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Was the Shroud image the original image upon which all Byzantine icons were based? The icon pictured here is the Sinai Icon from the Monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula. It was created around 550 AD and has numerous "points of congruence" to the Shroud image. It curiously was crafted only 25 years after the Image of Edessa was discovered in 525AD. The field of Iconography suggests that the Shroud Image was the "Image not made by hands" from which all icons drew their inspiration. Was that inspiration what we know today as The Shroud of Turin?

Fast forward to France in the Middle Ages for now because that is where the fully documented and continuous history of the Shroud begins. But there is more to the story on the Shroud's probable history. We'll get to that later.

1353: The Shroud's fully documented history began in Western Europe when it was revealed by Geoffrey DeCharney in Lirey, France.

1452: DeCharney's granddaughter sold the cloth to the Duke of Savoy in exchange for two castles. It remained in the Savoy family until 1982 when it was officially willed to the Catholic church although it had custodial care of the Shroud for centuries.

1532: The burial linen was severely damaged by fire in Chambery, France. Thought to be arson the very security measures in place to protect it from theft thwarted the Shroud's rescue until it was too late to prevent severe damage. Theories about the fire somehow altering the carbon date of the cloth have proven to be erroneous. More on that later.

1534: The Shroud was repaired by the Poor Claire Nuns who were skilled in making textile repairs. The holes from the fire were patched and the entire cloth was attached to a backing cloth for support. This repair now looms large as the carbon dating tests of 1988 are called into question as having dated a medieval reweave rather than the original cloth of the Shroud. This now is the most credible explanation as to what the labs dated and why they were wrong.

1578: The cloth was moved to Turin, Italy for safe keeping and remains there until this day. It is kept in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and is only brought out for public display on rare occasions. The next public exhibition will be held in 2020.

The history of the Shroud prior to 1353 is not fully documented, but a significant historical trail allows for the following reconstruction of the cloth's early history.

70AD: Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Empire. The "Legend of King Abgar" suggests the Shroud was taken to Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey) sometime prior to this date. The King was miraculously healed of leprosy after gazing upon a mysterious image and converted to Christianity. The first church outside the Holy Land was reported to have been built in Edessa in the early second century. Later that century persecutions would sweep the Roman Empire. The mysterious cloth would be hidden away inside the fortified wall surrounding the city and forgotten for 300 years.

525: A severe flood destroyed most of Edessa. During the rebuilding of the walls, a metal box containing the mysterious cloth was rediscovered. By this time the Emporer Constantine had declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire (330AD). It was safe to reveal the image without fear of the persecutions. It became known throughout the Byzantine world as "The Image of Edessa" and later was called the "Mandylion". It was described as "The true likeness of Christ, not made by human hands."

944: The Byzantine Imperial Army invaded Edessa for the express reason of retrieving the cloth from the city which had fallen to Islam. In exchange for gold and 200 prisoners of war, the cloth was delivered to the army without a fight. It was taken to Constantinople (now Istanbul) and presented to the Emperor. August 16th of 944, with great ceremony, the cloth was draped over the Emperor's throne and crowned with his crown. The sermon that night was delivered by Gregory the Arch Deacon of the Hagia Sophia, the great cathedral. In that sermon he points to both the face and side wound of the image declaring it to be that of Christ.

1204: Constantinople was invaded by the Fourth Crusade. After laying siege to the city for two years, they finally breached the walls and ended up burning down nearly half the city. In the carnage nearly everything of value was stolen. All the silver and gold were taken by the Venetians who had funded the campaign but the French desired the "relics of the saints" and, according to a letter to the pope written in 1205, "Most holy of all, the cloth in which our Lord was wrapped after his death and before the resurrection". The Mandylion as it was then known had disappeared and most likely in the hands of the French.

1204 to 1353: One of several gaps in the history of the Shroud, evidence suggests it was secretly kept by the Knights Templars for safe keeping. The Templars offered protection for items of great value. They had castles all over France and Europe and specialized in offering safe passage to pilgrims making their way to he Holy Land. They would a small army of "warrior monks" to accompany the pilgrims on their trek by land or sea. Such protection came at a price and the Templars became wealthy with land, castles and gold. They had the means to keep the safe the booty stolen from Constantinople.

1307: It was in this year that the King of France conspired with the Pope to bring down the Templars. They had become too rich and too powerful. The King had borrowed heavily from them to finance his war with England. It was decided that the Pope would issue a decree to have all Templars arrested and their property confiscated. It was Friday the 13th, 1307 when over 15,000 Templars were arrested in France on the same day and thrown into prisons. As part of the French Inquisition, the Catholic Church's crusade against heresy, they were all made to confess under torture to various heresies. One of those heresies was that they "worshiped" a mysterious image.

Two leaders of the Templars, Geoffrey DeCharney and Jacques DeMolay were burned at the stake for their "heresy".

1353: The Shroud is revealed in public for the first time at a small collegiate church in Lirey, France. Who owns it? None other than Geoffrey DeCharney. A coincidence? Not likely. Although how the Shroud came into his hands is not completely known, he was obviously a descendant to the Geoffrey DeCharney who was burned at the stake less than 50 years prior.

It is from this point that the history of the Shroud is without dispute. Did the Templars have it? We can only speculate. Was it the same cloth as the Mandylion that disappeared in 1204? It sure sounds like it from descriptions. Was it the same cloth that was revealed in 525 and heralded as the "True Likeness of Christ"? Was it the same image that was delivered to King Abgar in the First Century which brought about his healing of leprosy?

We can not answer these questions with certainty but only with probability. The pollen trail confirms this same historical trail. The evidence from Iconography also confirms it. Other evidence indicates its origin in Israel, its manufacture in the Middle East, and its correlation with other Jewish burial shrouds and burial practices.

Science: A Chronology

1898: The Shroud was photographed for the first time by Secondo Pia. These first pictures led to the discovery that the image on the cloth is actually a negative. In other words, the image becomes positive only when the light values are reversed in a photographic negative. This discovery startled the scientific community and stimulated worldwide interest.

1931: Guisseppe Enrie photographed the Shroud again with more advanced film technology confirming that the Shroud is indeed a negative image. Copies of Enrie's photos were circulated throughout the world prompting more scientific inquiry and interest.

1950: Dr. Pierre Barbet, a prominent French Surgeon, published his landmark book, A Doctor at Calvary documenting 15 years of medical research on the Shroud image. He described the physiology and pathology of the man on the Shroud as "anatomically perfect".

1973: Max Frei, a noted Swiss criminologist, was given permission to take dust samples from the Shroud which contained pollen. He discovered 22 pollen species from plants that are unique to areas around Constantinople and Edessa, and 7 pollen species from plants common mostly to the Middle East. The pollen trail confirmed the historical trail.

1975: Air Force scientists John Jackson and Eric Jumper, using a sophisticated image enhancement analyzer (VP-8) designed for the space program, discovered the Shroud image contained encoded 3-D data not found in ordinary reflected light photographs. This discovery indicated that the cloth must have wrapped a real human figure at the time the image was formed.

1978: The Shroud was on public exhibit for the first time since 1933 and was displayed for six weeks. Over 3 million people passed through the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to view it behind bullet proof glass. At the close of the exhibition, 40 scientists comprising the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), mostly from the United States, analyzed the Shroud for five continuous days (122 hours) working in shifts around the clock. 

1980: In June, National Geographic magazine published a landmark article on the Shroud further propelling the cloth into a science superstar calling it "One of the most perplexing enigmas of modern times".

1980: This same year, microscopist Walter McCrone who was not part of the Shroud Project was given several fibers to analyze. After finding iron oxide particles and a single particle of vermillion paint, he broke ranks with the Shroud scientists who had agreed to make all findings public the following year. McCrone proposed that the Shroud was a painting of red ochre paint created from iron oxide particles suspended in a thin binder solution. However McCrone's findings in no way agreed with any of the highly sophisticated tests conducted by two dozen other scientists. McCrone jumped the gun for the sake of getting his own publicity. His claims have all been dismissed.

1981: After three years analyzing the data The Shroud of Turn Research Project (STURP) made their findings public at an international conference in New London, CT. All the scientists agreed upon the following statement: "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 blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and give a positive test for serum albumin."

1988: The Shroud was carbon dated by three laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona. They indcated a date range from between 1260 to 1390 making the cloth only about 700 years old. This earth shattering news seemed to contradict the conclusions of STURP which gave support to the Shroud's possible authenticity. This new data posed a great dilemma for proponents of the Shroud and further complicates an explanation for the Shroud's existence.

The Shroud cannot be explained in a medieval context because it demonstrates medical knowledge and artistic expertise unknown until centuries later. If it was not made by an artist then what is it? Was it a custom crucifixion performed to mimic that of Jesus? Knowledge of Roman crucifixion practices was totally unknown in the Middle Ages. There are dozens of reasons why a medieval date doesn't fit the evidence.

1997: Noted Israeli Botanist and a professor at Hebrew University, Avinoam Danin confirmed Dr. Alan Whanger's discovery of flower images on the Shroud. He also verified that several pollen were from plants that grow only around Jerusalem.

2000: Shroud researchers Joseph Marino and Sue Benford present a landmark paper at an international conference in Ovieto, Italy. Their paper would present initial evidence that the area of the Shroud cut for carbon dating in 1988 was actually a medieval reweave. See Latest News for more details.

2002: The Shroud was secretly restored amidst much controversy. All the burns and patches were removed. The shroud was attached to a new backing cloth as well. Most researchers feel the restoration was unnecessary and that much important data will be lost to future researchers. See Latest News for more details.

2004: Redeeming what may have been lost during the restoration, textile expert Mechthild Flury-Lemberg revealed that the seam on the Shroud that runs the entire length known as the side strip is typical of burial Shrouds found in Masada. This further supports the Shroud's ancient origin. See Latest News for more details.

2004: Another result of the restoration was the discovery of the Shroud's double face image. Italian scientists, Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolio of Padova University were able to analyze scans of the backside of the Shroud after it was removed from the backing cloth. This had never been done before. The previous backing cloth had been attached since 1534 as part of the restoration following the fire of 1532. Examining the scans revealed faint superficial images of the face and hands. The image occurs only on the top surface of the fibers, similar to the front side of the Shroud but there is no coloring of the threads in between. This enhances the mystery of image formation and makes it that much more difficult to ascribe the Shroud to the work of an artist. See Latest News for more details.

2004: Thermal Chemist, Dr. Raymond Rogers, retired Fellow with the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory proves using samples from the area cut for carbon 14 dating and samples from the main body of the Shroud that the sample cut in 1988 for C-14 dating was in fact a medieval reweave confirming Marino and Benford's hypothesis presented in 2000. Rogers also determined the evidence of a madder root dye used to blend in the color of newer threads with the more yellowed threads of the original Shroud. He also found cotton in the C-14 sample but not from the main body of the Shroud indicating both cotton and flax were used in the repair. Lastly and most importantly, he found that 37% of the vanillin remained intact in the lignon from the C-14 fibers whereas the vanillin content from the main body of the Shroud had decayed to 0%, similar to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Not only does this new evidence show that the carbon dating tests were severely flawed by dating an erroneous sample, but that the evidence also shows the main body of the Shroud is much older as indicated by the lack of vanillin. This critical research is precisely the kind of micro-chemical analysis the carbon dating labs were supposed to do in 1988, prior to taking the sample according to the original protocol, but failed to follow.

The carbon dating tests of 1988 have been thoroughly and completely invalidated by good science rather than the shoddy and arrogant effort demonstrated by the carbon labs in 1988. The cloud has been lifted.

More on the 1978 Shroud Project and what was determined:

Team Scientists Represented:

  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • New England Institute of Medicine
  • Sandia Laboratories
  • U.S. Air Force Academy
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Santa Barbara Research Institute
  • Nuclear Technologies Corp.
  • Colorado State University

Tests performed in 1978 include:

  • Particle analysis
  • Chemical analysis
  • Blood analysis
  • Photo microscopy
  • Spectroscopy
  • X-ray radiography
  • Infra-red thermography
  • X-ray fluorescence spectrometry
  • Scanning photography from infra-red to ultra violet
  • And others

Primary Test Results:

X-Ray Fluorescence

  • Result: No detectable difference in elemental composition between image and non-image areas.
  • Conclusion: No inorganic pigments present.
X-Radiography
  • Result: No density discontinuities associated with body image.
  • Conclusion: No substances manually applied to cloth.
Photoelectric Spectrophotometry
  • Result: No spectral characteristics of stains, dyes or pigments were detected in image or non-image areas.
  • Conclusion: No typical artistic substances are on the cloth .
Ultraviolet Fluorescence
  • Result: No evidence of aromatic dyes or amino acids.
  • Conclusion: No collagen binder as would be used with paint .
Evidence from Dirt
  • Result: Microscopic dirt particles found solely on the dorsal foot imprint.
  • Conclusion: Can be explained only by the folding of a barefoot man in the Shroud.

Image Characteristics:

  • Purely superficial -- penetrates only top 3 microfibrils
  • Yellowing of image is uniform in intensity
  • No capillary action apparent
  • Fibrils not cemented to each other
  • No substances between threads
  • No directionality to image
  • No Outline to image

STURP findings, published in 1981, contain the following results:

  • "No pigments, paints, dyes, or stains have been found on the fibrils. X-ray fluorescence and microchemistry preclude the possibility of paint being used as a method for creating the image."
  • "It is clear that there has been a direct contact of the Shroud with the body, which explains certain features such as the scourge marks, as well as the blood. However, while this type of contact might explain some features of the torso, it is totally incapable of explaining the image...there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image..."
  • "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 blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and give a positive test for serum albumin."

Additional Facts From STURP and other Researchers:

Textile Analysis:

  • No similar material found from Medieval times.
  • Threads hand woven - pre 12th Century
  • Unique manufacture indicates a Middle East origin
  • The cloth measures exactly 2 x 8 Syrian cubits, a Middle East measurement.
Particle Analysis:
  • Travertine Aragonite limestone particles indigenous to caves surrounding Jerusalem
  • Outside pollen are mineral coated whereas inside pollen are uncoated
  • Suggests placement in damp tomb or cave
3-D Encoding:

The image density corresponds to a mathematical gradient related to distance between body and cloth. “Confirmation that the Shroud covered a body shape at the time of image formation.” -Dr. John Jackson

The Blood:
 

  • “The blood is, in fact, real blood.” -Dr. John Heller Confirmed by presence of heme, porphyrins,bile pigments and serum albumin. Confirmed also by spectrographic analysis.
  • “The blood marks seen on the shroud are consistent with a contact transfer to the cloth of blood clot exudates that would have resulted from major wounds inflicted on a man who died in the position of crucifixion.” -Dr. Al Alder -Dr. Gil Lavoie
  • “The stains have a central hollowness which probably results from the physical separation of red blood cells from serum.” -Dr. Robert Bucklin
  • “The remarkably fine detailing of the scourge marks revealed by ultraviolet fluorescence would be impossible to obtain by any other means than direct contact between a body and the linen.” -Dr. Sam Pellicori


The Wounds are consistent with the Gospel account of Christ’s ordeal:

  • Crown of thorns
  • Bruising of face
  • Shoulder abrasions
  • Knee abrasions
  • Scourge marks
  • Nail wounds in wrist & feet
  • Wound in side
  • Legs not broken
Iconography:
  • Uncanny comparisons to Ancient Icons.
  • Evidence indicates the Shroud was the model upon which Byzantine icons were based beginning in the 6th Century.
  • “The peculiarities are so distinctive and prevalent that it seems doubtful they could be mere imagination or coincidence.” -Ian Wilson

The Paradox

Four Possibilities:

  1. A Medieval work of art
  2. A Medieval “Custom Crucifixion”
  3. Someone else who died by crucifixion in the 1st century
  4. The actual burial Shroud of Christ
"The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Christ in existence...or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever products of the human mind and hand on record...it is either one or the other, there is no middle ground" --John Walsh, Author--