The Shroud of Turin 2.0

Screen shot from Shroud 2.0 for iPad

Three big news items about the Shroud of Turin for Holy Week: new dating, a live broadcast, and a new app:

1. New Confirmation of Shroud’s Antiquity

The flawed 1988 radiocarbon tests dating the shroud to the Middle Ages have been challenged for years. Giulio Fanti, professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at the University of Padua’s engineering department, recently studied fibers from the 1988 test, and claims his result push the dates back. Way back. Here’s what Vatican Insider says:

The research includes three new tests, two chemical ones and one mechanical one. The first two were carried out with an FT-IR system, so using infra-red light, and the other using Raman spectroscopy. The third was a multi-parametric mechanical test based on five different mechanical parameters linked to the voltage of the wire. The machine used to examine the Shroud’s fibres and test traction, allowed researchers to examine tiny fibres alongside about twenty samples of cloth dated between 3000 BC and 2000 AD.

The new tests carried out in the University of Padua labs were carried out by a number of university professors from various Italian universities and agree that the Shroud dates back to the period when Jesus Christ was crucified in Jerusalem. Final results show that the Shroud fibres examined produced the following dates, all of which are 95% certain and centuries away from the medieval dating obtained with Carbon-14 testing in 1988: the dates given to the Shroud after FT-IR testing, is 300 BC ±400, 200 BC ±500 after Raman testing and 400 AD ±400 after multi-parametric mechanical testing. The average of all three dates is 33 BC ±250 years. The book’s authors observed that the uncertainty of this date is less than the single uncertainties and the date is compatible with the historic date of Jesus’ death on the cross, which historians claim occurred in 30 AD.

2. Televised Showing of the Shroud

A conference on the shroud is taking place over the next two days. Part of this will entail a televised viewing of the shroud on Holy Saturday. (Eastern rites traditionally observe the time Christ spent in the tomb using an Epitaphios, which is a shroud-like cloth or icon depicting the burial of Christ.  I’m not quite sure what that means or what stations will carry it, but keep an eye on for more details.

Reportedly, the broadcast will be accompanied by a message from Pope Francis.

 3. The Shroud App

There’s a new app from Haltadefinizione, the people who did the detailed high definition photography on the shroud in 2008. The app is free for iPhone and iPad, with a $4 optional purchase for higher-def images.

The image is a composite of 1649 detailed photos, which, according to Haltadefinizione, makes it a “12 billion pixels image, held in a 72 Gigabytes file, corresponding to the content of 16 DVDs.” You don’t need that much space for that app: it serves up the images on the fly with a base installation size of 50MB.

I’ve been playing around with it a bit, and it includes a detailed image that you can zoom and scroll, as well as various fact sheets and points of interest on the shroud. You can view it in negative or positive photography, and change contrast and brightness to bring out different details. The app includes details on the cloth, forensic analysis, blood evidence, and chemical, botanical, radiocarbon, and mathematical data produced by the studies.

Is It Real?

Is the shroud the burial cloth of Jesus Christ? I’ve never found the debunkers particularly persuasive, but my faith neither rises nor falls on its authenticity. It’s a pretty incredible artifact any way you look at it.  I don’t claim any special expertise in any of the sciences, but as someone trained as a cinematographer (including a semester of optics), I can say that it certainly appears to be an image created by light, not paint. That alone makes it remarkable.

I saw a documentary once where a man “proved” he could reproduce the image using totally natural means. He presented his reproduction, painted on cloth, with pride and victory. He thought this was the final vanquishing of the God-botherers who believe the shroud to be authentic … and it looked nothing at all like the actual image.

What do I think? I think it’s the real deal.