Shroud of Turin Facts

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The Shroud of Turin is an ancient linen cloth measuring 14 feet by 3.5 feet with a faint image of a crucified man that millions believe is Jesus Christ. The cloth is the most analyzed artifact in the world, but due to its numerous unexplained properties, it remains a mystery. Sindonology is the formal study of the Shroud. (Rooted in the Greek word—sindon, used in the Bible’s New Testament Gospel of Mark to describe the burial cloth of Jesus.)

Facts: The Shroud of Turin is the most analyzed artifact in the world, yet it remains a mystery. Sindonology is the formal study of the Shroud. (Rooted in the Greek word—sindon, used in the Bible’s New Testament Gospel of Mark to describe the burial cloth of Jesus.)

The front image on the Shroud of Turin, as it appears on a photographic negative. The marks seen throughout the body were left by scourging from Roman whips. The vertical lines on both sides of the image are burn marks from the 1532 fire.

Facts: The cloth is made of handspun flax. Historians have determined that the weave of the Shroud cloth is woven in a 3-over-1 herringbone pattern. These dimensions correlate with ancient measurements of 2 cubits x 8 cubits - consistent with loom technology of the 1st century AD. The fine weave of 3-over-1 herringbone confirms the New Testament statement that the "sindon" (or shroud) was a “fine linen cloth.” Such a cloth would have been purchased by a wealthy man. Joseph of Arimathea, the owner of the cloth, was a wealthy trading merchant who traveled outside of Jerusalem.

Fact: The Shroud has resided in Turin, Italy since 1578. Thus the name, the Shroud of Turin.  

Facts: The great enigma of the Shroud is the faint, front and back full-body image of a 5’10” crucified man. The “man in the Shroud” is characterized by long hair, full beard and a pattern of bloodstains that are compatible with the torturous wounds inflicted upon Jesus as recorded in all four New Testament Bible Gospel accounts.

Here are some of the wounds suffered by the Man in the Shroud as seen on the cloth:

  • Over 100 whip marks on every portion of his body, left by scourging from Roman flagra and consistent with ancient Roman whips used at the time.
  • Blood stains that formed a circle around the top of his head are consistent with the crown of thorns.
  • Severely bruised knees that could have been caused by falling on the way to his crucifixion.
  • Blood stains around holes in the man’s wrists and feet that would be consistent with the aftermath of large spikes; the marks of crucifixion.  
  • Blood stains around a large wound that would be consistent with an injury sustained by a spear in his side.
  • The man in the Shroud did not have broken legs which is compatible with the biblical account. The legs of both thieves crucified on either side of Jesus were broken to speed asphyxia and death. Jesus was already dead, so the Roman’s did not need to break his legs.
The front image on the Shroud of Turin viewed in B&W and digitally contrast-enhanced.

In 1978 a team of nearly 40 scientists comprising the Shroud of Turin Research Project, Inc. (STURP) had unprecedented access to the cloth for 120 hours and performed a myriad of optical and chemical tests to determine the nature of the image and the bloodstains.

John Jackson, Prof. Luigi Gonella and Eric Jumper prepare to begin the examination of the Shroud of Turin in 1978.

In 1981, the conclusion of the STURP team was announced: The Shroud image was NOT the work of an artist and blood was indeed blood as evidenced by the presence of several blood components.  Further testing of the blood demonstrated it to be an AB blood type. DNA analysis of a blood sample in 1995 revealed the blood to belong to a human male but was too degraded to indicate ethnicity.  

The most significant conclusion of the Shroud Project, as published in 24 separate peer-reviewed journal articles is there is no visible trace of any artistic substances on the cloth to account for the image. There is no evidence that the image of the crucified man on the Shroud is the result of paint, ink, dye, pigment or stain.  

Fact: The image of the man does not penetrate the cloth as it would if any artistic substance was used by someone to create the man’s image. In fact, the best chemistry regarding the image is that it is simply a discoloration of the cloth as a result of something having caused the accelerated dehydration and oxidation of the cellulose linen fibers but only in those areas immediately surrounding a body. The image affects only the cloth’s top two microfibers. It is so thin it can be scraped off with a razor blade. Furthermore, the image is uniform in intensity throughout the entire cloth with no variation in density or color—an impossible feat for any artist of the Middle Ages.

Fact: The mysterious image is the result of dehydration and oxidation of the cellulose fibers composing the linen. There is no known artistic process used in the middle ages that could account for the image.

Fact: Unlike the image, the blood stains on the Shroud do fully penetrate the cloth front to back. The blood stains appeared on the cloth first followed by the image of the man. There is no image under the blood. This makes sense if the Shroud is authentic, i.e. Good Friday followed by Easter Sunday. But it makes no sense if the Shroud is the work of an artist.

3/4 view of the Ventral image of the Shroud of Turin taken from the screen of a VP-8 Image Analyzer, the device used by the STURP team in 1978.

Facts: The Shroud contains 3D “distance information,” the application of which was utilized as the basis for the History Channel’s 2010 mega-hit documentary “The Real Face of Jesus?” and 2017’s updated version, "The Face of Jesus Uncovered?"

Learn more about the man behind these two “Face of Jesus” documentaries, 3D artist and animator, Ray Downing.

The face of Jesus, based on 3D data from the Shroud of Turin.
Credit: © 2010 Ray Downing

Fact: Dust and pollen found on the Shroud are native to where, according to the Bible, Jesus lived and walked.

Fact: The widely reported and controversial 1988 carbon-14 dating tests dating the Shroud between the years 1260 and 1390, used by naysayers to disregard the Shroud as a “medieval hoax” is still hotly contested by scientists and Shroud researchers 30 years later.

A good question to ask is: How could a medieval “artist” make or take a photo negative when photography was not introduced to the world until 500 years later in 1839?

Here are links to mainstream media articles about the controversy.  

USA Today

National Geographic

National Review

Then in 2019 there was a significant breakthrough further debunking the 1988 "medieval" dating of the Shroud.

Raw data and documents from the original tests that were “unavailable” (many scientists and researchers would say deliberately “hidden” for nearly three decades) were obtained in 2017 by Tristan Casabianca, a French researcher.

In March 2019, after two years of tests and analysis, Casabianca and his team of scientists published their results in the scholarly journal Archaeometry.

Casabianca, in a 2019 Townhall.com interview with Myra Adams stated:

“Our statistical analysis shows that the 1988 carbon 14 dating was unreliable: the tested samples are obviously heterogeneous, [showing many different dates], and there is no guarantee that all these samples, taken from one end of the sheet, are representative of the whole fabric. It is therefore impossible to conclude that the shroud of Turin dates from the Middle Ages.” 

Read more about the breakthrough in this "Open Letter to Pope Francis: Time to Re-test the Shroud." 

Most important, SignFromGod encourages you to do your own research about the authenticity of the Shroud. Familiarize yourself with the undisputed facts and unsolved mysteries surrounding this ancient burial cloth. Then, perhaps you will believe as we do that the Man in the Shroud can only be Jesus Christ.

Shroud History

Shroud History Timeline

The most important fact to know about the history of the Shroud is that there are two timelines: The first is before 1356 —based on circumstantial evidence, legend, art, and coins. The second is after 1356, when the Shroud's trail is documented and accepted by historians.

A Reconstruction of the Shroud’s Trail Before 1356:

Early First Century - Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Empire. Legend and folklore speak of a mysterious cloth with healing power, bearing an image of Jesus that arrived in Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey) circa First Century AD. The Apostle Jude Thaddeus, one of the original Apostles of Jesus Christ, is associated with bringing the cloth from Jerusalem to Edessa.  

Early Second Century - Christian persecutions in the Second century were supposedly the reason why the cloth was hidden inside the fortified wall surrounding the city of Edessa.

525 A.D. - After a severe flood destroyed most of Edessa, the cloth was rediscovered when the walls —where the cloth had been hidden for over 400 years —were being rebuilt. The cloth became known as "The Image of Edessa" and later was called “The True Likeness of Christ not made by human hands.” All Orthodox icons of Jesus and Byzantine coins dramatically change to conform to the True Likeness featuring long hair, full beard, large eyes, and flattened nose—all stylistically similar to the Shroud image. 

944 A.D. - The Byzantine Imperial Army invaded Edessa for the express reason of retrieving the cloth from the city which had fallen to Islam. It was taken to Constantinople (now Istanbul) and presented to the Emperor. 

1204 A.D.- Constantinople was invaded by the Fourth Crusade, and the revered cloth disappeared. Some historians believe, and 2009 Vatican research supports long-time rumors that the Shroud was held in secret possession by the Knights Templar before 1356 when the cloth was displayed in France.

Note: There is a significant piece of physical evidence that a burial cloth with an image resembling the man depicted on the Shroud was in Constantinople prior to 1204 A.D. (Before supposedly being stolen by the French during the Fourth Crusade.) This “proof” is known as the Pray Codex or Hungarian Pray Manuscript, a collection of medieval manuscripts with images dated to the late 12th to early 13th centuries.
The Codex resides today in the National Széchényi Library of Budapest.  (See more explanation and illustration below.)

Documented History Begins

1356 A.D. - Geoffrey DeCharney first exhibited the Shroud in Lirey, France. Evidence indicates that members of DeChaney’s ancestral family were also leaders within the Knights Templar organization. For a detailed history of the Shroud by century,  use the following Century Navigator to skip directly to the era of Shroud history you wish to read about or you may scroll through the page in the usual manner. The Century Navigator links will take you to the first event in the list for the specific century you selected. You can always return to this navigator by using your browser's "back" button. A duplicate of this navigator also appears at the end of the history. Courtesy of Shroud.com

Highlights of the Shroud’s Documented History That Today Impacts the Shroud of Turin:

December 4, 1532: The Shroud is folded in 48 layers inside a silver reliquary in Sainte Chapelle, Chambéry, France. A fire breaks out, and drops of molten silver burn through the cloth’s outer folded edges. Miraculously the entire cloth was not destroyed, but the burning silver drops left those distinctive linear markings that line both sides of the Shroud image that we see today. Here are first-hand accounts of the fire from a report of the Chambery nuns dated 1534.

April 16, 1534: Chambéry's nuns repair the Shroud’s fire damage. The nuns sew the Shroud to a backing cloth and sew patches over the most unsightly damaged areas. With repairs completed in May 1534, the Shroud is returned to the Savoys' castle in Chambéry, France, owners of the Shroud. 

Note: The royal Savoy family owned the Shroud from 1450 to 1982 until the former King of Italy, Humberto II passed away and willed the Shroud to the current living Pope.

September 14, 1578: The Shroud arrives in Turin, heralded by a gun salute from the local artillery. The cloth has remained since that time and why it is called the Shroud of Turin.

Second World War 1939 – 1946: On April 8, 2010, the day before the Shroud was going on rare public display, it was revealed and widely reported that in 1939, the Shroud was secretly moved from Turin to Montevergine Abbey in southern Italy. Reportedly, the Shroud needed to be hidden from Hitler. It remained there until 1946 when the Shroud was quietly returned to Turin. Documents found at the Abbey confirmed that the Shroud was “hidden under the altar of a small chapel” with only a select number of authorities knowing that the Shroud had even been moved from Turin.

April 11-12 1997: A destructive fire breaks out in Turin's Guarini Chapel, quickly threatening the Shroud housed in a bulletproof display case. Fireman Mario Trematore uses a sledgehammer to break open the case and rescue the Shroud.  Later, arson is determined to be the cause, but the Shroud is found to be unaffected by the fire. 

April 19 - June 24, 2015: The Shroud’s last public display. A history of the most recent Shroud public exhibitions, starting in 1898, is found here.

2025: Next Shroud public exhibition? Shroud exhibition dates are set by the Pope. There is speculation that the next one will be in 2025. Watch this "official" Holy Shroud site for confirmation and tickets. (Google will translate this Italian site into English.) 

More Explanation of Hungarian Pray Manuscript or Pray Codex: Constantinople between 944 A.D. and 1204 A.D.

Here is more detail about the physical evidence known as the Hungarian Pray Manuscript or Pray Codex that historians believe proves that the Shroud was in Constantinople between 944 A.D. and 1204 A.D.  The codex was written between 1192 and 1195. One illustration in the manuscript shows Jesus being placed on a burial shroud. In another panel, he is wrapped in his burial shroud. The top panel shows a naked body, as we see on the Shroud and Jesus, with hands folded over his pelvis, showing only four fingers and no thumbs--also consistent with the Shroud. 

The second panel shows a long narrow burial cloth--same as the Shroud--with the identical pattern of burn holes found on the shroud. The artist has also drawn the very unusual three-hop herringbone weave like that of the Shroud of Turin. 

Given these distinctive markings, there is no question the Pray Codex from 1192 depicts the same cloth that is in Turin today.  If the Shroud of Turin can be clearly linked to the one that disappeared in 1204, this is the smoking gun that provides a definitive link and clearly falsifies the questionable 1988 carbon-14 dating that found the Shroud dates from 1260 at the earliest.

Earlier evidence indicates this same cloth arrived in Constantinople in 944 when it was retrieved by force from Edessa, a city in current day Southern Turkey which had fallen to Islam.  

Hungarian Pray Manuscript illustration showing Shroud circa 1192, important because the 1988 carbon-14 tests dated the Shroud between 1260 -1390.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT SHROUD HISTORY:

Always remember that the Shroud's mysterious photo-negative properties seen below, were not discovered until 1898 when the new technology of photography was applied to the Shroud.

The full Shroud of Turin as it appears on a photographic negative, vertical orientation. The man’s image is seen at the bottom half of the cloth with his full back side at the top half. The images reflecting how the cloth would have wrapped a dead body.

Aside from its history, the Shroud poses a profound either-or proposition:

The Shroud is either the authentic burial cloth that wrapped Jesus in the tomb or it is the work of an artist. Yet there is no evidence of the cloth being produced through a deliberate artistic effort.

Historian John Walsh described the dichotomy this way:

“The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Jesus Christ in existence or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever products of the human mind and hand on record.  It is one or the other, there is no middle ground.”

A Sign From God Foundation Inc., we characterize it a little differently and perhaps  more to the point:

The Shroud of Turin is either the greatest hoax ever perpetrated...

or

...it is a deliberate and purposeful sign from God.

The Shroud asks us all the same question Jesus asked Peter:

“Who do you say that I am?”

The mission and purpose of The Sign from God Foundation is to explore the meaning of this question as it relates to the Shroud, Jesus, and you.  

A sepia version of the face of the Man of the Shroud

Shroud Photographs ©1978 Barrie M. Schwortz Collection, STERA, Inc.