The most baffling religious relic of the Catholic Church goes on display tomorrow for the first time since 2010.
The Shroud of Turin is rarely displayed these days because of its deteriorating condition. But starting tomorrow through June 24th, the relic will will be available for public veneration in the Turin Cathedral.
Numerous scientific tests conducted on the shroud have been inconclusive in determining how old it is and how the image of an apparently crucified man was imprinted on the 14-foot-long cloth — except one. A radiocarbon dating test conducted in 1988 proved the cloth to be a medieval forgery — probably. Or maybe. Two separate labs working with small pieces of the shroud snipped off by scientists determined that the linen was manufactured in a 130-year period between 1260 and 1390.
Try as they might, those who believe the shroud to be the burial cloth of Christ have offered no convincing proof that the radiocarbon test was flawed. The latest efforts center on trying to prove that the cloth is actually 2000 years old and that it had been cross contaminated with more modern pollens or bacteria. Another explanation for the later date has to do with the sample taken by scientists coming for a patch used to repair the shroud following a fire that damaged it in the 16th century.
For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.
What makes the shroud such a compelling and mysterious object is the way it appears in photographic negatives. Until 1898, all that was visible was the faint outline, presumably in blood, of a human form. But an amateur photographer, Secondo Pia, was astonished after being allowed to take a photo of the shroud, to see the clear image of a human male that showed up on the negative.
But no one has an answer to the question of how the image got on the shroud. It’s not paint. It’s not a pigment of any kind. And there is no evidence that the various techniques to produce an image known by medieval artists were used.
But few of the nearly 1 million people who will view the shroud in the next two months care much about the scientific arguments.
The 4.3-meter-long (14-foot) cloth will be displayed April 19-June 24. Pope Francis will view it on June 21 on an overnight trip to the Turin area, which will include private time with relatives.
Public viewings of the cloth were last held in 2010.
“Many pilgrims who had already seen the shroud in past showings come back, even though some saw it just five years ago,” Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia said on Saturday.
“That’s not a long time. And yet many of the bookings we have are people who have already seen the shroud. That means there is a fundamental need in people’s hearts to renew this incredible experience that they had the first time they saw it,” the prelate told reporters.
Reservations are mandatory but free of charge to see the shroud, displayed in a climate-controlled case, in Turin’s cathedral. Turin’s mayor said recently that more that 1 million people had made reservations. In 2010, some 2.5 million people came, according to organizers of the display.
The pope’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, has described the cloth as an icon “written with the blood” of a crucified man. Benedict said there was “full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus.”
When Pope John Paul II saw the shroud in 1998, he said the mystery forces questions about faith and sciences and whether it really was Jesus’ burial linen. He urged continuous study.
Skeptics say the linen bearing the figure of a crucified man is a medieval forgery.
Nosiglia said people of all faiths will come to see the shroud, not just Christians. “Even non-believers will come. It’s an occasion that brings everybody together and aims to give a precise response to the violence in this world. It tells us that the way to build a fairer world is not violence, but love,” he said.
I am not a believer but I find the shroud the most fascinating religious artifact in the world. There is nothing comparable in any other religion of which I am aware. It is certainly the most debated, the most studied religious artifact – and for that, a trip to Turin to view it is most definitely worth it.
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