The authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, one of the most studied artifacts in human history, remains polarizing centuries after it was first displayed, with both skeptics and believers weighing in on the controversial cloth.
The shroud is housed in the chapel of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. A traveling replica of the 14-foot-long linen artifact arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Thursday and is on display through this afternoon. Visitors can listen to talks by the exhibit’s curator, Tony Cherniawski.
Cherniawski has studied the Shroud of Turin for 26 years and has no doubt of its legitimacy. The herringbone weave cloth is said to bear the image of Jesus of Nazareth and to have cloaked his crucified body. The image, a faint depiction of a bearded man, is surrounded by blood stains and small burns. The Vatican declines to take a position on its authenticity, but Cherniawski says countless initial doubters have been convinced.
“They are transfixed,” he says of those who view the replica and hear his talk. “Literally it changes people’s lives. Sometimes they come in cynical, skeptical, and at the end they’re shaken at the very least. This isn’t a myth.”
The Michigan-based Cherniawski travels nationwide with the exhibit and cites convert Ray Rogers, an agnostic who initially discredited the findings of Sue Benford, a housewife from Ohio who began researching the shroud after viewing a special on the Discovery Channel. Rogers initially called her “the lunatic fringe,” Cherniawski said.
Barrie Schwortz, lead photographer on the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project, convinced Rogers to take another look after reading Benford’s submission to a scientific journal. Researchers studied a photo of the shroud, taken in 1931, with a VP-8 image analyzer, discovering it had “topographical data encoded into its density that yielded an accurate, natural relief of a human form,” according to Schwortz’s publishings. “We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist.”
The research found no inorganic substances present and no substances manually applied to the cloth. The color’s penetration into the fabric is measured under 0.7 micrometers.
“It is physically impossible to replicate,” Cherniawski said, pointing out the teeth and skeletal fingers visible in the image. “The shroud is like a photographic negative, but also has X-ray qualities. The energy used to create the image on this cloth came from inside the body. How did it get there? Science has no answer.”
The Sudarium of Oviedo, Spain, is thought to have covered face of Jesus after his crucifixion. Used to absorb bodily fluids postmortem, the blood stains correspond with those on the shroud, with matching AB blood type, according to a study by the Spanish Centre for Syndonology.
A corner of the cloth, sent to three labs for carbon dating, found the material dated 1260 and 1390, long after the time of Jesus. The labs put the data reliability at 95 percent. The dates coincide with the shroud’s first recorded appearance in 1353. However, statisticians in 2010 stated a “a piece at the top edge of an uncut sample is very different from the date which comes from a piece taken from the bottom edge ... Our research does not prove that the shroud is authentic, nor that it is 2,000 years old. But it does call into question the carbon-14 report’s assertion of conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is medieval.’”
The sample corner, Rogers said, was possibly contaminated.
Among the arguments the shroud did not cloak Jesus are the height of the man depicted, anatomically incorrect features, the shroud’s lack of mention in the New Testament, which states the body was wrapped in strips of cloth, blood stains that are not spread or matted but appear in rivulets and the Vatican’s refusal to claim the shroud’s legitimacy. Italian scientist Luigi Garlaschelli claimed to have reproduced the shroud in 2009 by wrapping a person in a specially woven cloth, painting it with pigment and placing it in an oven for several hours before washing it.
“His good idea was to wrap the sheet over the person underneath because he didn’t want to obtain an image that was too obviously a painting or a drawing, so with this procedure you get a strange image,” Garlaschelli said of the shroud’s creator. “Time did the rest.”
Cherniawski, who says the Shroud is called the fifth gospel, said hundreds have visited the replica, over the past three days, and all have been willing to learn.
“I believe the Shroud was literally left here by Jesus for scientists to prove he was alive,” he said.
Blanca Zapath, who viewed the Shroud on Saturday, is a firm believer.
“I think it’s like a miracle,” Zapath said. “People try to make it seem like it’s not real, but there is so much proof there.”
Samara McManimon-Myers concurs, having studied the research on the internet. She marvels at its preservation, and, while open-minded, is a believer.
“It’s good to question things,” she said. “But I have no question of its authenticity.”
The Shroud of Turin replica is on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. Cherniawski will lead presentations from 11 a.m. to noon and 2:15 to 3:15 p.m.