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La sindona is a piece of cloth that has captured the imagination of devout people for at least a thousand years. La sindona is the famous Shroud of Turin venerated by Catholics in particular as the actual shroud in which the crucified body of Christ was wrapped before it was laid in the tomb. The shroud is now securely housed in a bulletproof display case in the Chapel of the Shroud in Turin. Pilgrims and tourists flock to see it. But is it really what it is claimed to be?
The camera cannot lie?
But this changed dramatically in 1898, when the Shroud was photographed for the first time by Secondo Pia from Turin. Artists had painted it in the past, but Pia was a meticulous lawyer by profession and he wanted an exact copy. These first pictures amazed him.
Don't be too quick to dismiss-accept-the Shroud. It is perhaps, the most studied artefact in all human history. Shroud study even has its own word: Sindonology-and it is not easy to ignore the results of so much research. This linen cloth is 14'3" long and 3'7" wide. There are a few faint marks that look like bloodstains. It is reputed to be not only the grave cloth of Jesus Christ, but also having what many regard as the only authentic likeness of the face and body of the Saviour. However this amazing claim has never been absolutely proved. So could it be genuine?
Let's take a quick overview of its history: In 544AD, an extraordinary cloth image 'not made by hand' was preserved at Edessa, which is now Urfa, in Turkey. In 944AD, this cloth, the image of Edessa', was transferred to Constantinople where it must have been spread out so the whole body could be seen. 1204AD: Testimonies written by Crusaders declared that they had seen 'the Shroud of Our Lord'. These historical references are intriguing, but information before the thirteenth century cannot be connected unequivocally with the Shroud now in Turin. But we do know that in 1353AD, the Turin Shroud was in the possession of Count Geoffrey de Charney at lirey in France. From this point on, the Shroud's presence in the West has been carefully documented.
153AD: A fire broke out in the sacristy of the Sainte-Chapelle at Chambery. The Shroud's silver casket began to melt and a drop of molten silver from the lid fell on one edge of the folded garment, burning through several layers of fabric. Nuns later repaired it with triangular patches. 1578AD The Shroud was transferred to Turin to shorten S. Carlo Borromeo's long and tiring journey to fulfill his vow to venerate the cloth in gratitude for the deliverance of Milan from the plague. Ever since, pilgrims continue to venerate it while critics dismiss it as a rather crude medieval forgery.
What emerged in his darkroom was not a fuzzy negative but a sharply defined positive image of the front and back of a man's unclothed body. This could only mean that what was mysteriously imprinted on the Shroud was a negative image on the photographic plate. Scientists and cynics suddenly sat up and took notice, because however old the Shroud was, it was definitely made several centuries before the invention of photography. How could this be?
Sings of authenticity
There are many facts about the Shroud that seem to rule out deliberate fraud. It is said that the stains are real type AB blood, produced by a human corpse which had suffered immense pain. There are wounds to the head by a cap of thorns-more likely than a circular crown-and bruising on the shoulders that could come from carrying of a cross. There are also wounds that are consistent with nails through wrists with the thumbs retracted due to the classic damage to the median nerve, and also nails through ankles. There is a deep wound in the side with no sign of the legs being broken, and evidence of a hasty temporal burial with no decomposition which would certainly have appeared after 3-4 days.
There are marks of heavy scourging on the back. All these point to the possibility that perhaps this might indeed be the actual burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Apparently, it has been calculated that the odds of all this being coincidence are about 10 billion to one.
In 1978, forty American scientists were allowed five days for a hands on examination of the Shroud. Thousands of experiments were performed; pages upon pages of documentation were gathered. The purpose was not to prove or disprove the Shroud, but to determine how the image got there and, in so doing, to determine whether the Shroud was a hoax.
A decade later a portion of the Shroud was exposed to Carbon 14 dating. The results seemed to indicate a date of between 1260-1390AD. But the results of this study are vigorously disputed, because it was conducted in an astonishingly lax way. The research has been described as being handled with 'rashness, shortcomings, inaccuracies and leaked information'. So there is still no conclusive proof either way.
So, what is the truth about this cloth? Could it be the real thing? The Bible does indeed tell us that there was a neatly-folded cloth found in the tomb (John 20:6-7). It does not say what, if anything, the disciples did with it. After all, what was in the tomb didn't impress them-it was what was not there. A shroud remained, but Jesus had gone!