Negative of image on front of Shroud of Turin

Italian scientists gave the Christian world an unexpected Christmas present and set off an international news sensation by announcing their finding that the image of the crucified man on the Shroud of Turin was likely caused by a burst of ultraviolet light that was beyond the technical capabilities of medieval forgers.

Remarkably, the conclusions of the Italian scientists were very similar to the fictional explanation WND staff reporter Jerome R. Corsi provided in his 2010 novel on the Shroud of Turin, “The Shroud Codex.”

The new scientific findings announced last week cast in doubt the conclusions of carbon-14 dating tests conducted in 1988 at Oxford University, the University of Arizona and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology that suggested the Shroud was created between the years A.D. 1260 and 1390. The conclusion appeared to rule out that possibility that it was the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

“What the Italian scientists are saying is that the image was created on the Shroud in a burst of energy that Christian believers would understand as physical proof of the Resurrection,” Corsi told WND. “Skeptics who relied on the carbon dating to dismiss the Shroud as a medieval fake are now going to have to rethink their arguments.”

The report issued last week by Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, or ENEA, summarized research conducted over a five-year period, from 2005 to 2010. The Italian scientists experimented with laser-generated ultraviolet light to see if they could reproduce the physical evidence observed on the linen of the Shroud.

“The body of the Turin Shroud has not yet been explained by traditional science and the attempts to obtain a similar image by chemical methods failed until now,” the report noted. “We present a summary of the results of five-years experiments of laser irradiation (spectrum of the emitted light in the ultraviolet and vacuum ultraviolet) of raw linen fabrics, seeking for a coloration similar to that of the body image embedded onto the Shroud of Turin.”

The Italian scientists found they could achieve a Shroud-like coloration of linen yarns in a narrow range of irradiation parameters, using ultraviolent lasers that were completely unknown in the Middle Ages.

The press worldwide picked up instantly on the new scientific findings after they were published in London.

“Italian researchers have found evidence that casts doubt on claims that the relic – said to be the burial cloth of Jesus – is a fake and they suggest that it could, after all, be authentic,” proclaimed the Daily Mail in London.

“Scientists say Turin Shroud is supernatural,” read the headline in The Independent of London.

In Turin, Italy, La Stampa proudly announced: “The Shroud is not a medieval forgery.”

Still, MSNBC’s science editor Alan Doyle remained a doubter, noting that the Italian scientists did not prove a flash of a miraculous resurrection was the only way the Shroud image could only have created.

Doyle cited an email to him from the lead researcher, Paolo Di Lazzaro, who drew his conclusions more narrowly.

“It is obvious that a scientific work cannot prove any supernatural action,” Paolo Di Lazarro emailed to Doyle. “We have shown that the most advanced technology available today is unable to replicate all the characteristics of the Shroud image. As a consequence, we may argue it appears unlikely a forger may have done this image with technologies available in the Middle Ages or earlier. The probability the Shroud is a medieval fake is really low. In this sense, the Shroud image is still a scientific challenge.”

Medieval reweaving

As WND reported, the radiocarbon dating that placed the Shroud of Turin as a medieval forgery dating from A.D. 1260 to 1390 has previously been called into question.

In 2005, a scientific paper by chemist Ray Rogers of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, a member of the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project, argued the samples taken from the Shroud in 1988 for the radiocarbon dating were contaminated by medieval reweaving.

He argued that after a fire in 1532 nearly destroyed the Shroud, French Poor Clare nuns repaired the Shroud by adding 16 burn patches and stitching to the back of the Shroud a reinforcing cloth that is known as the Holland cloth.

The nuns were able to repair the edges of the Shroud by expertly reweaving with cotton much of the damage the fire did to the Shroud’s original linen cloth.

Rogers was able to detect under a microscope the reweaving because the cotton had been dyed to match the linen, and the fibers could be distinguished in the reweaving at the edges of the Shroud because linen is resistant to dye, while cotton is not.

Rogers’ change of heart made an impact on the Shroud of Turin research community worldwide, largely because immediately after the results of the 1988 radiocarbon dating were made public, he was an outspoken leading voice among critics charging the Shroud was a medieval forgery.

In a video interview recorded with Barrie Schwortz, the official photographer of the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project, Rogers told how his research changed his mind about the Shroud.

Rogers concluded the combination of 16th century cotton and first century linen skewed the 1988 radiocarbon dating tests.

Rogers also examined the rate of loss of vanillin in the linen fibers of the Shroud.

Vanillin disappears in the thermal decomposition of lignin, a complex polymer that is in the cells of the flax plants used to make linen.

Rogers concluded in his 2005 scientific paper that the linen in the main body of the Shroud had lost vanillin, much like the Dead Sea scroll linens, suggesting the Shroud itself is much older than the radiocarbon dating had suggested, very possibly reaching back 2,000 years to the time of Christ.

In September 2010, Corsi reported in WND that scientists were building the case that the Turin image was created by radiation that emanated from the body itself, a theory remarkably supportive of the traditional resurrection account that is central to Christian theology.

A scientific paper co-authored by attorney and historian Mark Antonacci and physicist Arthur Lind argued that the Shroud image might constitute what amounts to a photograph taken at the instant Jesus’ body transformed as he rose from the dead.

Shroud last exhibited in 2010

An estimated 2 million pilgrims traveled to Turin, Italy, to see the Shroud of Turin at the last exposition, from April 10 to May 23, 2010.

The Shroud was seen for the first time since the 2002 restoration removed the 30 patches sewn into the cloth in 1534, when the Poor Clare nuns repaired the damage from the 1532 fire.

The original backing cloth that was added in 1534, known as the Holland Cloth,” was also removed in the 2002 restoration and replaced with a new, lighter colored cloth that can be seen through the triangular burn holes evident on the left and right sides of the front and back image of the crucified man evident in the cloth.

Displayed at the front of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in a glass-front case elevated within a few feet of visitors, the 14-foot by 3-foot Shroud of Turin evidenced the faint image of the front and back of a crucified man laid out such that the burial cloth wrapped in front of the body by folding across the top of the head.

Corsi, who attended the 2010 exposition of the Shroud with press credentials as a WND reporter, was allowed to film inside the cathedral as the faithful passed and were allowed to pray within feet of the Shroud.

On May 2, 2010, Corsi videoed Pope Benedict XVI saying Mass in Turin, at the Piazza San Carlo, with approximately 250,000 people in attendance, during the Shroud of Turin Exposition.

The Archdiocese of Turin has scheduled the next public exposition of the Shroud to occur in 2035.

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