The Shroud of Turin or Holy Shroud is a length of linen cloth bearing the image of a man who is alleged to be Jesus of Nazareth. The cloth itself is believed by some to be the burial shroud he was wrapped in when he was buried after crucifixion. The shroud is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, northern Italy. The Catholic Church has neither formally endorsed nor rejected the shroud.

The origins of the shroud and its images are the subject of intense debate among theologians, historians and researchers. Diverse arguments have been made in scientific and popular publications. Of interest is the fact that the oldest pictures of Jesus show him shaven with short hair.

Catholic tradition recounts that Saint Veronica encountered Jesus along the Via Dolorosa on the way to Calvary. When she paused to wipe the blood and sweat off his face with her veil, his image was imprinted on the cloth. The event is commemorated by the Sixth Station of the Cross.  Little concern is given to the fact that the name “veronica” means “the true ima

About the beginning of the 9th century, bones, teeth, hair, garments, and other fictitious  relics of saints were conveniently "found" all over Europe and Asia and triumphantly installed in the reliquaries of every church.  St. Luke was touted as one of the ancient world's most prolific artists, to judge from the numerous portraits of the Virgin Mary, painted by him, that appeared in many churches. Some still remain, despite ample proof that all such portraits were actually painted during the Middle Ages.


By the 13th century, Constantinople was so crammed with relics that one may speak of a veritable industry with its own factories. Among these were letters in Jesus' own hand, the gold brought to the baby Jesus by the wise men, the twelve baskets of bread collected after the miraculous feeding of the 5000, the throne of David, the trumpets of Jericho and the axe with which Noah made the Ark.

At one point, a number of churches all claimed to possess the one foreskin of Jesus, and there were enough splinters of the "True Cross" to build a synagogue.  The list of absurdities and frauds goes on, and, as Pope Leo X was depicted as saying, the Christ story has been enormously profitable for the Church.

Most of these relics, including the Shroud, disappeared in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, and did not surface again until the middle of the fourteenth century., it is evident that relic, and perhaps others, was confiscated by the Knights Templar. Evidence is that it was worshipped by the Knights. has found its way into the Templar mythos.


A1287 account relates that it was kept in “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access." It is further related that it was  “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and the Knights were instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times.


Clement VII(1478-1534), one of several rival popes, after first trying to hush up those who would expose the shroud of Turin, signed papers declaring it a fraud. Supposedly, the artist who painted it acknowledged it as a forgery. According to documents of that day, certain men, for hire had pretended the "relic" cured them, giving it a reputation, because the forgers desired to make money off it. At that time Bishop Pierre D'Arcis excommunicated those who showed it, but they were raking in so much money they found ways to get around his decision.


The Dukes of Savoy guarded the lucrative object. In 1502 the current Duke requested and obtained papal permission to build a chapel to exhibit the "holy" relic. The Sainte Chapelle of the Holy Shroud was officially completed on this day, June 11, 1502. With great fanfare the Shroud was exhibited and then locked away. Pope Julius II established a feast and mass for the shroud. Countless pilgrims visited the site.


The shroud was reputed to have marvelous powers of protecting people. It could not, however, protect itself, and on December 4, 1532, its chapel caught fire. Brave individuals rushed in to rescue the cloth which had supposedly covered Christ in his burial. Before they could reach it, silver had melted and scorched the cloth and even burnt holes through it.


When the Dukes of Savoy transferred their headquarters to Turin, the shroud went with them, and it is as the Shroud of Turin that it is best known. A black marble chapel was built for it there.


The shroud was first photographed by Secondo Pia. He was astonished when he beheld the negative from his camera. It had reversed the negative image of the shroud and made it look lifelike. He claims he nearly dropped the photograph. This led to claims that the work must be an authentic negative image somehow made by the radiance of Christ at his resurrection.


The scientific conclusion, which it must be emphasized is by no means unanimous, is that the shroud is indeed a forgery, Most conclusive of all were three carbon dating tests done by separate laboratories which first carefully cleaned off the samples. The church announced that the results placed the shroud's earliest possible date at 1000 AD and most probable date between 1260 and 1390, the very time period in which the shroud had emerged into human view. One of the arguments for the shroud's authenticity was that pollens were found on it which originate only in the Middle East. But the issue remains hotly contested and new arguments and tests are constantly suggested by each side.