By Mark Wachtler
December 23, 2011. Rome. (ONN) After five years of experiments, a team of scientists in Italy have given up trying to recreate, or even explain, how the famed Christian religious relic was created. The 14-foot long cloth appears to bare the faded image of a man stained onto its fabric. For centuries, Christian faithful have believed the ancient cloth is literally the burial garment of Jesus Christ. For just as long, skeptics have argued that the shroud is a medieval forgery. Science has only weighed in a handful of times over the years, and this week, they sided with religion.
A yellow-painted thread used for the radio carbon test. The thread was proven to be from a Medieval patch one the Shroud and not from the original Shroud itself. Image courtesy of ShroudStory.com.
The website Catholic Culture only published a couple brief paragraphs about the announcement. But they welcomed the news. They wrote, ‘After 5 years of experiments, using different methods of coloring linen, Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development said that the image is not the result of any process known to the modern world. The study indicated that the image may have been created by an intense source of light, but no man-made light would produce the required strength. ‘
The National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development actually uses the term ‘flash of light’ as one suggestion as to how the image could have been created. The science agency is sponsored by the Italian government and charged with assisting in the advancement of technology and science as it relates to progress and productivity and in the fields of business, commerce and industry.
As published by Yahoo News, the team explained their hypothesis in detail. 'The results show a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation can color a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin,' they wrote. Lead scientist on the study, Professor Paolo Di Lazzaro, gave his thoughts. “When one talks about a flash of light being able to color a piece of linen in the same way as the shroud, discussion inevitably touches on things such as miracles” he said, “But as scientists, we were concerned only with verifiable scientific processes. We hope our results can open up a philosophical and theological debate."
The Shroud of Turn has a colorful history. It is believed to be discovered in 1350’s France. The first historical record of the cloth is ironically, a testimony by Bishop Pierre d’Arcis wrote to the Pope stating that the Shroud, located at the time in Turin, was a forgery. The Bishop even insisted that a local painter had confessed to the act. Past and recent scientific tests have since proven that explanation impossible. First, the colors on the Shroud weren’t created with paints or any other artistic method. And second, the image is created by subtle, layered discolorations of the cloth, impossible to achieve using any brush or applicator known to man at the time.
In 1898, Italian photographer Secondo Pia was allowed to take the first-ever photo of the Shroud. When he viewed the negatives in his darkroom that night, he was shocked to discover that the image engrained in the cloth wasn’t an image, it was a negative image. Much the same way a camera works, taking a picture of a scene and reversing it on film, the image on the Shroud of Turin was created the exact same way. Since that discovery, critics, believers and scientists alike have been at a loss to explain the origins of the image.
The accusation that the Shroud of Turin is a fake gained even more supporters in 1988 when Oxford University was allowed to test the fabric. Using radio carbon dating, the scientists came to the conclusion that the Shroud was from sometime between 1290 and 1390 AD.
The website ShroudStory.com admits the Medieval forgery notion is a strong argument:
“I am naturally skeptical about any relic with a historical footprint in medieval Europe. The year 1356 was a time of unbridled superstition in demons, witches, magic, and miracle-working relics. It was a time of frequent famine and the Black Death plague. It was a time of extreme economic and political turbulence and of war. The same year that the Shroud was first displayed publicly in the small French village of Lirey, nearby, at the battle of Poitiers, England’s Black Prince defeated the French and captured King John II.
Adding to the political turmoil, the Pope was in Avignon, not Rome. Indicative of the thinking in this age, some believed that the plague was God’s retribution on the whole world because the Pope was not in the eternal city. In this climate of superstition, naiveté and disorder a lucrative market in false relics flourished. And though the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, acknowledged the problem, church authorities did little to curb the market in them. Our knowledge of this time in history rightly conditions us to be suspicious of any relic that might appear in Europe at this time.”
Speaking to the fact that the image on the Shroud of Turin is not a painting, but in fact a type of photograph appearing in reverse, the Shroud Story website goes on to say, “Because the picture was a negative, some have speculated that the Shroud of Turin might be a medieval proto-photograph; an invention, if you believe it, that was used only once for a single fourteen-foot long fraud, and never mentioned or used again until it was reinvented in an age of science.”
Immediately after the 1988 carbon dating test showed the fabric tested had an origin from the 1300’s, skeptics rejected the conclusion. They did not argue that the piece of cloth removed from the Shroud was from the 1300’s. Instead, they insisted that the piece of cloth removed for the test was a patch, added centuries after the Shroud’s creation to mend the ancient relic.
Slowly but surely, their argument won out. In 1998, the Shroud’s Turin Scientific advisor Piero Savarino confirmed that the piece of fabric used for the radio carbon date test contained, “extraneous substances found on the samples and the presence of extraneous thread (left over from invisible mending routinely carried on in the past on parts of the cloth in poor repair)”.
In January, 2005, the Oxford University radio carbon dating test from 1988 was dismissed as an operational error, in that they were given a piece of fabric to test that wasn’t even part of the original Shroud. Upon further scrutiny, strands from the tested fabric confirmed the presence of yellow paint, added to make the new material match the yellowed fabric of the Shroud. Thus, it was concluded that the Shroud of Turin was not dated to the 1300’s. Instead, it was the patch used to mend the religious relic that was from the Medieval age.
With the newly released conclusions from Italy this week, the scientific community showed that it is slowly coming around to Christianity’s belief that the Shroud had a supernatural origin. Unable to recreate the image using any technology known to man prior to 200 years ago, the scientists confirmed that the image is a ‘negative photograph’.
But what could have created a photograph in ancient times?
One cable TV special last year attempted to do just that – recreate the image on the Shroud using ancient technology. In one respect, they were able to recreate a similar technology. By handing a length of fabric in the sunlight, with the shadow of an object appearing on it, the fabric will eventually capture the outline of the image. The sun’s radiation showed to be the same, or similar, method used to create the actual, ancient image on the Shroud.
The results of the sunlight experiment, however, couldn’t explain or recreate any other aspect of the relic. There were no microscopic variances for wrinkles, wounds or other unlevel parts from the image’s subject. The test also confirmed that the Shroud would have had to hang in the sunlight, always shifting with the sun’s movement across the sky, for years or centuries, to create the amount of detail captured in the actual Shroud of Turin.
That rough field test gave believers and scientists alike common ground to agree on a possible origin of the Shroud of Turin.
Scientists refuse to acknowledge that the epic incident was God-inspired or otherwise supernatural. And religious believers refuse to acknowledge that the image is the result of any process naturally occurring in any known science. But together, they agree on one thing – The image on the Shroud of Turin was created with one, super-energized, ultra-violet blast of light. While science can’t assign a term for the mysterious occurrence, the Shroud’s believers can. They call it the same thing they’ve called it for centuries - a miracle.