Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Shroud of Turin and the Mystery Surrounding Its Authenticity

The Relic on Tour

Over the next 100 years, the cloth spent less and less time at the Sainte Chapelle of the Holy Shroud. It was frequently taken on tour throughout Europe and exhibited to worshipers who believed the image on the cloth was of divine origin. The shroud spent a great deal of time being displayed throughout Italy, where there was great demand for it.

Between 1537 and 1561, the shroud was moved to various safe houses, convents and churches in the country, including Vercelli, Italy, and Nice, France, to prevent it from being plundered by French invading troops. Eventually, in 1561 the shroud was returned to the Sainte Chapelle of the Holy Shroud in Chambéry and kept concealed within an iron box, except when it was displayed for special occasions. However, the shroud did not remain at the chapel for long.

Image of St. Charles Borromeo
Image of St. Charles Borromeo

In 1578, duke Emanuel Philibert of Savoy, who was at the time in possession of the shroud, decided to move the relic permanently to Turin. Nickell wrote that the duke made the transfer because Turin made a far more suitable capital for the expanded Savoy realm than Chambéry. According to an article written by John Booker Feister, Shroud of Turin: The Mystery Remains, the saintly Cardinal Charles Borromeo walked from Milan to Turin that same year to venerate the shroud. Apparently, the cardinal was so moved by the holy image that he actually wept at the sight of it.

The shroud continued to be displayed to worshippers for many decades. Crowds at the exhibition sometimes swelled to tens of thousands of enthusiastic pilgrims and locals. Wilsonwrote that during an exhibition in 1647, some of the enormous crowd died of suffocation. Such massive turnouts were more the norm than the exception at the exhibitions. It appeared that time did nothing to diminish the growing faith in the Holy Shroud.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

In 1694, the shroud was placed in its permanent home at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin. According to Gove, the shroud was, stored in an ornate silver chest inside a wooden box behind a metal grill with three locks, that was located within a black marble chapel at the rear of the cathedral. There it would remain for centuries. It would only be taken out and displayed several times each century, usually for special events such as marriages, coronations and private showings to VIPs.

The shroud gained unprecedented attention two centuries later, in 1898, following a public exhibition. That year marked the reemergence of the debate into the authenticity of the shroud, which occupied scholars, historians, religious bodies and scientists for more than 100 years.

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