600+ years of fakery: the Shroud of Turin
By MarieAlena Castle
Communications Director, Atheists For Human Rights
Of course not, and the Pope knows it, and so do the media. But every year as Easter approaches, the "Shroud of Turin" is trotted out in news stories speculating about whether the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus.
The usual format of these seasonal articles is to report on some religionist's unshakable conviction that the Shroud is genuine. Then the matter of carbon dating is mentioned, which dates the cloth to the Middle Ages. Then this evidence is brought into question by religious spokespersons who suggest that smoke from a fire had damaged the cloth and skewed the carbon dating results.
With essentially only one side of the issue presented, readers are led to believe the Shroud may be authentic. The Vatican is always careful not to assert authenticity but not to deny it either.
Readers of this annually rehashed propaganda would be better served if the media told the truth about the Shroud, which is this (and it is only part of the evidence against the Shroud):
- The carbon dating was not affected by the fire. The pieces tested were cleaned thoroughly to eliminate that possibility.
- The Shroud first appeared around 1355 in Lirey, France. In 1389, Bishop Pierre d'Arcis of that diocese wrote to Pope Clement VII objecting strenuously to the treatment of the Shroud as genuine. He said an official of the church at Lirey had, "falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice, and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by a clever sleight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say, the back and the front, he falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Savior Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb, ..."
- Bishop d'Arcis went on to explain how a predecessor, Bishop Henri de Poitiers, had "discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it, ..."
- The figure on the cloth is not anatomically consistent. The back image shows a full bloody footprint, which requires the knee to be bent. The front image shows the leg straight. The legs are also disproportionately long.
- The hair and blood are shown flowing straight downward instead of toward the back, as happens when a body is lying down. Also, the blood is not running into the hair and matting it, but flowing over it.
- The bloodstains have remained red, indicating they were made with a pigment. Actual blood would have darkened.
There is much more scientific evidence, all of it fully supporting the medieval origin of the Shroud as an artistic creation. Interested persons should refer to the book, Looking for a Miracle, by Joe Nickell. One of the things they will find is a negative photograph showing the face on the Shroud — an exact duplicate created by Nickell as an experimental rubbing image from a bas relief. Making a fake Shroud was no problem for a medieval artist. It was part of long artistic tradition of creating such simulations.
The media are not ignorant of these facts. It may be they are taking their cue from the Pope and don't want to appear to be calling him a liar.
For example, on June 26, 1998, the Minneapolis Star tribune, in its "Q & A on the news" section, responded to a reader's question as to whether any miracles had been attributed to the Shroud. The paper described several miracles that were claimed but not verified. It reported that after the Shroud was saved from a 1997 fire, the Pope said, "A miracle. A holy icon venerated by so many over the centuries has again been saved from the flames."
Nowhere did the Pope acknowledge the testimony of two of his own church's bishops — who were there when the Shroud first appeared — that it is fake "attested by the artist who had painted it." They were honest bishops, intent on seeing that the faithful were not defrauded. If only the Pope could be as honest.
And if only the media could be as honest. Of the vast amount of evidence against authenticity, they usually focus on the carbon dating, then undercut this by saying that only "some" experts consider the results accurate. The media do not point out that the experts on the side of accuracy are fully experienced, unbiased forensic scientists while whose who doubt the accuracy are church affiliated people with a theological position to uphold and little or no expertise in forensic investigation.
Meanwhile, the Vatican regularly puts this "holy icon" on display, careful not to claim too much for it but equally careful not to discourage veneration. Religious people, eager for some shred of physical evidence to support their otherwise unfounded faith, see that they want to see and believe what they want to believe.