Shroud of Turin (Part 3)



[Editor's Note: This is the third of a four-part series. Part One, Part Two]

No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found in the fibrils. X-ray fluorescence and microchemistry on the fibrils eliminate the possibility of paint being used as a method of creating the image, and ultraviolet and infrared evaluation have confirmed these studies. If paint had been used, it would have penetrated through the top fibers onto the lower fibers in the herringbone weave; however, the image is only on the top fibers with the lower fibers being untouched. (Note however that the blood did soak through the fibers.) Also, the image was resistant to bleaching and other standard chemical agents that would have reacted with paint or some other medium.

Enhanced photography has also produced exciting evidence. The studies have included photographic enlargements and computer analysis of shapes, colors, and shadows. Also, a microdensitometer was used which measures very faint changes in lightness and darkness. In 1979, Jesuit Father Francis L. Filas of the Loyola University of Chicago, using the STURP research, observed on the right eyelid of the man four letters “UCAI” which formed a crown around the crook of an augur’s staff; this image corresponds to the symbol on a small coin known as the dilepton lituus struck in 29 AD during the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate (26-36). The coin covering the left eye was later identified by Professors Bollone and Balossino as the lepton simpulum, which also was struck in 29 AD. The ancient Jews used coins to hold down the eyelids. Also, Father Filas noted that later Byzantine coinage was engraved with an image of Christ Pantocrator which bore a striking resemblance to the facial image of the shroud, which would attest to the shroud’s presence in Constantinople.

In 1978, Piero Ugolotti reported that he had detected barely visible traces of letters and words in Greek, Latin and Hebrew near the face on the shroud, which were corroborated by philologist Aldo Marastoni of the Catholic University of Milan. In 1995, scientists with the Paris Institut d’Optique also reported finding letters and words on the sides of the facial image on the shroud. An example would be In Necem, an abbreviation of the Latin death phrase, In Necem Ibis (“You will go to death”), Nazarennus (“Nazarene”) and Pezo which means “to accomplish” in archaic Greek but in the sense of “celebrating a sacrifice.”

The image also has unique, three-dimensional information encoded in it. Using a VP-8 Image Analyzer (which NASA has used to produce pictures of planets from light signals picked-up electronically and transmitted to earth), Dr. John Jackson of the STURP team produced a 3-dimensional picture from the shroud. Note that a regular two-dimensional image, such as that of a painting or a photograph, will only produce a badly contorted image in the VP-8 screen. Only when actual depth or remoteness is shown by less light does the VP-8 produce a 3-dimensional picture. This evidence again confirms that the shroud is not like a painting.

The photographs of the shroud also seem to be like X-rays with the images of bones visible. Dr. Michael Blunt, Challis Professor of Anatomy at the University of Sydney, noted that in the hands one can see metacarpal bones and three phalange bones of each finger. Professor Alan Whanger of Duke University noted that the skull is visible.

Dr. Gilbert Lavoie in his Unlocking the Secrets of the Shroud presented another intriguing discovery. The negative image of the shroud as compared with the negative images of photography reveals that the man in question had either white or light blond hair. He noted another peculiarity: the shadows of the face and the fall of the hair indicate that the man was upright and suspended when the image was made, while the blood marks indicate the man was in the supine position on top of the cloth with the rest folded over him. Dr. Lavoie concluded that this upright image was made after the blood had stained the cloth: “This finding is intellectually exciting to anyone who contemplates the possibility that this image reflects the moment of the resurrection” (p. 182).

The STURP team provided the following summary of its findings, worth noting after a review of all of this evidence: “We can conclude for now that the shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientist in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”

Although the STURP team did not declare the shroud to be the actual burial cloth of Christ, the evidence presented at least supports a person’s private belief that it is.

Given this scientific evidence, next week we will examine some of the more controversial points surrounding the shroud.

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders' work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

Fr. William Saunders

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Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders's work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).

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