Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Shroud of Turin and the Mystery Surrounding Its Authenticity

Revealing the Truth of the Shroud

Although STUP can be credited for gathering the largest quantity of data on the shroud, three independent laboratories were credited for gathering information  concerning the age of the cloth. In April 1988, the three labs,  one from Oxford University in England, one from the University of Arizona in the United States, and one from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich were given the first chance ever to test the shroud using radiocarbon dating techniques. The results of the tests stunned the world.

The three labs were permitted to obtain samples taken from the shroud, with the intention of conducting three separate and independent analyses. On October 13, 1988, the results from the three laboratories were revealed to the public. To the shock of many, the shroud was said to be dated from between 1260 and 1350 A.D. Newspaper headlines around the world branded the shroud a forgery and declared that the Catholic Church has accepted the results.

However, not everyone agreed with the results of the carbon dating tests. According to some scientists and shroud advocates, the reliability of carbon dating is not absolute, especially if there has been a chance of contamination of the samples. In an article written by Daniel Porter titled "The Resurrection Problem and the Shroud of Turin," it was suggested that the exactitude of the tests were questionable, that the samples were likely contaminated due to their having been handled by so many people over the centuries and that the samples taken from the shroud were believed to have come from patches likely sewed onto the shroud by the Savoy family.

Regardless of whatever facts are uncovered, many will continue to believe what they want concerning the authenticity of the shroud. Amazingly, no one has yet been able to successfully explain how the unique 3-D negative-like image on the shroud was constructed. In actuality that remains the biggest mystery.

3-D image of Shroud
3-D image of Shroud

To date, the shroud, which was bequeathed to the Catholic Church in 1983 following the death of King Umberto II, remains in its chapel in Turin. 1997 marked an eventful year for the shroud, when it was rescued once again from a fire in the cathedral. Luckily, the shroud sustained no damages.

Shroud and priests at Cathedral
Shroud and priests at Cathedral

The summer of 2002 proved to be another eventful time for the shroud. According to an article by a restoration project was carried out, in which all the patches that were sewn on by the nuns in 1534 were removed, along with charred areas of cloth around the burn holes. Moreover, the backing cloth from the same period was removed and replaced with a new, lighter colored cloth that allowed onlookers to see through the burn holes. Evidence of the restoration project will likely be presented to the public during the next exhibition.

Although the authenticity of the shroud is still in doubt, it is still considered to be a one-of-a-kind work of art. Many believe that even if not a holy relic, the shroud should be revered for its ingenious construction.