Holy Relics: The Shroud of Turin
According to the Bible, Jesus was buried in a cloth in a cave after he was crucified. It is believed that the cave where Jesus was buried was found by St. Helena when she visited Jerusalem shortly after her son, Emperor Constantine the Great, became a Christian.
On her visit in Jerusalem she destroyed many temples that have been erected as diversions to stop Christianity from gaining popularity in Jerusalem. One of these temples was built over the cave which was identified as the tomb of Jesus. Undoubtedly many relics came from St. Helena’s multiple discoveries, and yet, somehow the cloth that Jesus was buried in became lost to history.
The Shroud's History And Ownership
Wall mosaic depicting the entombment of Jesus.
These days the most common Shroud that Jesus was supposedly buried in is accepted to be the Shroud of Turin, although this particular shroud only appeared in the 14th century. It is said that the Shroud is the same cloth that was kept by Byzantine emperors until it was taken in 1204 during the Sack of Constantinople, but nobody can be sure.
However, since the end of the 14th century the Shroud of Turin’s history can be traced quite well. It was passed to and owned by Margaret de Charny of Lirey, France until she sold it to the House of Savoy in 1453. It was stored in the Saint-Chapelle in Chambéry and suffered damage during a fire there in 1532. The damage included a drop of silver marking the linen cloth. This mark has now become a distinguishing feature of the Shroud of Turin despite attempts to restore it with patches.
In 1578 the cloth was brought to its current location in Turin. After over 500 years of ownership, the House of Savoy transferred ownership of the Shroud to the Holy See in 1983. It was repaired a couple of times and was almost lost in another fire in 1997.
But What Makes The Shroud Of Turin So Special?
A photo of the “face” in the shroud compared against a digitally processed image. (Source: Dianelos Georgoudis)
Images of the Shroud were broadcast across the web on Holy Saturday in 2013. It was the first time in history that the Shroud was shown to such a great public. Finally people across the globe could see what all the fuss was about.
The linen cloth, which is now falling apart and has to be kept in a special case with limited oxygen and special preserving conditions, has the image of a man’s face on it. It is reported that this is the exact image of Jesus. There are also blood stains, which could be from the crown of thorns that stuck holes in Jesus’ head. The entire cloth also has the ghost of an image of a body on it, which roughly fits the size and description usually attributed to Jesus.
Although the Vatican has not officially attributed miraculous cures to the Shroud, in 1955, 10-year old Josie Woollam was dying of osteomyelitis and had been given the Last Rites. Upon seeing a photo of the Shroud, she regained strength enough to be able to physically see and touch the Shroud, after which she was healed completely.
Is The Shroud Legitimate?
A controversial radiocarbon dating by 3 scientists estimates the Shroud of Turin originated at least 1200 years after Christ.
Scientific carbon dating reveals that the Shroud may actually just be a very good work of art that was created just before the relic was first discovered in France in the 14th century. As a result there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Shroud of Turin and its validity as a relic.
In fact, research into the authenticity of the Shroud is still being done. If it is a piece of art rather than an actual artifact it is still just as perplexing how the artist managed to create the image with such detail and precision. If you happen to be heading to Turin, you’ll be able to see complete forensic details regarding the authenticity of the Shroud.
Whether the Shroud of Turin is the authentic cloth in which Jesus was buried or not, this ancient relic has a rich history which cannot be disputed. While the Shroud is not currently on public display to prevent complete disintegration, images of the Shroud can be found online.
The Roman Catholic Church neither endorses nor denies its authenticity. But they do say that regardless of its legitimacy, the Shroud of Turin does deserve at least some credit as a Holy relic. It still evokes a sense of wonder in those that have seen it and serves as a reminder that Jesus died and was resurrected.