Shroud of Turin Update


On 12 April 1997 a fire raged through Turin Cathedral destroying the 300-year-old Guarini Chapel which was built especially for the Sindone, the Shroud in which, tradition has it, the body of Jesus was buried. The Turin Shroud itself was saved from the blaze by a fireman who, as if in trance, cut through four layers of bullet-proof glass to rescue the silver box containing the Shroud.

Fireman Mario Trematore, whose hands were bleeding where the skin had been torn away by the strength of his grip, said afterwards: "God gave me the strength to break the glass." The Archbishop of Turin examining the rescued Shroud said: "It is intact. It is a miracle." Miraculously surviving this third fire in its mysterious existence without damage has only added to the prestige of the Shroud - especially since scientists from various fields of expertise have been finding increasing evidence to date the Shroud to around AD 30.

In 1988 four minuscule pieces of cloth were cut from the border of the Sindone for laboratory tests to determine its age once and for all. The carbon-dating method appeared to prove that the linen was made between AD 1260 and 1390. Soon after the publication of these findings, other scientists denounced the results of the tests. Because of two earlier fires the chemical structure of the cloth had been substantially altered. In the 6th or 7th century a monk dropped a piece of burning incense on the Shroud and in December 1532 a fire in the chapel of the Dukes of Savoy in Chambery, France, damaged the border of the Shroud. It was this part of the cloth that was used for the dating. But experts of the Sedov laboratory in Moscow simulated the fire of 1532 and studied the effects on cloth that was known to have been made in the 1st or 2nd century AD. They concluded that carbon-dating was useless for establishing the age of the Shroud.

The same conclusion was arrived at by two microbiologists from the University of Texas, although for different reasons. Leoncio Garza Valdes and Steve Mattingly discovered a very thin layer of bacteria and fungi around the pieces of cloth taken from the Shroud. Inevitably, this 'bio layer' had influenced the results of the carbon-dating method. Garza Valdes and Mattingly also discovered four types of bacteria in the fabric which are known to grow in a salty environment. The experts pointed out that in Palestine salt was used to bleach fabric and for the production of perfume and balm for the deceased. Towards the end of 1996 they finished their research, concluding: "We see no reason whatsoever why the Sindone could not be dated to the 1st century AD."

Better arguments came from traces of pollen of various types of flowers which can still be found growing around Jerusalem, and from other types which only grow in what is now Turkey. This would substantiate the tradition which holds that the Shroud was taken from Jerusalem to Turkey, where it surfaced around AD 1000 in Constantinople. But in February 1997, Shroud expert Professor Pier Luigi Baima Bollone found even more compelling evidence in the impression of an old coin, the lepton, on the eyes of the crucified man. Both coins were minted in Palestine in the year AD 29 under the authority of Pontius Pilate. This is consistent with the tradition then of placing a coin on the eyes of the deceased.

Although scientists are still at a loss as to the method by which a photographic image could have been transferred on to a piece of cloth in either the 1st or 14th century AD, all the recent findings proved to be sufficient evidence for the Archbishop of Turin, the official guardian of the Shroud by appointment of the Pope, to state explicitly for the first time: "I am convinced that the Sindone is the cloth in which the body of Jesus was wrapped after He died on the cross."

(Source: de Volkskrant, The Netherlands)








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