TURIN, Italy — The long linen with the faded image of a bearded man is the object of centuries-old fascination and wonderment, and closely kept under wrap. Starting Saturday, and for six weeks, both the curious and those convinced the Turin Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ can have a brief look.
By late Friday, 1.5 million people had reserved their three-to-five-minute chance to gaze at the cloth, which is kept in a bulletproof, climate-controlled case. Organizers said earlier this year they hoped some 2 million pilgrims and tourists would see the linen during the special viewing from April 10 to May 23.
That number doesn't include Pope Benedict XVI, who will fly up to Turin, Piedmont's capital, in northwest Italy, on May 2 for a day trip to pray before the shroud.
Traditionally, the public gets a peek at the 14-foot-long, 3.5-foot-wide (4.3-meter-long, 1 meter-wide) cloth only once every 25 years. But recent decades have seen much shorter intervals. The shroud went on display in 1998 after a 20-year-wait and then in 2000 during Millennium celebrations.