THE Turin Shroud is not a medieval forgery, as has long been claimed, but could date from the time of Christ, according to a new book.
Experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy have dated the shroud to between 300BC and AD400.
Many Roman Catholics believe that the 14ft linen cloth, which appears to bear the imprint of the face and body of a bearded man, was used to bury Christ's body when he was lifted down from the cross.
The analysis is published in 'The Mystery of the Shroud', by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist. Scientists, including Professor Fanti, used infra-red light and spectroscopy – the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths – to analyse fibres from the shroud, which is kept in a climate-controlled case in Turin.
The experiments were carried out on fibres taken from the shroud during a previous study, in 1988, when they were subjected to carbon dating.
Those tests, conducted by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona, appeared to back the theory that the shroud was a clever medieval fake, suggesting that it dated from the years 1260 to 1390.
Those results were, in turn, disputed on the basis that they may have been skewed by contamination of fibres from cloth that was used to repair the relic when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.
The mystery of the shroud has baffled people for centuries and has spawned not only religious devotion but also books, documentaries and conspiracy theories.Each year, it lures hundreds of thousands of faithful to Turin Cathedral, where it is kept in a specially designed, climate-controlled case.
The Vatican has never officially said whether or not it believes the shroud to be authentic.
But Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said that the enigmatic image imprinted on the cloth "reminds us always" of Christ's suffering. (© Daily Telegraph, London)