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Saturday, April 18, 1998 Published at 19:26 GMT 20:26 UK

World: Europe

Turin Shroud: Back in the public gaze
image: [ Some of the faithful gather to look at the shroud shortly after it was put on display in Turin Cathedral ]
Some of the faithful gather to look at the shroud shortly after it was put on display in Turin Cathedral

An estimated three million visitors will file into Turin Cathedral in pursuit of a profound religious experience. For two months only the Turin Shroud is back on public show.

The BBC's Orla Guerin, reporting from Turin, says 30,000 people are expected to see the shroud each day
Most of the visitors are devout Christians, preparing for a glimpse of what they believe to be the burial garment of Jesus Christ himself.

Even the Pope is due to make a pilgrimage to the northern Italian city that lends its name to the shroud.

[ image: The Pope will see the shroud in May]
The Pope will see the shroud in May
It is a second coming of sorts. The Shroud of Turin has not been shown in public for 20 years and in that time it has been the subject of intense debate over its authenticity.

The delicate linen sheet, measuring 14ft by 4ft, displays the imprint of a bearded man laid out in death. Hand wounds, that concord with those said to have been sustained by Jesus at his crucifixion, are visible.

Some claim the image was burned into the cloth at the moment of resurrection, making it modern proof of Christianity.

Elaborate hoax

But sceptics dismiss the shroud, which is owned by the House of Savoy in Chambry, France, as nothing more than an elaborate hoax dating from the Middle Ages.

[ image: The image shows wounds to the wrists]
The image shows wounds to the wrists
After June 14 the shroud will be locked away again, although disciples will not have to wait so long for its next showing. The relic is due to go on display again in 2000.

The shroud is not a new phenomenon. It was first discovered around 1350 and is thought to have come to Turin in 1578, by way of Jerusalem, Odessa, Constantinople and Chambry. It has been revered by Christians for centuries.

But it is exactly a century since the cloth was elevated to legendary status after being photographed for the first time. It was the reversed tones from a photographic negative taken in 1898 that clearly revealed the imprint to the world.

Cloning Jesus

Dr Mark Thomas, University College London, says there is concern about the DNA findings
Last month it hit the headlines again when US scientists claimed they had isolated DNA from blood on the shroud. It led to bewildering claims that Christ might one day be cloned.

[ image: Fire broke out at Turin Cathedral last year]
Fire broke out at Turin Cathedral last year
A year earlier, in 1997, the shroud was in the headlines again after being dramatically rescued from a fire at Turin Cathedral. Firefighters broke through two sheets of bullet-proof glass to retrieve the hallowed relic from behind the central altar.

It was the second blaze survived by the shroud. In 1532 it was scorched before being soaked with water and wrapped around a log to dry.

Hoax or relic? ... a shroud of doubt


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17 Apr 98 | World
A shroud of doubt

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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

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