The Holy Shroud Of Turin: The Burial Cloth Of Jesus Christ


The Holy Shroud Of Turin

The Holy Shroud is a relic now preserved at Turin, for which the claim is made that it is the actual “clean linen cloth” in which Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:59). This relic, though blackened by age, bears the faint but distinct impress of a human form both back and front.

The cloth is about 13 1/2 feet long and 4 1/4 feet wide. If the marks we perceive were caused by human body, it is clear that the body (supine) was laid lengthwise along one half of the shroud while the other half was doubled back over the head to cover the whole front of the body from the face to the feet. The arrangement is well illustrated in the miniature of Giulio Clovio, which also gives a good representation of what was seen upon the shroud about the year 1540.

The cloth now at Turin can be clearly traced back to the Lirey in the Diocese of Troyes, where we first hear of it about the year 1360. In 1453 it was at Chambéry in Savoy, and there in 1532 it narrowly escaped being consumed by a fire which by charring the corners of the folds has left a uniform series of marks on either side of the image. Since 1578 it has remained at Turin where it is now only exposed for veneration at long intervals.

That the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin is taken for granted, in various pronouncements of the Holy See cannot be disputed. An Office and Mass “de Sancta Sindone” was formerly approved by Julius II in the Bull “Romanus Pontifex” of 25 April, 1506, in the course of which the Pope speaks of “that most famous Shroud (præclarissima sindone) in which our Savior was wrapped when he lay in the tomb and which is now honorably and devoutly preserved in a silver casket.” Moreover, the same Pontiff speaks of the treaties upon the precious blood. Composed by his predecessor, Sixtus IV, in which Sixtus states that in the Shroud “men may look upon the true blood and portrait of Jesus Christ himself.”

A certain difficulty was caused by the existence elsewhere of other Shrouds similarly impressed with the figure of Jesus Christ and some of these cloths, notably those of Besançon, Cadouin, Champiègne, Xabregas, etc., also claimed to be the authentic linen sindon provided by Joseph of Arimathea, but until the close of the last century no great attack was made upon the genuineness of the Turin relic.


Shroud of Turin (Ventral Image) as it appears on a Photographic Negative

In 1898 when the Shroud was solemnly exposed, permission was given to photograph it and a sensation was caused by the discovery that the image upon the linen was apparently a negative — in other words that the photographic negative taken from this offered a more recognizable picture of a human face than the cloth itself or any positive print.

In the photographic negative, the lights and the shadows were natural, in the linen or the print, they were inverted. Three years afterwards, Dr. Paul Vignon read a remarkable paper before the Académie des Sciences in which he maintained that the impression upon the Shroud was a “vaporigraph” caused by the ammoniacal emanations radiating from the surface of Christ’s body after so violent a death.

Such vapours, as he professed to have proved experimentally, were capable of producing a deep reddish brown stain, varying in intensity with the distance, upon a cloth impregnated with oil and aloes. The image upon the Shroud was therefore a natural negative and as such completely beyond the comprehension or the skill of any medieval forger.

Source: Catholic Encyclopedia

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