Is the Shroud of Turin Authentic?

Italian researchers with the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development are claiming that the Shroud of Turin couldn’t have been a Medieval forgery, because the available technology to forge it wasn’t existent. And what they’re suggesting produced the image (a flash of light) is incredible.  From a Telegraph article summarizing the researcher’s claims:

“The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin, has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining … is impossible to obtain in a laboratory,” concluded experts from Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development. 

The scientists set out to “identify the physical and chemical processes capable of generating a colour similar to that of the image on the Shroud.” They concluded that the exact shade, texture and depth of the imprints on the cloth could only be produced with the aid of ultraviolet lasers – technology that was clearly not available in medieval times. 

The scientists used extremely brief pulses of ultraviolet light to replicate the kind of marks found on the burial cloth. 

They concluded that the iconic image of the bearded man must therefore have been created by “some form of electromagnetic energy (such as a flash of light at short wavelength).” Although they stopped short of offering a non-scientific explanation for the phenomenon, their findings will be embraced by those who believe that the marks on the shroud were miraculously created at the moment of Christ’s Resurrection. 

“We are not at the conclusion, we are composing pieces of a fascinating and complex scientific puzzle,” the team wrote in their report. 

Prof Paolo Di Lazzaro, the head of the team, said: “When one talks about a flash of light being able to colour a piece of linen in the same way as the shroud, discussion inevitably touches on things like miracles and resurrection.” “But as scientists, we were concerned only with verifiable scientific processes. We hope our results can open up a philosophical and theological debate but we will leave the conclusions to the experts, and ultimately to the conscience of individuals.”

The article contains a good summary of earlier scholarship both for an against the Shroud’s authenticity, and notes that the “Vatican has never said whether it believes the shroud to be authentic or not, although Pope Benedict XVI has said that the enigmatic image imprinted on the cloth “reminds us always” of Christ’s suffering.

It would be amazing if the Shroud could be shown to be authentic, and it would be undeniably disappointing if it were shown to be a forgery.  But as the pope has suggested, whether this is what it seems to be or not, it’s a great reminder of Christ and His Suffering regardless of authenticity.  In the Catholic Information Center, where I go for daily Mass, there’s a picture of the Shroud, with the words “Your Face, O LORD, I will seek” (Psalm 27:8).  Amen.


  1. I was once on a plane with a guy who goes to Protestant services to give a presentation on how they have found Noah’s Ark in the Himalayas and will soon show the world that the Bible is true. I was trying to be supportive and said, “Good. I try to support devotions that increase people’s faith, for instance I like to study about the Shroud of Turin.” This guy turns to me and says, “Well, that’s been pretty much disproven.” Last time I try to be nice!

  2. Another interesting thing to look into is The “Sudarium of Oviendo”.

    It’s a cloth reported to have covered Jesus’ face in John 20:6-7. Apparently the blood stains on that cloth match up with the wounds on the face of the Shroud, indicating that the two cloths most likely covered the same face at roughly the same time.

    I would be disappointed if it were shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the shroud was a fake — There are still debates raging about the carbon dating tests and where they took the samples from on the shroud. There’s also evidence of the shroud’s existence predating the results of the carbon-dating tests, namely images of something that looks a lot like the shroud in early medieval manuscripts — but at the same time, I’d be happy to stop wasting my time.

    1. HocCogitat, actually this article is filled with half truths and missing the biggest piece of evidence against the 1988 c14 tests and that is Agnostic chemist Ray Rogers peer reviewed chemical analysis that showed the shroud was much older then the dates in the 88 tests and what they tested was actually a reweave in which experts reweaved newer cotton into original shroud linen.Actually the link you posted is to an article that any shroud expert can easily debunk.

  3. Not convincing at all.

    The half life of carbon 14 is 5730 years, so how can it even be used at all as evidence is beyond me.

    And philosophically, yes he is right: saying that the only way to replicate the shroud is with technology not around in the middle ages DOES not prove it is legitimate.

    But stating the above DOES NOT PROVE it is a hoax either. Far from it.

    Not convincing at all.

  4. Daniel, Carbon 14 dating is fairly reliable. The measurement itself is extremely precise BECAUSE the half-life of C14 is 5,730 years! About .01% of carbon in C14. However, because it is continually created in the atmosphere by cosmic rays knocking Nitrogen nuclei apart, there a steady state level of C14 is the atmosphere and in the structure of all living organisms. The “half life” means that after 5730 years 1/2 of the C14 will be gone. Testing is accurate down to 50 to 60 thousand years ago. That is roughly 10 half-lives. At that point only (1/2)^10 or 1/1000 of the C14 is still around.

  5. Maybe so, but I wouldn’t know how. If there was a way to measure the nitrogen gas (that escapes) and compare it with the carbon 14, then yes. But I don’t see how this is possible.

    But I’m not an expert and your mileage will vary.

  6. HocCogitat – although I just corrected Daniel about Carbon 14 dating, I do agree with him that overall the article you pointed us to is unconvincing.

    Agreed, it “sounds” very convincing, until you dig deeper. First he focuses only on the Carbon dating issue, and second, even the sources he cites are not as conclusive when you read them as he makes them sound with his quotations, which are not actually located at the link he provides.

    His own source, Dr. Chris Ramsey says “There is a lot of other evidence that suggests to many that the Shroud is older than the radiocarbon dates allow and so further research is certainly needed.” href=”
    “The researchers conclude the original radiocarbon date of 14th century is correct, based on current evidence, but they have yet to test whether there is anything in the specific storage conditions of the shroud which might affect this conclusion.”

    The author of the Telegraph piece also way overstates things with “Radiocarbon dating has repeatedly placed the Shroud as medieval in origin – specifically, between 1260AD and 1390AD.” Yes, testing has been performed several times, but only on the same small sample taken in 1978! Further, if some process or something in the way the image was formed were to have increased the C14 proportion it doesn’t matter how many times you sample.

    C14 dating is best when the material has been buried or stored in a Jar for most of it’s existence. The shroud has been carried around, stored in various containers, survived at least 2 fires etc. etc. As Dr. Ramsey points out, we haven’t found a way to experimentally replicate a process where C14 proportion is increased in a similar material, but there hasn’t been enough research to conclude it isn’t possible.

    C14 dating is very precise in measuring the amount of C14 in proportion to total carbon. What C14 dating absolutely cannot do is distinguish if something has happened to the sample that would have changed that proportion.

    The weave of the clothe itself, the variety and types of pollen found on it, and the history of the clothe all provide reasons to question the C14 dating. As Dr. Ramsey acknowledges, the C14 date along with the very existence of the shroud and it’s image don’t line up for easy explanations.

    The foremost question to consider, especially for anyone claiming the Shroud is a forgery is “How was this image created?” No one has any semi-plausible answer for that. Even this laser result only reproduces the coloration on the fibers, it doesn’t to begin to address that the image is a negative, and is actually holographic

  7. There has been a documentary of the shroud that is less than 10 years old. I believe it inferred the carbon dating was done on one of the corners of the shroud, which had been frequently handled through the centuries, and could have given a false date.

  8. As Paul in the GNW said, carbon dating in that time period is very accurate. It’s not as simple as it sounds, though, because the amount of C14 produced does vary from year to year. What has been done, though is to examine living trees, or trees felled on a known date. Each ring represents one year’s growth, and the ratio of C14 to C in each ring is measured. Measuring trees with overlapping life spans and “lining up” the ring C14 data, has allowed scientists to get very accurate dating for the last several thousand years.

    That said, and as Paul also pointed out, the presumption is that the sample is not contaminated. The shroud has soot embedded in it, from several fires, and has been handled almost constantly in all its known history. The fact that the sample was taken from a “high traffic” area of the shroud adds more uncertainty.

    In other words, I think we can trust that C14 dating works in the abstract, but I think we can also conclude that it is not a reliable test in this case because there is no proper sample to date.

    Aside from hypothesizing that the test might not be accurate, the fact that it is at odds with every other piece of evidence is an empirical indicator that it is probably off.

    If you recall the Hubble space telescope mirror debacle… There were several tests made of the mirror, and the one that was accepted was the outlier, because it was more “high tech” and was theoretically more sensitive. Yes, it was sensitive, but not correct, as it turns out. The “low tech” tests that indicated it was bad, were correct, and we spent billions designing optics to correct it and send them into space.

  9. The obvious questions nobody seems to ever ask: If the shroud is authentic, why do none of the gospels mention that an impression of Christ was made on his burial shroud by the energy of his resurrection? Why do none of the epistles mention it? Why do no church fathers mention it? Somehow I don’t think that there would be ZERO trace of the shroud in the literature of the first 3 centuries of the church if it were authentic.

  10. Beowulf,

    The idea that no Church Father mentions the Shroud would seem to be contradicted by the resources Daniel links to above. Whether the Image of Edessa is the Shroud or not, it’s at least not as extreme a picture as you’re claiming.

    And as for the fact that the New Testament doesn’t mention it, that’s hardly surprising. One of the most famous sayings of Christ, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” isn’t recorded in any of the Gospels (we only know that it’s a saying of Christ because of a passing reference in Acts 20:35). There are plenty of details that the New Testament doesn’t include.



  11. I know that this post is very late in the making but ive been a recent Lurker To Joe’s Blog and I think that he has done a fantastic Job in defending the Catholic Faith.

    That being said, there is no serious shroud researcher that is truly knowledgable of all the evidences that takes the 1988 c14 tests seriously anymore.
    First off the oldest date we see in the 1988 tests are from 1260 with an alleged 95% degree of accuracy.

    This date can be debunked alone by the hungarian pray codex of 1190 in which is clearly shows an illustration which could only have been of the shroud of turin complete with the unique arm fold, the 4 poker holes which show are still on the shroud today and the unique 3 way herringbone weave we see on the shroud of turin.

    but the big one came when agnostic Chemist Ray Rogers, senior fellow at the prestigious los alamos labs published his chemical analysis paper in the secular chemical journal thermochimica acta which completely invalidated the 1988 c14 tests.

    In that paper Rogers first showed that the corner used in the 1988 tests was chemically different then the rest of the shroud , and that alone invalidated the 1988 tests, but Rogers didnt stop there.

    He found an end to end splice of cotton interwoven expertly into regular shroud linen in the 1988 test corner piece, but he found no linen elsewhere on the shroud. He also found Madder dye on the 1988 test piece. Madder dye is a medival dye that came into use around the 14th century onwards. He found no madder dye anywhere else on the shroud.
    He ended it by doing a vanillin test on the corner are and a vanillin test on the rest of the shroud.
    The corner area teste dpositive for vanillin making it a much newer dated material while the rest of the shroud tested negative for vanillin making it much older then the 1988 tests. Rogers dated the rest of the shroud to between 1300 and 3000 years old. The wide dates came about because Rogers had to account for the different environmental conditions that the shroud may have been exposed to when it was being stored throughout its history.
    Here is a link to Rogers peer reviewed chemical analysis

  12. part 2 A picture of the shroud in the pray codex of 1190 and a great article from Stephen Jones on his shroud blog (which I believe is one of the best shroud blogs out there) can be seen from this link.

    beowulf2k8- You must also remember that there are many reasons for this being kept a secret. First anyone taking this cloth out of its burial tomb was committing a crime under jewish law which could get you killed by taking out a bloodied burial cloth, which went against jewish law.

    The second problem here is that the pharisees knew of this image they too would have destroyed it
    The 3rd problem is the romans had many long periods in early Christianity in which they were destroying Christian relics in order to stop the spread of Christianity.

    But we do have the story of the image of edessa (the mandylion) that take sit back all the way to the time of Christ as we see here, and if the mandylion is the shroud then its history does go back tentatively to the time of Christ.

    How can we know if the image of edessa is in fact the shroud of turin. There is one big clue here and that is in how the ancient writings of the

    “”Acts of Thaddeus, a sixth century update of an earlier (c. AD 400) story in the Doctrine of Addai, about Edessa’s King Abgar V (c. 4 BC-AD 50) receiving an image of Jesus imprinted on a cloth. The sixth century Acts of Thaddeus added new information to that earlier story that the cloth was a sindon (a large linen sheet) which was tetradiplon (“four doubled”): “””

    The keyword here is tetradiplon which means “four doubled” and no where else in all of ancient greek literature does this word occur accept when describing the folding pattern of the mandylion (image of edessa).

    Sturp Physicist John Jackson found distinct folding pattern in the shroud when he conducted his light raking experiments in the 1970s and as Stephen Jones shows us here the folding patterns on the shroud match the unique folding pattern tetradiplon which has never been used in conjuction with anything else but to desscribe how the image of edessa was folding.

  13. part 3
    and as Stephen Jones says here:
    “”That the Shroud of Turin, when doubled four times results in Jesus’ face within a rectangle, in landscape aspect, exactly as depicted in the earliest copies of the Image of Edessa/Mandylion, is proof beyond reasonable doubt that the Image of Edessa/Mandylion is the Shroud of Turin, doubled four times, mounted on a board, and framed, so that only Jesus’ face is visible. And therefore that the Shroud of Turin existed in the sixth century, and indeed in the first century, as the Image of Edessa’s connection with Edessa’s first century King Abgar V, attests!

    The Shroud of Turin therefore is the very burial sheet of Jesus (Mt 27:59; Mk 15:46; Lk 23:53), bearing the image of His crowned with thorns (Mt 27:29; Jn 19:2), flogged (Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15), crucified (Mt 27:35; Mk 15:24; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:18), dead (Mt 27:50; Mk 15:37,43-45; Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30), speared in the side (Jn 19:34), and resurrected (Mt 28:1-6; Mk 16:1-6; Lk 24:1-6; Jn 20:1-9) body””

    We also have the sudarium of oviedo which is thought of by many shroud researchers as the head cloth described in the gospels as the head cloth laying by itself seperate from the shroud.
    The sudarium is consistent with jewish customs of those times when a badly beaten face was covered with a head cloth while being crucified to hide the face from onlookers.

    When the sudarium is overlaid on the head image of the shroud of turin it is a near perfect match in blood stain congruence, and the nose on both cloths was measure to be 8 centimeters. Marc Guscin is the world’s foremost expert on the sudarium of oviedo.

    “”3: Coincidence with the Shroud

    The sudarium alone has revealed sufficient information to suggest that it was in contact with the face of Jesus after the crucifixion. However, the really fascinating evidence comes to light when this cloth is compared to the Shroud of Turin.

    The first and most obvious coincidence is that the blood on both cloths belongs to the same group, namely AB.

    The length of the nose through which the pleural oedema fluid came onto the sudarium has been calculated at eight centimetres, just over three inches. This is exactly the same length as the nose on the image of the Shroud.

    If the face of the image on the Shroud is placed over the stains on the sudarium, perhaps the most obvious coincidence is the exact fit of the stains with the beard on the face. As the sudarium was used to clean the man’s face, it appears that it was simply placed on the face to absorb all the blood, but not used in any kind of wiping movement.

    A small stain is also visible proceeding from the right hand side of the man’s mouth. This stain is hardly visible on the Shroud, but Dr. John Jackson, using the VP-8 and photo enhancements has confirmed its presence.

    The thorn wounds on the nape of the neck also coincide perfectly with the bloodstains on the Shroud.

    Dr. Alan Whanger applied the Polarized Image Overlay Technique to the sudarium, comparing it to the image and bloodstains on the Shroud. The frontal stains on the sudarium show seventy points of coincidence with the Shroud, and the rear side shows fifty. The only possible conclusion is that the Oviedo sudarium covered the same face as the Turin Shroud.””

    Sorry for the late and long rambling post Joe , but I hope this helps newbies have a general understanding of all the great evidences for the authenticity of the shroud of turin.

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