The Shroud of Turin Controversy
by John Moore
TURIN, ITALY—Sylvana Gribaldi has seen the Shroud of Turin twice, during public expositions in 1998 and 2000. Both occasions were overpowering emotional experiences.
"During the 1998 exhibition, I used to go into the church (where the shroud was on display) in the evenings and sit there and pray for an hour or so," says Sylvana. "I could sense a real presence."
At the next exhibition, in the jubilee year of 2000, she was able to get even closer to Turin's most famous artifact.
"I was very happy during the last exposition because I was selected to read prayers during the procession as thousands of people passed the shroud. It was quite moving," she says.
|Burial cloth of Jesus or cynical counterfeit? The enigmatic linen known as the Shroud of Turin has befuddled clerics, scientists and observers for six centuries — and the debate still rages, writes John Moore
travel writer at the Star.
Such expressions are apt to draw a skeptical squint from people uncomfortable with such devotion, and the shroud, which bears the double image of a bearded man whose body exhibits the scars of crucifixion, certainly has just such a polarizing effect on people.
Some say that the 4.5-metre-long, 1.1-metre-wide piece of linen is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, miraculously branded with his image at the moment of his resurrection. Others denounce that as superstitious nonsense and say the shroud is a medieval counterfeit.
The debate has simmered ever since the shroud first appeared in the historical record some 6 1/2 centuries ago. The shroud was definitely identified in 1353 as the property of Geoffrey de Charny in France (but some proponents claim to have found mention of it in earlier sources). Even then, some clerics denounced it as a device to extort money from pilgrims.
The de Charny family sold it to Duke Louis of Savoy in 1453, who kept it at Chambery, France, until 1578 when his descendant Emanuele Filiberto moved it to Turin. The Savoy family retained ownership of the shroud until 1983 when it became the property of the Vatican in accordance with the will of Umberto II, the last king of Italy. Pope John Paul II decreed that the shroud would remain in Turin.
It has survived three fires, including one in 1997, despite suffering some scorching and water damage. It has been examined by scientists and subjected to an array of tests including carbon-14 dating, microscopy, chemical analysis, photography and computer imaging. But that has only intensified the debate as just about everybody with an opinion, scholarly or otherwise, has tried to out-debunk each other. Fact or forgery, the shroud continues to fascinate.
"It's a scientific mystery," says Guglielmo Perego, an expert on the shroud and Turin's architecture, who is accompanying me on a visit to the majestic cathedral and adjacent chapel which houses the shroud. "All the rigours of scientific study haven't been able to explain the mysteries of the shroud. If you believe in the Bible, if you believe in Jesus' resurrection, you have less of a problem explaining it."
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