Recently, here has been a lot of focus on one of the world’s most studied artifacts.  The Shroud of Turin, a linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man.  A burial wrapping that is many centuries old and many millions of people believe displays the image of Jesus of Nazareth.

Is it an elaborate medieval hoax, a natural occurrence or in fact the burial cloth of Jesus.


  • The image was identified in 1898 by an amateur photographer when he photographed the shroud and looked at the negative image.
  • The cloth is 14ft by 4ft
  • 1989 Radio carbon dating puts the cloth at roughly 700 years old
  • 2013 Spectroscopy places the age of the shroud between 300BC and 400AD

What do people believe?

  1. That it is a Painting

Many have thought that the image on the shroud is a cleverly drawn painting of a man.  The research was conducted to validate this.  It was clearly understood that if it was a painting it should be visible to the naked eye, which it was not.  Additionally, no evidence of additional substances being added to the cloth could be identified.   It would have been possible to identify the pigments used using chemical analysis, just as conservators would do when analysing the painting of Old Masters to check for legitimacy.  The Sturp group who conducted the research concluded that the image was the real form of a “scourged crucified man…not the product of an artist”.

  1. Created by Natural Chemical Process

As the fibres in the cloth themselves have been coloured, but not dyed, or stain by pigments then what would have caused this to happen?  In 2002 a researcher Raymond Rogers argued that post-mortem results showed that in certain circumstances the body could emit heat at 40C (104F) This could particularly happen if the person had died from dehydration or from hyperthermia.  This heat emission could be enough to discolour the fibres of the cloth.

However if this was the case, would this not be more evident in funeral cloths of today?

Others have suggested that it could be chemical releases from the skin.  For instance, it could be ammonia from the breakdown of urea in sweat or lactic acid.  An example of this happening is when Volckringer images of leaves which have been pressed in-between book pages and left for years leaving the image of the leaf behind.

  1. It’s a Photograph

Many have speculated that it could even be a photograph taken by medieval photographers.  However, the question arises as to how these photographers knew about the process and the method to take images by capturing light.

Silver Nitrate is the chemical compound that reacts to light and when it is can create an image on a surface.   It is believed that the substance was known of back in medieval times, but the question is asked about how the image remains on the surface of the cloth after the silver nitrate is removed.

A piece of fabric It could have been coated with silver nitrate in a darkened room and then exposed to sunlight through a lens, in medieval times, most likely to be made of quartz (silver is darkened by ultraviolet light, which glass absorbs but quartz does not).

  1. An image created from a release of energy

The image is a result of the resurrection of Jesus; this could very well be the case.   This is what the Yahoo Shroud Science Group has hypnotized.   They state that the origin of the shroud “involving the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be rejected”.   They have also continue, “hypotheses correlated to an energy source coming from the enveloped or wrapped Man, [and] others correlated to surface electrostatic discharges caused by an electric field”.

Giulio Fanti an Italian Chemist from the University of Padua has proposed that the image may have been burnt into the upper layers of the cloth by a burst of “radiant energy”.  This radiant energy could refer to any form of extremely bright light, ultraviolet light, X-rays or streams of fundamental particles which have originated from the body, and as a result creating an image on the shroud.  This would tie in with what was witnessed by Peter, John and James and recounted in Luke 9:29: “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.”


  • On Sunday 21st June 2015 Pope Francis will “venerate” the famous shroud.

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