The Shroud of Turin first came to the attention of the public in 1355, when it was exhibited at the Church of St. Mary in Lirey, France. It had been given to the church by a French knight, Geoffroy de Charny, who probably acquired it in Constantinople.
Its supporters claim that this fourteen-foot piece of cloth bearing the image of a naked man was the funeral shroud of Christ. They argue that only supernatural means could have created such an image.
Skeptics dismiss the shroud as a medieval forgery, arguing that: 1) there was a flourishing trade in false relics during the middle ages; 2) a medieval forger could definitely have created such an image (researchers have offered a variety of theories to explain how it might have been done); and 3) the man's body is oddly proportioned (his head is too large), which suggests the image is a painting.
Throughout its history, the shroud has been a subject of controversy. Soon after it was discovered, a report to Pope Clement argued that the shroud was merely a painting, and that it was being falsely displayed as a true relic in order to solicit donations to the church. As a consequence, Pope Clement declared the relic a fraud.
In 1453 the shroud was acquired by de Charny's granddaughter who eventually sold it to the Duke of Savoy. The Savoys exhibited it for many decades, claiming that it was the holy shroud that had covered Christ as he lay in the tomb. In 1532 it was almost destroyed in a fire. The shroud still displays burn marks from this incident.
Throughout the twentieth century researchers dueled back and forth over the shroud's authenticity. In 1982 a group calling itself the Shroud of Turin Research Project declared it to be genuine after studying samples lifted from the cloth using tape. However, radiocarbon tests performed later during the 1980s dated the shroud to approximately the fourteenth century, indicating that the relic was a fake. Nevertheless, shroud supporters found many reasons to dispute the radiocarbon testing, and so the debate raged on and likely will for the foreseeable future.
Recent news about the shroud
Aug 22, 2002:
The Vatican admitted it had secretly been allowing a scientist to perform tests on the shroud
for the past few months. The scientist was trying to get a more accurate reading of the exact age of the shroud's fibers, following criticism of 1988 tests of the age of the fibers.
Apr 18, 2004: A second face was discovered
on the backside of the shroud.
January 31, 2005: New tests suggested
that the shroud may be older than previously thought. Tests done in 1988 had apparently (mistakenly) analyzed patches woven into the shroud following the fire in 1532. Raymond Rogers has published a paper in Thermochimica Acta stating that the shroud itself appears to be far older, between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.
March 2005: Nathan Wilson
published an article suggesting that the shroud could have easily been created by a medieval forger if the forger painted a figure of a man on a piece of glass, placed the glass over a linen shroud, and left this setup out in the sun for a couple of days. The sun would bleach the linen, but leave behind a photo-negative image of the figure painted on the glass.
Shroud of Turin Haiku (Submitted by Hoax Museum visitors)
Image burnt onto old cloth.
Jesus, is that you?