PBS Special on the Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is one of the most fascinating objects related to Christianity. In saying that, I am not saying that the Shroud is authentic -- just fascinating. There are good reasons to think that it is real, but there are also good reasons to think that it is an extremely good fake. I personally haven't made up my mind one way or another about the Shroud, for while it is truly a fascinating artifact, if it is ever demonstrated conclusively not to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus it will have absolutely no impact on my faith. Still, the possibility that it is genuine is one of the things that make the Shroud so fascinating.

Coming very soon, PBS will be airing some information related to recent examinations of the Shroud. According to the PBS website's page on Secrets of the Dead: the Shround of Turin:

The debate over the Shroud's origins has raged furiously since its first documented appearance in Lirey, France, in the 1350s. Is it an authentic burial shroud, or just a brilliant medieval fake? In 1532, the Shroud was stationed in Chambery in the French Alps, when the chapel housing it burned down. The corner of the Shroud, folded to fit in a silver casket, was burned through, resulting in a pattern of 24 burn holes. A team of nuns sewed triangular patches over the worst holes and sewed the Shroud onto a linen backing cloth to strengthen it.

In 1988, three of the world's foremost carbon-dating labs announced in agreement that the Shroud could be dated only as far back as the 13th or 14th century. Then, in the summer of 2002, Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, a renowned textile restorer, was invited to Turin to undertake an unprecedented restoration of the shroud, which called for the removal of both the backing cloth and all the medieval patches. It marked the first time a fabrics expert had worked so closely with the precious relic, and what she eventually uncovered shook the study of the shroud to its foundations.

SECRETS OF THE DEAD: "Shroud of Christ?," reveals the brand-new forensic evidence that Christianity's most treasured existing relic is indeed 2,000 years old, dating from the time of Christ. Upon examining a side of the Shroud no one had seen before, Flury-Lemberg's team found a style of stitching they had seen only once before -- amid the ruins of the Jewish citadel of Masada, a town destroyed by the Romans in 74 A.D. Adding to the latest interest are bacteriologists' experiments that may prove once and for all how the image on the cloth was ever imprinted, and forensic experts' analysis of the wounds on the image, which appear closely to reflect those of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament.

A new chapter in the history of the Shroud is unfolding. SECRETS OF THE DEAD: "Shroud of Christ?" will document the fabric experts' work, revisit the forensic science community's many attempts to accurately date the Shroud, and follow bacteriologists' quest to prove scientifically once and for all how the relic came to be.

The page allows you to enter your zip code in the United States to determine when the show will air in your local market. While I don't think that the PBS page is accurate when it describes the Shroud as "Christianity's most treasured existing relic", I do think it interesting that the webpage suggests the new evidence will confirm that it is, in fact, 2,000 years old. If it airs at a time that I am available, I plan to watch the special. It looks fascinating.


Jason Pratt said…
We have existing relics more treasured by Christians (generally speaking) than the Shroud?? Um... I guess I'm not Catholic enough. {g} That-or-those would be, what? (Autographic originals of any canonical document? The Spear of Destiny?)

While it's true that a very large percentage of us don't 'treasure' the Shroud (much less are even sure it's legit), a very large percentage of us do. The RCC is still a large, maybe still the largest, Christian group. I think it's accurate enough to say that this is the most treasured existing relic in Christianity (real or forged). It just needs to be qualified that many of us (myself included) don't treasure it all that much yet. {s}

I'm in the same boat you are, btw, about its provenance. The existance of the medieval backing cloth is interesting; but I've read the forensic report which, unless its authors are just lying, is pretty thorough about the cleaning and care involved in getting good samples--and the authors easily recognized the Shroud cloth _compared to_ samples of verified cloth from the proper times-and-places, both ancient and medieval. The analysts weren't just theory geeks; they had routine experience in dating this kind of thing before.

And yet on the other hand, the level of forgery involved would seem to include ridiculous levels of verisimilitude--far from impossible, but still implausible for a medieval forgery.

Interesting either way. {shrug} {g}

BK said…

You are right. It very well may be the treasured existing relic, but I guess it depends upon what constitutes a relic. For me, the most treasured relics are the ancient papyri (like P52) that give us confidence that the Biblical writings are both quite old and quite accurate.

Also, given that I have doubts about its authenticity, I find that I can't even ascribe to the Shroud the idea that it is an important relic. After all, if it really isn't Jesus' burial shroud, it isn't really a relic at all, is it? So, to ascribe to it the "most important relic" stature without first confirming that it is genuine (or, at least, making a case that most would accept as being a case for its authenticity) seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse.

But, of course, you are right in that in the eyes of those who see it as authentic, it is the most important relic.
Anonymous said…
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