The Shroud of Turin – a linen cloth 14 feet 3 inches long and 3 feet seven inches wide that bears the superficial imprint of the body of a man – is an object of fascination. Whether or not the claim that it is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ is true, there can be no doubt that it is very popular. In 1988, the Shroud was opened to the public for a period of some 50 days. In that time 2.5 million people filed past the piece of cloth. So, what is the truth about the Shroud? Is it genuine or is it a fraud? The facts will help us to decide.
The first record of the Shroud dates to 544 C.E. when a cloth with an impression of a man’s body turned up in Edessa, near modern-day Turkey. It was claimed the image was none other than that of the body of Jesus. In 944 the Shroud was recorded as being in Constantinople. Whether or not this is the same piece of cloth that is now held in the San Giovanni Battista in Turin is a matter of debate.
The next documented record of the Shroud takes us to 15th Century France. In 1453 possession of the cloth passed from one Geoffori de Charny to Louis, Duke of Savoy who had it placed in a Church at Chambery. In 1578, it was taken by Emmanuel Philibert to Turin where it has remained ever since.
In 1988, the Shroud was subjected to radiocarbon dating to determine its age. The tests showed that the cloth dated from medieval times, more than a thousand years after the death of Christ. In an official statement, the archbishop of Turin, stated, "In entrusting the evaluation of these results to science, the church reiterates its respect and veneration for this venerable icon of Christ, which remains an object of veneration for the faithful.”
Despite the clear scientific evidence disproving the authenticity of the Shroud, Church authorities continue to declare it as legitimate. On May 24, 1998, for instance, pope John Paul 11 said that the Shroud was “the imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One.”