OVIEDO, Spain — Scientists and forensic specialists gathered in
Oviedo, Spain, this week to examine an obscure relic that many have
claimed authenticates the
Shroud of Turin — believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
The Sudarium of Oviedo is reportedly the other linen cloth found in the tomb of Christ, as described in the Gospel of John. The relic, whose dramatic history is intertwined with the Knights Templar, Moors, El Cid, saints and bishops, has been in Spain since A.D. 631.
Meanwhile, in Turin, Italy, the last pilgrims of the Jubilee Year are
winding their way past the Shroud of Turin before the exhibit
closes on October 23.
Verses 5-8 of the 20th chapter of “The Gospel According to St. John” records, “… he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place.” This head cloth, the sudarium, has become the focus of increasing debates over the validity of the carbon-14 tests on the Shroud of Turin. The carbon-dating tests set the age of the shroud in the 13th century, which would make the Shroud of Turin a pious icon at best, a clever fraud at worst.
However, the scientific community is divided over the shroud dates because — with the exception of the carbon dating tests — medical, artistic, forensic and botanical evidence favors the authenticity of the shroud of Turin as the burial cloth of Jesus.
One example of microscopic testing that supports the Shroud as authentic is the 1978 sample of dirt taken from the foot region of the burial linen. The dirt was analyzed at the Hercules Aerospace Laboratory in Salt Lake, Utah, where experts identified crystals of travertine argonite, a relatively rare form of calcite found near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. It is a stretch, say researchers, that a 13th century forger would have known to take the trouble to impregnate the linen with marble dust found near Golgotha in order to fool scientists 600 years later.
The debate over the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin is elevated by the new discoveries resulting from the studies on the Sudarium of Oviedo. Unlike the Shroud, the Sudarium, which covered the face of Christ for a short time before the body was wrapped in the longer burial cloth, does not carry an image of a man. Instead, the cloth, held against a face of a man who had been beaten about the head, shows a distinct facial impression and pattern of stains. The cloth is impregnated with blood and lymph stains that match the blood type on the Shroud of Turin. The pattern and measurements of stains indicate the placement of the cloth over the face.
These patterns have been extensively mapped to enable researchers to compare the markings and measurements with those of the Shroud of Turin. These measurements and calculations, digitized videos and other forensic evidence indicate that the Sudarium of Oviedo covered the same head whose image is found on the Shroud of Turin.
Part of Jewish burial custom was to cover the face of the dead, sparing the family further distress. The sudarium, from the Latin for “face cloth,” would have been wrapped over the head of the crucified Christ awaiting permission from Pontius Pilate to remove the body. Stains made at that time indicate a vertical position with the head at an angle. There are stains from deep puncture wounds on the portion of the cloth covering the back of the head, consistent with those puncture marks found on the Shroud of Turin, theoretically made by the caplet of thorns.
A separate set of stains, superimposed upon the first set, was made when the crucified man was laid horizontally and lymph flowed out from the nostrils. The composition of the stains, say the Investigation Team from the Spanish Centre for Sindology, who began the first sudarium studies in 1989, is one part blood — type AB — and six parts pulmonary oedema fluid. This fluid is significant, say researchers, because it indicates that the man died from asphyxiation, the cause of death for victims of crucifixion.
Recently, Dr. Alan Whanger, professor emeritus of Duke University, employed his Polarized Image Overlay Technique to study correlations between the Shroud and the Sudarium. Dr. Whanger found 70 points of correlation on the front of the sudarium and 50 on the back.
“The only reasonable conclusion,” says Mark Guscin, author of “The Oviedo Cloth,” “is that the Sudarium of Oviedo covered the same head as that found on the Shroud of Turin.” Guscin, a British scholar whose study is the only English language book on the Sudarium, told WorldNetDaily, “This can be uncomfortable for scientists with a predetermined viewpoint; I mean, the evidence grows that this cloth and the Shroud covered the same tortured man.”
Guscin also points to pollen studies done by Max Frei of Switzerland. Specific pollens from Palestine are found in both relics, while the Sudarium has pollen from Egypt and Spain that is not found on the Shroud. Conversely, pollen grains from plant species indigenous to Turkey are imbedded in the Shroud, but not the Sudarium, supporting the theory of their different histories after leaving Jerusalem.
The significance of the Sudarium to the Shroud, in addition to the forensic evidence, is that the history of the Sudarium is undisputed. While the history of the Shroud is veiled in the mists of the Middle Ages, the Sudarium was a revered relic preserved from the days of the crucifixion.
A simple cloth of little value, other than that it contained the Blood of Christ, the Sudarium accompanied a presbyter named Philip and other Christians fleeing Palestine in 616 A.D. ahead of the Persian invasion. Passing through Alexandria, Egypt, and into Spain at Cartegena, the oak chest containing the Sudarium was entrusted to Leandro, bishop of Seville. In 657 it was moved to Toledo, then in 718 on to northern Spain to escape the advancing Moors.
The Sudarium was hidden in the mountains of Asturias in a cave known as Montesacro until king Alfonso II, having battled back the Moors, built a chapel in Oviedo to house it in 840 AD. The most riveting date in the Sudarium’s history is March 14, 1075. On this date, King Alfonso VI, his sister and Rodrigo Diaz Vivar (El Cid) opened the chest after days of fasting. This official act of the king was recorded and the document is preserved in the Capitular Archives at the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo. The King had the oak chest covered in silver and an inscription added which reads, “The Sacred Sudarium of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Juan Ignacio Moreno, a Spanish magistrate based in Burgos, Spain, asks the critical question. “The scientific and medical studies on the Sudarium prove that it was the covering for the same man whose image is [on] the Shroud of Turin. We know that the Sudarium has been in Spain since the 600s. How, then, can the radio carbon dating claiming the Shroud is only from the 13th century be accurate?”