“Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there…. “(John 20:6)
When you think about it, it really is an amazing thing that there is a Shroud of Turin! Is there really anything else like it (perhaps there is, I don’t know)? And if it finally turns out that the Shroud is a forgery from centuries ago, you would still have to say that the man who forged it was the genius of his times, even scientifically and artistically ahead of anything we could produce like it today (see the two studies I reference below).
The renowned Catholic historian, Warren H. Carroll, who died in 2011, clearly believed in the supernatural origin of the Shroud of Turin. Professor Carroll was especially impressed by the scholarship of Ian Wilson regarding the historical continuity and preservation of the Shroud (see Vol. 1 of the six volume A History of Christendom, where Professor Carroll refers on a number of occasions to the Shroud of Turin in a very favorable manner).
But in this note I simply intend to bring to the reader’s attention a very concise summary of two major scientific studies that help to validate the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin – remembering, of course, that faith is a supernatural virtue, certainly not opposed to science, but not dependent upon scientific verification of a purported relic.
1. The STURP in-depth scientific examination of the Shroud of Turin (1978)
The “primary goal” of the the Shroud of Turin Research Project, Inc., (STURP) “was to determine the scientific properties of the image on the Shroud of Turin, and what might have caused it.” STURP “consisted of a team of American scientists and researchers that spent over two years preparing a series of tests that would gather a vast amount of Shroud data in a relatively short period of time. In October of 1978 the STURP team spent 120 continuous hours conducting their examination of the Shroud. To this day, scientists around the world use the data gathered by STURP for their Shroud research” (source: shroud.com, an excellent site on the Shroud of Turin).
According to a National Geographic article on the Shroud of Turin, “the U.S.-led Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), …was granted an unprecedented five days of continuous access to the shroud itself in 1978. The project’s 33 members ran the gamut of scientific disciplines, and their credentials included high-level posts at 20 major research institutions. They arrived in Turin with seven tons of equipment and worked in shifts 24 hours a day. An associate team of European scientists acted as expert observers” (from Why Shroud of Turin Secrets Continue to Elude Science by Frank Viviano, April 17, 2015, available online).
The National Geographic article further states: “Their analyses found no sign of artificial pigments. ‘The Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist,’ the project’s 1981 report declared. ‘The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin.’ But the report also conceded that no combination of ‘physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances’ could adequately account for the image. The Shroud of Turin, the STURP team concluded, ‘remains now, as it has in the past, a mystery.’”
The main findings of the STURP scientific study of the Shroud of Turin are summarized nicely by physicist Paolo Di Lazzaro:
“The Shroud is not a painting, no pigment, any directionality, not a scorch. The image encodes cloth to body distance, and it is present in both contact and non contact areas. The image is superficial, no more than 0.6 microns thick (work by others has shown 0.2 microns ). Invisible halos surround blood. Blood went on before image (no image beneath blood). The blood stains contain hemoglobin and serum albumin. Calcium and strontium and iron are uniformly present on the Shroud in small quantities (Paolo Di Lazzaro, ATSI 2014 Bari).”
Here is the official summary of STURP’s conclusions courtesy of a link provided by shroud.com: Summary of STURP’s Conclusions.
2. The Five Year Study of the Shroud of Turin by the National Agency for New Technologies (2011)
In December of 2011 ABC News reported (in an article available online) that a recently concluded study by a group of Italian scientists “refuted the popular notion that [the Shroud of Turin] was faked during the Middle Ages. Experts at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development have concluded in a report that the famed purported burial cloth of Jesus Christ could not have been faked.”
ABC News reported that “the Italian researchers, who conducted dozens of hours of tests with X-rays and ultraviolet lights, said that no laser existed to date that could replicate the singular nature of markings on the shroud. They also said that the kind of markings on the cloth could not have come from direct contact of the body with the linen. The Italian scientists said the marks could only have been made by ‘a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation.’ ”
According to the National Geographic article mentioned above, “the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) conducted five years of experiments, using state-of-the-art excimer lasers to train short bursts of ultraviolet light on raw linen, in an effort to simulate the image’s coloration” and “published its findings in 2011.”
Relying on quotes from physicist Paolo Di Lazzaro of ENEA, the National Geographic article continues (as placed in italics), stating: The ultraviolet light necessary to [simulate the image] “exceeds the maximum power released by all ultraviolet light sources available today,” says Di Lazzaro. It would require “pulses having durations shorter than one forty-billionth of a second, and intensities on the order of several billion watts.” If the most advanced technologies available in the 21st century could not produce a facsimile of the shroud image, he reasons, how could it have been executed by a medieval forger?
For believers, the radiation thesis suggests that a “divine light” in the tomb might have seared the crucified form of Jesus Christ onto the shroud. “One could look at hypotheses outside the realm of science, a sort of miracle,” says Di Lazzaro. “But a miracle cannot be investigated by the scientific method” (end of article).
Here is a link to The ENEA team report, which published its findings in 2011 (scroll and click on the word “published”).
Based on the two in-depth scientific investigations outlined above, namely, the STURP study and the ENEA study, it certainly does not appear that the image on the Shroud of Turin was made by human hands. The supernatural origin of this great relic of the Church cannot be ruled out, and even appears now to be the most likely explanation of this scientifically inexplicable image which is claimed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ (for an informative video on the Shroud, see the link below).
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
Image: At Wikipedia (Turin plasch.jpg), Public Domain, U.S.A.
An informative video on The Shroud of Turin (click on the following link): 15 Minute Video: Russ Breault explains his take on the Shroud of Turin. From Shroudstory.com
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