Millions expected to view Turin Shroud in rare display

The Shroud of Turin, the linen some Christians believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, is to go on display in a rare exposition that is expected to attract millions of visitors.

April 19, 2015 12:11
3 minute read.
Holy Shroud

Souvenirs with the images of the Holy Shroud are seen in the bookstore next to the Cathedral of Turin during a media preview of the Exposition of the Holy Shroud. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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It has been five years since the Shroud of Turin, the mysterious yellowing linen which some Christians believe was Christ's burial cloth and others think is a medieval fake, was last exhibited in public.

Now the cloth, which has only been exhibited four times in the 20th century, will again go on display at a special exposition opening on Sunday (April 19).

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The shroud, measuring 14 feet, 4 inches by 3 feet, 7 inches bears the image, eerily reversed like a photographic negative, of a crucified man some believers say is Christ.

It shows the back and front of a bearded man with long hair, his arms crossed on his chest, while the entire cloth is marked by what appears to be rivulets of blood from wounds in the wrists, feet and side.

Carbon dating tests by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Tucson, Arizona in 1988 caused a sensation by dating it from between 1260 and 1390. Sceptics said it was a hoax, possibly made to attract the profitable medieval pilgrimage business.

The accuracy of the tests was challenged by some hard-core believers who said restorations of the Shroud in past centuries had contaminated the results.

But scientists have thus far been at a loss to explain how the image was left on the cloth.

Most agree it could not have been painted or printed and some have said the 1988 tests may have been faulty and results corrupted by bacteria encrusted over the centuries.

Some have called for new tests using techniques not available in 1988.

The Catholic Church does not claim the Shroud is authentic but says it should be a powerful reminder of Christ's passion.

"In regards to the scientific aspect and research, where we still don't see consensus, the Church has nothing against the continuation of the research. What matters most, for the pilgrims and for the Church, is that when facing the shroud, people feel in their hearts an incessant and constant recollection of what Jesus has done and what Jesus has given to humanity," said the Archbishop of Turin, Cesare Nosiglia, at a preview event ahead of the exposition's opening day.

The rare exposition, which runs until June 24, is expected to attract millions of visitors to the northern Italian city.

The vice mayor of Turin and president of the exposition organising committee, Elide Tisi, said thousands of volunteers had been recruited to help manage the huge numbers of pilgrims.

"We have signed up 4,600 volunteers, actually more than 4,600 locals, to provide services ranging from the reception of pilgrims, which is the main activity, to the more specialised tasks, such as first aid medical care or work in the specific areas we have designated to people who suffer from disabilities or illnesses who want to come to visit the shroud," she said.

Despite the crowds, those visiting the preview event on Saturday (April 18), described being touched by the shroud and its history.

"I've believed it's authentic since the first time I saw it and continue to believe because every time it has such a strong effect on me," visitor Carmen Bonardi said.

"Seeing the shroud really makes you hold your breath and afterwards you really start to reflect on what you have seen, it is a very emotional experience," said Angela Pinto, another visitor to the preview.

"It is a very moving and a unique experience. I really hope that all the youth are able to understand it and examine it in their hearts," visitor Alessandra Giani said.

The history of the Shroud is long and controversial.

After surfacing in the Middle East and France, it was brought by Italy's former royal family, the Savoys, to their seat in Turin in 1578.

In 1983 ex-King Umberto II bequeathed it to the late Pope John Paul.

The Shroud narrowly escaped destruction in 1997 when a fire ravaged the Guarini Chapel of the Turin cathedral where it is held.

The cloth was saved by a fireman who risked his life.

The pope, who is by tradition the owner of the cloth, which is normally kept rolled up in an ornate silver box, is due to visit the display on June 21 or 22.
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