Who Was the Man in the Shroud?

Starting today and for the next seven weeks, pilgrims will come from all over the world to see the Shroud of Turin.  The fragile, bloodstained linen cloth, that many believe to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ, will be on public display for the first time in nearly 12 years and for the first time since its 2002 restoration. From April 10 until May 23, two million of the faithful and curious are expected to enter into the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.  Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will be among the many visitors when he makes the trek to northern Italy on May 2.


The Shroud of Turin is a 14-foot long by 3.3-foot wide linen cloth that bears the faint image of a crucified man.  Millions believe that man to be Jesus Christ.  It is said to be the most scientifically studied Church relic ever.  And still the origin of this image is debated among scientists, historians and theologians.

Skeptics claim the cloth is a clever medieval forgery and yet it was lovingly referred to by the late Holy Father John Paul II, “as an image of God’s love as well as of human sin.”  Although Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was very cautious about giving Church approval to apparitions or private revelations, he placed the Shroud in a different category when he wrote about it his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy.  Pope Benedict wrote that the Shroud was “a truly mysterious image, which no human artistry was capable of producing. In some inexplicable way, it appeared imprinted upon cloth and claimed to show the true face of Christ, the crucified and risen Lord.”

The Church would never require any Catholic, as a matter of faith, to believe that the Shroud is the actual image of the body of Jesus Christ. We are required to believe that the host, after its consecration at Mass, is transubstantiated into the body of Jesus Christ.

The preponderance of scientific evidence continues to weigh overwhelmingly in favor of the belief that the Shroud is the actual burial cloth of Christ. Ever since 1898 when Italian photographer Secondo Pia discovered that the image was actually reversed, as in a photographic negative, scientists have attempted to unravel its mysteries.  The more we peel back its layers, the more mysterious the Shroud becomes and lives up to one of its earliest descriptions when it was known as “an image not made by human hands.”

The Shroud Codex, a New Book by Jerome Corsi

New York Times #1 bestselling author Jerome R. Corsi talked to Catholic Exchange about his book, The Shroud Codex, for this article.  After writing five best-sellers in five years, including two #1 non-fiction books, The Shroud Codex is Dr. Corsi’s first novel.  I was curious as to why he decided to write a novel about a subject that has so much controversy and science surrounding it.

Armstrong: Where did you first hear of the Shroud?

Corsi: I was born and raised in Cleveland and attended St. Ignatius High School where I first learned about the Shroud of Turin and became fascinated by it.  And with the success I had in writing non-fiction books I wanted to write a book that more people would read.

Reading scientific and technical information about the Shroud tends to be a lot drier.  So by putting this information in a fictional story, I thought it would grab the attention of a much wider audience — an everyday audience — not just the experts.  My model was Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park and ER),who could take complicated science and make those stories come alive for people.

Armstrong: After reading the book, which I enjoyed very much, I thought this is a story that will appeal to people that liked books like “The Da Vinci Code” or “Angel and Demons

Corsi: Dan Brown opened the genre of spiritual mysteries and even naming it The Shroud Codex piggy-backed on The Da Vinci Code but our approaches are very, very different.  I am a believer; I am Catholic.  I was born Catholic; I will die Catholic.  But I didn’t make the novel preachy; it is a mystery.  There are characters in the novel that are skeptics and remain so at the end of the book.

Armstrong: You’ve managed to interweave into the book all the scientific arguments about the Shroud’s validity from the pollen counts to the latest on quantum physics.  I know you plan to see the Shroud this month.  What is the one aspect of the scientific evidence that causes you to believe that the Shroud is truly the burial cloth of Christ?

Corsi: I am trained in the scientific method.  I write about complex scientific things and so the piece that is the most convincing for me is that the image resides on top of microns-thin layers of the fabric.  No explanation on how a medieval artist could have created that.  That is the most puzzling for me.


And so it has to be of supernatural origin, from the resurrection.  Personally I don’t see how the Shroud could have been created by human hands.  I have read as much of the literature as I can, too.  If it was a painting, then in the fire (of 1532) when water was used to put it out, certainly you would have seen the paint colors distorted on the Shroud.  The image was not affected and if it was painted it should have been washed away.

Armstrong: You saw the Shroud in 1999 so why are going back?

Corsi: I’m compelled to go back. It is in my soul. I went into the Church to see it three times and stayed there as long as I could. I prayed over it and meditated. It had an emotional impact on me then and I want to experience that again.

I really want to mediate on the crucifixion, the scourge marks, the crown of thorns and the solemnity of the face and the acceptance.  The noble nature of that face is just overwhelming. It has an emotional, spiritual impact when you see that suffering and meditate on the Shroud.  My faith is not dependent upon the Shroud, but it is an object that does deepen my faith.

Our Trip to Turin begins April 20th

Like Dr. Corsi, the Pope and two million other pilgrims, on April 20, I will take our newly-confirmed daughter Teresa and two of her friends on a journey to see the Shroud.  If you too feel compelled to make this pilgrimage to Turin in person, there is still time to find a relatively inexpensive airline ticket (bookings to Italy increase in price starting in June) and obtain a 15-minute viewing opportunity to see the Shroud in Turin (at no cost) from the official website www.Sindone.org.

I have been interested in the Shroud of Turin for many years and have developed a PowerPoint presentation that I give to audiences.  It is surprising how little most people know about this fascinating religious object.  Even though we don’t need to believe in the validity of the Shroud to be a good Catholic, the Church considers it to be an important relic, worthy of veneration.  It can help us to understand more fully what Jesus did for us through his suffering and death.

Even among the skeptics, there is no explanation as to how the image of Christ was imprinted on the Shroud.  Catholics believe that Christ rose from the dead, appeared to many hundreds of his disciples and ascended into Heaven.  But when those first disciples entered the empty tomb and saw those linen cloths lying inside “and believed”, could it have been the imprint on the Shroud that helped them overcome their initial unbelief?

As I travel to Rome and Turin and points in between, I will be posting reports and photos to the readers of Catholic Exchange.  Please pray for me and my three fellow pilgrims along the way, as I will pray for you.

Dr. Corsi’s book is available from Simon & Schuster/Threshold Editions $26.00. For excellent websites about the Shroud of Turin see:



Co-author of "Amazing Grace for Fathers", website at RaisingCatholicKids.com

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