Turin Shroud not medieval forgery, says new research
A NEW study suggests that one of Christianity's most prized but mysterious relics -- the Turin Shroud -- is not a medieval forgery and could be the burial robe of Christ.
Italian scientists conducted a series of experiments that they said showed that the marks on the shroud -- purportedly left by the imprint of Christ's body -- could not have been faked with technology that was available in medieval times.
Sceptics have long claimed that the 14ft-long cloth is a forgery. Radiocarbon testing conducted by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona in 1988 appeared to back up the theory, suggesting that it dated from between 1260 and 1390.
But those tests were in turn disputed on the basis that they were contaminated by cloth fibres used to repair the relic when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.
The new study is the latest intriguing piece of a puzzle that has baffled scientists for centuries and spawned an industry of research, books and documentaries.
"The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin, has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining ... is impossible to obtain in a laboratory," concluded experts from Italy's National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development.
The scientists set out to "identify the physical and chemical processes capable of generating a colour similar to that of the image on the shroud".
They concluded that the shade, texture and depth of the imprints on the cloth could be produced only with the aid of ultraviolet lasers producing extremely brief pulses of light.
They said the image of the bearded man must therefore have been created by "some form of electromagnetic energy (such as a flash of light at short wavelength)".
Although they stopped short of offering a non-scientific explanation for the phenomenon, their findings will be embraced by those who believe that the marks were miraculously created at the moment of Christ's Resurrection.
The documented history of the Turin Shroud stretches back 800 years. The first written record of it was when it was brought to Europe after the Crusades.
In 1998, Pope John Paul II viewed the shroud, saying the Church had "no specific competence to pronounce on" whether it really was Christ's burial cloth.
In 2010, when it went back on display after restoration, Pope Benedict XVI called it an "extraordinary icon, written in blood". (© Daily Telegraph, London)