Link to BBC Homepage

Front Page







World News in Audio

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

Friday, April 17, 1998 Published at 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK

World: Europe

A shroud of doubt
image: [ Jesus was said to have been wrapped in the shroud after being taken down from the cross ]
Jesus was said to have been wrapped in the shroud after being taken down from the cross

Ever since it was first photographed 100 years ago, the Turin Shroud has been dogged by controversy.

The delicate linen sheet, believed by some to be the cloth in which Jesus was wrapped after being taken down from the cross, is dismissed by others as an elaborate hoax.

But, according to the saying, no publicity is bad publicity, and the shroud is thought to be the single most studied artefact in history.

Carbon dating

Since it last went on show to the public in 1978, the debate has swung both ways.

[ image: The Radio Carbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University which tested the shroud in the 1980s]
The Radio Carbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University which tested the shroud in the 1980s
The results of carbon dating tests in 1979 revealed it to be a fake, said scientists. No, said supporters who refused to believe science could topple their sacred beliefs.

Nine years later results of more refined carbon dating techniques, carried out by three universities, again concluded the shroud was phoney. It dated from some time between 1260 and 1390 scientists claimed.

That led to the humiliating spectacle of the then Cardinal of Turin, Anastasio Alberto Ballestrero, admitting the garment was a hoax.

Believers keep faith

But believers kept faith and more recently have been rewarded. Last year a Swiss archaeologist who spent 16 years studying the shroud said new tests had proved its authenticity "beyond all reasonable doubt".

[ image: In 1988 the shroud was revealed as a fake]
In 1988 the shroud was revealed as a fake
The archaeologist, Maria Grazia Siliato, explained away the carbon dating results. The analysed piece of cloth had come from a "darned on" repair carried out in the Middle Ages, she said.

She said new research in Paris had revealed the words "Jesus" and "Nazareth" written on the cloth shortly after the body was wrapped in it.

RecentlyDr Leoncio Garza-Valdez and microbiologist Stephen Mattingly also cast doubt on the carbon-dating techniques.

Early photograph

The two said studies done through a microscope show a filmy layer of fungi and bacteria which built up over the centuries. This, they contend, confused the carbon dating process and made the linen appear more recent than it is.

Their theory is that the ghostly image on the cloth was also made by bacteria from the skin of the man it tightly wrapped.

Among the other theories advanced are that the image is the result of an early photography experiment - some even think it was the work of Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci - or that it was burned on as a result of a localised nuclear reaction on the skin of Jesus.

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


Link to BBC Homepage

  Relevant Stories

09 Apr 98 | World
Disciples of the shroud head for Turin

  Internet Links

British Society for the Turin Shroud

The Shroud of Turin

Council for the Study of the Shroud of Turin

Holy Shroud Guild

The display of the Turin Shroud April 18 - June 14

The Devotees of the Holy Face of Jesus - Turin Shroud

The Shroud of Turin - carbon 14 dating hoax exposed

Photo negative images on the Shroud of Turin

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
In this section

Violence greets Clinton visit

Russian forces pound Grozny

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Next steps for peace

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

Trans-Turkish pipeline deal signed

French party seeks new leader

Jube tube debut

Athens riots for Clinton visit

UN envoy discusses Chechnya in Moscow

Solana new Western European Union chief

Moldova's PM-designate withdraws

Chechen government welcomes summit

In pictures: Clinton's violent welcome

Georgia protests over Russian 'attack'

UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'

New arms control treaty for Europe

From Business
Mannesmann fights back

EU fraud -- a billion-dollar bill

New moves in Spain's terror scandal

EU allows labelling of British beef

UN seeks more security in Chechnya

Athens riots for Clinton visit

Russia's media war over Chechnya

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Analysis: East-West relations must shift

Europe Contents

Country profiles