Larger Map
The Duke had a chapel built to house the Shroud in
Chambéry. It was also shown in many small cities in France
until it was brought to Turin in 1578 by the Duke of Savoy, where it
is still located today.
In 1983, the Shroud was given to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope.
The Shroud was never in America nor in the far Eastern World.
A lengthy introduction to the Shroud of Turin can be found at
Wikipedia, Shroud of
Turin. You can even study the series of editing that took
place between believers and non-believers of the authenticity of
I invite the reader to read a short paper written by the professional
photographer Aldo Guerreschi
The Turin Shroud: from
the photo to the three-dimensional
. In this paper, Aldo presents a personal
experience of examining the Turin Shroud after the 1997 fire. I think
that this personal introduction to the Shroud will give you a
sense of the exceptional image inscribed on it. I quote
from this paper:
While photography has the advantage of fixing an image in time and of
concentrating it so that whichever angle you look at it from it
remains the same, with the Shroud itself that is not the case.
around that table from a certain angle I saw this image so faded as if
to practically disappear, while from others it seemed as if the figure
were almost outside the sheet; it was, I repeat, an incredible
emotion. At that moment I knew that this image was unique.
Let me tell you more.
I asked permission to photograph some details of the
face. As I said previously, I thought I knew it well.. I approached
the face placing my camera at a distance of about 20 - 30 cm, aimed
the camera at the face and saw ... nothing in the viewfinder;
"and yet" I said " I know it by heart." I had to beg my friend to
point to the position of the eye, because from a distance of 30 cm I
could not see it. I could only see it as I moved away from it. So it
is a barely perceptible image, one which escapes you, which leaves you
I am convinced that if people could see it from close up
they would not only feel great emotion, but would also realize the
real consistency of this image, which would dispel the many doubts
surrounding the authenticity of this sheet which unquestionably
enshrouded a corpse, and of this there is absolutely no doubt.