The Shroud of Turin is a 14-foot linen cloth with an image of a crucified man who has become a popular Catholic icon. For some, it is the authentic funerary shroud of Jesus Christ. For others, it is a religious icon that reflects the story of Christ, not necessarily the original shroud.
More than 600 years after its first appearance in the historical archives, the Shroud of Turin remains an important religious symbol for Christians around the world.
1. The shroud appeared for the first time in medieval France.
The first historical documents of the Shroud of Turin place it in Lirey, in France, in the 1350s. A French knight named Geoffroi de Charny would have presented it to the dean of the church of Lirey as the authentic burial shroud of Jesus. It is unclear how de Charny got hold of the shroud, or where he was during the 1,300 years after Christ’s burial outside of Jerusalem.
2. The pope quickly declared that it was not a true historical relic.
After the church in Lirey exposed the shroud, the church began to attract many pilgrims and also a lot of money. However, many prominent members of the church remained skeptical of its authenticity.
Around 1389, Pierre d’Arcis, bishop of Troyes, in France, sent a report to Pope Clement VII claiming that an artist had confessed to having forged the shroud. In addition, d’Arcis said that the dean of the church in Lirey knew that it was a forgery and that he had used it to raise money anyway. In response, the Pope declared that the shroud was not the true funeral fabric of Christ. However, he said that the church in Lirey could continue to display it if it recognized that the fabric was an artificial religious “icon”, not a historic “relic”. Today, Pope Francis still describes her as an “icon”.
3. De Charny’s granddaughter was excommunicated for having sold her to the Italian royal family.
In 1418, when the The Hundred Years War threatened to spill over onto Lirey, the granddaughter of Geoffroi de Charny, Margaret de Charny and her husband offered to store the fabric in their castle. Her husband wrote a receipt for the exchange acknowledging that the cloth was not Jesus’ authentic burial shroud and promising to return it when he was safe. However, she later refused to return him, and instead took him on tour, announcing him as the true shroud of Jesus.
In 1453, Margaret de Charny sold the shroud in exchange for two castles to the royal house of Savoy, which ruled parts of modern France, Italy and Switzerland (the house then rose to the Italian throne ). As punishment for selling the shroud, she received excommunication.
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4. Before the shroud moved to Turin, it was almost lost in a fire.
In 1502, the Savoy house placed the shroud at the Sainte-Chapelle de Chambéry, which is now part of France. In 1532, a fire broke out in the chapel. He melted part of the money in the container protecting the shroud, and this money fell on part of the shroud, burning it. The burn marks and water stains from which the fire was extinguished are still visible today.
In 1578, the Savoy house moved the shroud to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, which later became part of Italy. He has stayed there ever since, with the exception of World War II, when Italy relocated him to safety.
5. There have been many scientific studies on its authenticity.
Despite the fact that Pope Clement VII declared the shroud a forgery over 600 years ago, the debate over the authenticity of the shroud has not ended. From the 20th century, people on both sides of the debate began to reinforce their arguments with scientific studies.
In the 1970s, the Turin Shroud research project declared that the marks on the tissue corresponded to a crucified body and that the stains were real human blood. In 1988, a group of scientists said that their analysis showed that the shroud came from 1260 to 1390, while another said that their analysis showed that it came from 300 BC. and 400 A.D. In 2018, researchers used forensic techniques to claim that the bloodstains on the shroud could not have come from Christ.
6. The fairing is protected by bulletproof glass.
Security is tight for the frail Shroud of Turin. It is rarely shown to the public and is guarded by security cameras and bulletproof glass. This last security measure actually turned out to be a roadblock in 1997, when a fire broke out in Saint-Jean-Baptiste cathedral. The firefighters had to hammer four layers of bulletproof glass to save the shroud.
7. The shroud has entered the digital era.
In April 2020, the Archbishop of Turin, Cesare Nosiglia, announced that in light of the devastation caused by COVID-19, people around the world could see the Shroud of Turin online for Easter. On the Thursday before the 2020 vacation, Italy reported 143,626 known cases of COVID-19 and 18,279 deaths from the virus. Archbishop Nosiglia said he was motivated to provide a live stream of the shroud, which was last displayed publicly in 2015, by thousands of people who asked to see it during the global COVID crisis- 19.