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Friday, June 5, 1998 Published at 23:31 GMT 00:31 UK

World: Europe

New 'evidence' in Turin Shroud mystery

Scientists have long argued over whether this is the face of Christ

The argument over the authenticity of the Turin Shroud has taken a new twist after researchers say they may have found fresh evidence that the cloth bears the face of Christ.

Rex Morgan: "Another link in the evidence"
A team carrying out work in some of Rome's ancient catacombs have discovered a ceiling fresco which they believe shows the same man as the image on the holy relic.

They believe that the portrait dates from as early as 60AD, indicating it may have been painted by someone who had actually seen Christ while he lived.

Rex Morgan, an author on books on the Shroud, said he believed there was sufficient evidence to date the portrait to the first century.

"This painting looked to me to be very much the same features of the man on the Shroud of Turin," said Mr Morgan.

[ image: New evidence may be in Rome's catacombs]
New evidence may be in Rome's catacombs
"All the earliest portraits are all Romanesque figures, beardless and youthful, whereas this one is very clearly a ... Jew with long black hair and a beard and other features you would associate with the traditional likeness of Christ."

"If we are right and it was painted in, let's say, about 60AD, it could very well or would almost certainly have been painted by an eye-witness, someone who had actually seen the man."

Mr Morgan suggested that St Mark may have commissioned the portrait but he added that it could not conclusively prove the image on the shroud is that of Christ.

"What it does, is adds another link into the very many pieces of evidence which suggests that the Shroud of Turin is a 2,000 year old item.

"You are never going to prove it's the shroud of Christ, but it's another link in this extraordinarily mysterious chain of evidence."

Debate rages on authenticity

[ image: Tests have cast doubt on the age of the cloth]
Tests have cast doubt on the age of the cloth
Scientific tests have cast doubt on the age of the Turin Shroud, indicating it might date from the Middle Ages.

But other evidence suggests it is not a painting and the image could have been left by a corpse.

More intriguing still, computer analysis indicates the shroud has unusual three-dimensional properties and scientists have also found traces of pollens from the Middle East.

The shroud recently went back on view at Turin Cathedral and thousands made a pilgrimage to the city to see the relic.

Speaking during his visit, Pope John Paul II called on scientists to keep an open mind about the shroud.

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Internet Links

Turin Cathedral: The Shroud

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Turin Shroud education project

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