Relics of Our Lord: The Shroud of Turin and the Shroud of Oviedo

The Shroud of Turin is one of the relics of Our Lord that arouses most interest in the scientific community. Numerous studies on this cloth continue to provide surprises today. 

Alejandro Vázquez-Dodero-July 4, 2021-Reading time: 6 minutes
sindone of turin

What is the shroud of Turinalso known as the holy shroud, shroud, shroud or shroud? Traditional meaning and tokens of piety.

It is a linen cloth showing the image of a man with marks and bodily traumas such as those that may be present in a crucifixion. It measures 436 cm long and 113 cm wide.

It is kept in Turin, in its own chapel built in the seventeenth century, within the complex composed of the cathedral, the royal palace and the so-called palazzo Chiablese.

Sindone of Turin

There has always been an extensive debate about its origins, and the figure contained in the shroud. Among scientists, theologians, and researchers in general. Many argue that it is the clothing that covered the body of Jesus Christ when he was buried, and that the figure that was engraved on the cloth is his.

The story of the photographer Secondo Pia, who, in 1898, while developing the photographs he took of the canvas, saw "the holy face appear, so clear that he recoiled", is overwhelming. He did not suspect that his discovery would impact the scientific community in the way it did. Since then, this sheet has been the object of systematic examination, giving rise to the scientific discipline known as "syndonology"; in Greek, "sábana" means "sidon".

According to the Gospels, before Jesus' body was placed in the tomb, it was wrapped in a sheet. As it was then done, they would put a cap on his head, tied to his cheeks. Then he would be wrapped lengthwise with a sheet - "sindon"- and tied horizontally with two bandages. Finally, a veil - "sudarion"- would cover his face.

Jewish law held that a corpse was unclean, so anything that touched it became unclean. This changed with the resurrection of Jesus, hence his disciples were anxious to preserve the objects that had been in contact with his corpse.

Eusebius of Caesarea, 3rd century, is the first to refer to the existence of a canvas with the footprint of Jesus. Since then there are traces of its different destinies, custodies and vicissitudes.

At the end of the 16th century the shroud will be kept in Turin. The so-called Mandylion of Edessa became known as the Shroud of Turin. Only at the beginning of the 18th century, due to the French siege of the city and during the Second World War, it was moved to a different location for security reasons.

When the last of the monarchs of the House of Savoy died in 1983, the Holy Shroud passed into the care of the Holy See.

Several scientific studies, among other conclusions, have reached the following:

  • The image reflected in the shroud is of a man who suffered extreme agony;
  • the yarn with which the cloth was woven comes from the Middle East; fabrics of this type were already in use in the early years of Christianity, and probably come from Jewish looms;
  • the shroud coincides with sepulchral canvases of the 1st century;
  • the image was not painted because no traces of pigment could be seen, as well as the fact that no medieval artist would have been able to paint it because the technique of perspective that it reflects was not known at that time;
  • a high percentage of the seeds found in the relic come from Judea;
  • the pollen of one of the plants found in the shroud refers to the one used to extract the thorns that would form the crown with which Jesus Christ was crowned;
  • From the image it can be seen that nails would go through the wrists of the hands, and not the palms as the crucified is represented in images and paintings; this would confirm that the image of the sheet is not a medieval pictorial forgery;
  • After the studies on the image production technique, it is concluded that we are dealing with an image that is not handmade;
  • At the foot of the cloth, traces of minerals that were used in the constructions of ancient Jerusalem were discovered, which would confirm that whoever was wrapped in it would have passed through that city;
  • the drawings of coins that would have been placed on the body reflecting the fabric were discovered in the eye sockets, and these coins are from the time of Tiberius; that is, from the first years of the first century, when Jesus Christ died.

It should be noted that the Catholic Church has not expressed itself on the authenticity of the shroud. Especially because there is scientific evidence that dates the cloth to years after the 1st century, such as the test carried out in 1988 by radiocarbon -carbon 14-, which places it in the 14th century.

St. John Paul II pronounced himself in 1998, stating that since it is not a question of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions. It will be up to scientists to investigate further.

In 1958 Pope Pius XII officially authorized the devotion to the so-called "Holy Face of Jesus", the face engraved on the shroud of Turin.

Various events in connection with the Shroud of Turin

At the beginning of the 16th century there was a fire in the chapel that guarded the shroud; it was damaged and, for its restoration, a series of patches or patches were used.

In 1997 a new fire damaged the shroud. But it was restored in 2002, and the cover of the sheet and a series of patches were removed. Thanks to this restoration, the back of the cloth, which until then had been hidden, could be accurately studied.

The exposition of the Holy Shroud to the public is very reserved, due to the care that must be taken. The last exhibitions took place in 2000 on the occasion of the Jubilee, in 2010 at the express wish of the now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and in 2015 for the bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco.

Characteristics of the image engraved on the shroud

Although there are many opinions about the characteristics of the image of the man engraved on the shroud, there seems to be agreement on some of them.

It should be noted that the colors are inverted with respect to a normal optical image. This is why it has been compared to a negative. The contours of the image, which can only be seen at a certain distance, are imprecise.

There are naturally believers who consider the image as a trace of the resurrection of Jesus, and they count on supernatural -or at least semi-natural- effects that must have collaborated in the process of stamping the image on the shroud. That is to say, they believe in the miracle of such stamping, and they believe that the one who was stamped was Jesus Christ himself, for the type of wounds and other details that agree with his person.

The shroud of Oviedo: what is it and why is it related to the shroud of Turin?

In addition to the Holy Shroud, there are other Christian relics related to the clothes that Jesus Christ may have worn after his descent from the Cross and burial.

One of them is the shroud -or "pañolón"- of Oviedo. In this Spanish city a small linen cloth stained with blood is preserved. It is venerated as the burial garment that, according to the Gospels - cf. John 19:40 and 20:5-8 - constituted the shroud that covered the head. The four evangelists refer to various cloths that Our Lord wore on the occasion of his burial: the shroud or sheet, the shroud or headcloth, and the bandages. They report that on arriving at the tomb on Easter morning Peter and another disciple found the tomb empty and the linen cloths folded, and the shroud that had been placed on his head, not folded with the linen cloths but separately, still rolled up.

There are legends that point to the presence of the shroud in Oviedo since the 8th century, before which it must have remained for some time in the Holy Land, assuming that St. Peter would be its first custodian.

As with the shroud, there are studies about the composition of the fabric of the shroud of Oviedo, the blood and other remains found in it, which lead to think that it could be that of Jesus Christ.

The most important question in the study of the Oviedo shroud is its relationship with the Turin shroud or Holy Shroud. On several occasions it has been affirmed that both garments covered the same head at two different times but close to each other; this is based on the history, the causes of death of the man who must have worn those cloths, and the blood composition and patterns of the stains that have come down to us.

However, contrary to the thesis that these garments belonged to Jesus Christ, there are four dates that support that the kerchief is of medieval origin, located between the 6th and 9th centuries.

Also opposed to that belonging there are those who defend that, if the shroud of the Lord had been conserved, the evangelists would have picked it up in their stories, thing that they did not do. Something different is the fact that the Gospel of St. John speaks of a handkerchief to cover the face of Jesus and a bandage or linen that tied or bound the body, and the rest of the Gospels only speak of a shroud as a sheet. The latter would rule out the Gospel of St. John among those who recognize the veracity of the shroud.

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