The Mystery of the Holy Shroud of Turin

Though a Pope has never officially recognized this linen cloth as the one that covered the body of Jesus after his Crucifixion, the Holy Shroud is nonetheless the most prized relic of the Catholic Church and one of the most intriguing objects in the world. Its dimensions are 14.3 feet long and 3.7 feet wide. It’s made of linen and has a pattern that coincides with how other cloths were woven in the early centuries, especially in Syria. There are traces of myrrh and aloe on the Shroud, materials that were widely used in burials in the Middle East. It also has pollen from 58 different plants. Thirty-eight are not European and 17can be traced back to Jerusalem.

What do we know about the Shroud?

The Holy Shroud depicts the body of a man who endured wounds consistent with a Crucifixion. Investigators say the man was between 30 and 40 years old and weighed about 175 pounds. More than likely, he was involved in manual labor.  The man depicted in the Shroud suffered roughly 720 wounds, and at least 120 lashes. From the wounds depicted in the Shroud, the whips probably had six strings and were bound together by a sharp object. His face was violently beaten and he likely had a head covering of thorns. This because the forehead and neck show traces of blood dripping from the top of the head. He carried a heavy object on his left shoulder and had wounds on his knees. His left wrist shows a nail puncture and bloodstains show that the right wrist endured a similar wound. The left side of the man’s torso was also punctured with what seems to be a spear. The blood stains on the Holy Shroud are AB blood type, with large traces of bilirubin, a sign of someone who has suffered a violent death. According to Fr. Rafael Pascual, (Institute of Science and Faith, Regina Apostolorum), “The person depicted in the Shroud suffered wounds that are consistent with the descriptions of the Gospel. From lashes, to a crown of thorns and the Crucifixion.”

Could this be a medieval fabrication? Perhaps a painting? 

The Shroud doesn’t show any traces of brushstrokes and is indelible. That is precisely why one of the biggest mysteries is how it actually came about. Italian scientists have their own theory on what could have happened.

EMANUELA MARINELLI (Expert)

“It shows dehydration. A very superficial oxidation of cellulose. It’s identical to the ultraviolet radiation that we would get from the use of a laser. The only possible explanation I see, is that a great current of light was released from the body when it was wrapped in the sheet. So, for those who believe in the Resurrection, this means quite a lot.” 

Scientists from Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development spent years trying to replicate the shroud’s markings. They have concluded only something akin to ultraviolet lasers – estimated around 34,000 billion watts of VUV radiation (This level of power cannot be produced by any VUV light source built to date; the most powerful available on the market comes to several billion watts) – far beyond the capability of medieval forgers – could have created them.

Standing before the Shroud

There are conflicting views and opinions about the authenticity and the origin of the Shroud. But leaving those debates aside, when I visited the Shroud of Turin just last week, when praying in front of the Shroud, it is as if time stood still. There was a solemn sacred silence observed by all and it was perhaps one of the most spiritual moments I’ve ever had! As I stood in front of the Shroud I instantly thought of the 13th Century hymn to our Blessed Mother, “Stabat Mater Dolorosa,” the sorrowful mother stood. It wasn’t a passive standing, but an active participation in the suffering of her Divine Son. She had not only surrendered her will and her life, but this time her whole self. As she stood in front of her crucified Son, she taught us that only through our complete self-offering to God, can we be perfectly united with our Lord.

Centuries have passed and the Holy Shroud still remains a mystery. But God is a mystery, and He still remains a mystery to this world. But God has fully revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live…”

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