The Shroud of Turin is an ancient linen cloth that bears the clear image of a man—but not just any man—a man millions of people believe to be the image of Jesus Christ. The artifact’s authenticity, however, has never been completely established, and the mystery of whether this ancient material actually wrapped the crucified body of the Christian savior remains precisely that–a mystery. Hundreds of thousands of tests and studies have been conducted and millions of dollars spent, but no one seems any closer to the truth.
Housed in secret by the Church for centuries, the Shroud of Turin has long been considered one of the most compelling pieces of religious evidence in the ongoing argument of Christ’s existence. It has endured many eras, many agonizing periods of analysis, and endless moments of speculation, none of which have managed to disprove its veracity. For the faithful, it is confirmation of their beliefs—and for the skeptics, it is an ongoing source of frustration. But regardless of religion, one thing remains true: the shroud is a mystery unlike any other, with the power to create both dissent and marvel.
Currently secured in a vault in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, the shroud has undergone many restorations to preserve it for future studies. Its special case is airtight and temperature controlled, protecting the precious material under laminated bulletproof glass. The case is also filled with oxygen and argon to prevent any further chemical changes, specifically with the hope that it will continue to intrigue and baffle humanity for another 2,000 years. Below are three reasons why the Shroud of Turin may indeed be real.
The famous Shroud of Turin, which has mystified scientists and titillated zealots for centuries, is a rectangular flax cloth about 14 feet by 4 feet and woven in a herringbone pattern. It bears the faint brownish image of the front and back of a naked man with his hands folded over his groin. The countenance is bearded with shoulder-length hair parted in the center. The man’s physique is athletic and tall, measuring him anywhere from 5’7″ to 6’2″. It has been suggested the shroud provides a negative, transparent image of Christ’s actual body being transferred through the material during the moment of his departure to heaven.
The Bible is the authoritative text on the subject of Jesus’s crucifixion and makes several references to the shroud’s existence. Two specific Gospels in the Bible claim his body was wrapped in a linen cloth by Joseph, the Virgin Mary’s husband before he was placed in his tomb.
Other biblical stories explain how the Apostle Peter found multiple pieces of burial cloth after Jesus’s tomb was opened. One thing is for sure, all of these ancient textual references agree there was, in fact, a linen sheet associated with the burial and eventual resurrection of Jesus.
The history of the shroud can be separated into two categories, that which occurred before 1390 and that which happened after. There isn’t much documentation before 1390 when the shroud changed hands often and was generally hidden from the larger world. Up until this point, there were only casual reports from various locations about having seen the image or hood of Jesus’s head, and the cloth was kept carefully protected by religious factions and the monarchy. It was only when a French Bishop finally claimed it was an outright forgery and began a firestorm of controversy that it was officially documented and pursued by others for inspection.