Legends about images of Jesus Christ miraculous have existed for many centuries. It is widely known, for example, the life of Saint Veronica, a pious Jerusalem woman who gave Jesus her head covering on the way to Calvary. Christ wiped sweat and blood from his face with them, and His face was miraculously imprinted on the veil. No less well-known is the story of the king of Edessa, Abgar V the Great, to whom Jesus sent a plate with his image not made by hands and thus healed of leprosy. According to the Gospel of John, at the end of his farewell supper, Jesus Christ wiped his face with a towel, with which he had previously wiped the feet of the apostles, after which the image of the face of Jesus also remained on it. It is the "copies" from this face that are currently officially called "The image of our Lord Jesus Christ not made by hands." The originals of these relics, if they existed, were lost in time immemorial.
Today there is only one relic depicting Christ, which claims to be authentic and for over 100 years has attracted the close attention of believers and scientists around the world. Back in 1506, in the Bull "Pontifex of Rome", Pope Julius II declared it "the most authentic, purest shroud (proeclarissima sindone), in which our Savior was clothed when he was placed in the grave." And Pope Paul VI in 1978 called it "the most important relic of Christianity." We are talking, of course, about the famous Turin Shroud, an exact copy of which the famous American scientist John Jackson handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1978. In 1997, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia in the Moscow Sretensky Monastery consecrated the image on a copy of the Shroud as the Image of the Savior Not Made by Hands. The problem, however, is that all these miraculous images, not excluding the shroud of interest to us, seem to have been unknown to Christians in the first centuries of the new era. Thus, Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons (130-202), a man who was personally acquainted with the closest disciple of the Apostle John the Theologian, Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna, wrote: "The bodily appearance of the face of Jesus Christ is unknown to us." The great theologian Augustine also complained that there was no way of knowing what Jesus looked like. Supporters of the authenticity of the Turin Shroud tried to get around this contradiction with the help of the Gospels - apocryphal, unrecognized by the official Church. As you know, after the death of Jesus, his secret disciples Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, with the permission of Pilate, removed the body from the cross and “wrapped it in swaddling clothes with incense, as the Jews usually bury”. A day and a half later, Christ was resurrected and the empty "shroud" were discovered first by Mary Magdalene, and then by the apostles Peter and John. However, the faithful Jews could not touch the ritual clothes of the deceased, and therefore Pilate's wife took the burial clothes of the resurrected Jesus Christ and "put it in a place known only to her." Apparently, it was in this "place known to Pilate's wife" that many shroud were later "found". The first of them was discovered in 525 (according to other sources - in 544) in Edessa (the modern Turkish city of Urfa). By the 15th century, 40 Shroud of Jesus Christ were historically recorded in the Christian world. Currently, in Catholic abbeys, cathedrals and temples of Western Europe, at least 26 "authentic burial garments (shroud) of Jesus Christ" are carefully preserved and periodically exhibited for worship by believers. In addition to Turin, the most famous shroud are still in Besancon, Cadoin, Champiegne, Xabregas, Oviedo and other cities. In the twentieth century, during discussions about the Turin Shroud, researchers managed to get to many of these shroud, proving that all these relics were fake. The most shocking was the conclusion about the forgery of the Besanscon Shroud. On it, in addition to the image of the body of the deceased Jesus Christ, there was an inscription in an unfamiliar language. The legend claimed that it was made by the hand of Jesus Christ himself (variants: the Apostle Thomas, who delivered the image to King Abgar by the order of Jesus Christ; the Apostle John, who kept the Shroud and signed with his own hand; the Apostle and Evangelist Luke, who painted the image on the shroud Jesus Christ). However, it turned out that the inscription was made in the XIV century in Arabic and reflects the views of Islam on Jesus Christ. But the Shroud of Turin turned out to be an out of the ordinary exception to this rule, and it was not at all easy to prove or reject its authenticity. Where did it come from and what is it?
At present, it looks like a linen cloth 4, 3 by 1, 1 meters long, against a yellowish-white background of which yellowish-brown spots are visible, somewhat vague, but folding into a human figure. When spread out, on the left half of the canvas, an image of a man in a supine position appears, face up, with his head to the center of the fabric, on the right half of the canvas there is an imprint from the back. Darker reddish-brown spots are also noticeable on the shroud, possibly corresponding to the wounds of Christ inflicted with a whip, needles of a crown of thorns, nails and a spear. If you believe the testimony of eyewitnesses of the 15th century, earlier the image was much brighter, but now it barely shows through. The first documentary mention of the shroud of interest to us dates back to 1353, when the relic appeared in the possession of Count Geoffroy de Charny near Paris. De Charny himself claimed that he "owns the shroud that once dwelt in Constantinople." In 1357, the shroud was exhibited in the local church, which caused a large influx of pilgrims. Oddly enough, the church authorities were very skeptical about the appearance of the relic. For its demonstration, Bishop Henri de Poitiers reprimanded the rector of the church, and his successor Pierre d'Arcy in 1389 even turned to Pope Clement VII of Avignon (modern Catholic historiography considers Avignon popes to be antipopes, but does not throw them out of their history) with a request to ban public displays of the Shroud. At the same time, he referred to the testimony of a certain, unnamed, artist, who allegedly confessed to making this canvas, repented and received from him, from Bishop Pierre, forgiveness for his sacrilege. As a result, on January 6, 1390, Clement VII issued a decree according to which the shroud was recognized as an artistic reproduction of the original veil in which Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of Christ after the execution. In 1532, the shroud was damaged during a fire in the church of the city of Chambery, which, however, did not touch its central part. In 1578, the granddaughter of the Comte de Charny gave the shroud to the Duke of Savoy, who brought it to Turin, where to this day it is kept in a special ark in the Cathedral of Giovanni Batista. The last crowned representative of the Savoy dynasty - the ousted king of Italy Umberto II - bequeathed the shroud to the Vatican, whose property it became in 1983.
So, for many centuries, the Shroud of Turin was not considered unique and did not attract much public attention. Everything changed in 1898, when the shroud was exhibited as a work of art in Paris. Before the exhibition was closed, the archaeologist and amateur photographer Secondo Pia photographed the face of the Shroud of Turin for the first time. When the plate was developed, it turned out that the image on the canvas is negative. At the same time, the image in the photograph turned out to be much clearer than on the canvas, which allowed the experts to draw conclusions about the anatomical perfection of the image and even about the presence of the characteristic features of rigor mortis. New photographs taken in 1931 confirmed the opinion that the image on the shroud is an imprint of a real corpse, and not a drawing or imprint from a statue. At the same time, it turned out that the person, once wrapped in this veil, had a pigtail on the back of his head, which came as a complete surprise to historians: after all, there is no pigtail on any known image of Christ. The crown of thorns, judging by the drops of blood on the head, resembled a miter, which contradicts the medieval depictions of the crown in the form of a European-type crown, but is consistent with modern data. Hands are pierced with nails in the area of the wrists, not the palms, which also contradicts the medieval traditions of depicting the Crucifixion, but is fully consistent with modern archaeological finds of the remains of crucified people and the data of experiments that established that nails driven into the palms of a corpse are not able to keep the body on the cross. Thus, data were obtained that indirectly testify in favor of the authenticity of the shroud, but, at the same time, questioning the bloody stigmata on the bodies of some saints and their followers: after all, open wounds appeared on their palms. But the Shroud of Turin gained its truly worldwide fame in 1952 after a thirty-minute program WNBQ-TV (Chicago). If until then disputes about its authenticity attracted the attention of only narrow circles of believers and skeptical scientists opposing them, now this problem has become the focus of attention of the largest mass media around the world.
One of the main arguments of the skeptics was the absence of any information about the existence of the shroud for thirteen centuries from the moment of the crucifixion of Christ to the appearance of the relic in medieval France. True, some sources report that the crusaders who set up a camp near Constantinople in 1203 saw in one of the temples of this city the burial shroud of Christ with the image of his figure. But when the crusaders captured and plundered the great city a year later, this shroud was not found. It has been suggested that he was abducted by the Templars, who secretly kept him for over a hundred years. It is interesting that the ancestor of Geoffroy de Charny, in whose possession the shroud appeared in 1353, bore the title of Prior of the Templars of Normandy and in 1314 was burned at the stake with the Grand Master Jacques de Male. However, historians do not have any data to identify this mysterious shroud with the shroud of interest to us, and if any appear, the problem will still remain unresolved: the date of the first mention of the shroud will be shifted by only 150 years, which is clearly not enough. Supporters of the shroud's authenticity also found their own arguments. Indirect evidence of the early origin of the shroud may be, for example, the close coincidence of the proportions and details of the face on the shroud with the face of the icon of the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai (45 matches) and the image of Christ on the gold coin of Justinian II (65 matches). True, as skeptics point out, it remains unknown: were the icon and coins copied from the shroud, or was it all the other way around?
When examining the fabric of the Shroud, pollen of 49 plant species was found, of which 16 are found in Northern Europe, 13 belong to desert plants growing in southern Israel and in the Dead Sea basin, 20 are found in southwestern Turkey and Syria. This study proved the Middle Eastern origin, if not of the shroud itself, then at least of the fabric on which it was made, but did not answer the main question - about the time of its manufacture.
In the fall of 1978, the shroud was put on public display. This event was timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of her appearance in Turin. Historians took advantage of this occasion for a more detailed study of the Shroud. Microphotography in polarized light and computer scanning revealed that coins were placed on the eyes of the corpse, one of which turned out to be an extremely rare mite of Pilate, on which the inscription "Emperor Tiberius" was made with a mistake. Skeptics, however, doubt that the Greek rite of putting coins on the eyes of the dead to pay Charon was common among Jews at the beginning of our era. In addition, they quite reasonably note that the Jews actually wrapped a shroud only on the body of the deceased, and wrapped the head in a separate piece of cloth. These objections do not refute the conclusions made above about the authenticity of the image of the crucified body, but they leave open the question of the identity of the executed person and the time of the appearance of this relic. Therefore, throughout the twentieth century and at present, researchers were really worried and worried about only two problems: the exact date of manufacture of the shroud and the technique of its manufacture. In particular, it was hypothesized that the crucified was a member of one of the early Christian communities, crucified during the persecution of Christians. According to another version, the shroud was artificially created in the IV century, which is characterized by the flourishing of the cult of Christian relics and their massive appearance on the “market”. All theoretically possible ways of obtaining an image of a living or dead body on linen were tried, but the prints differed significantly in structure and quality from the image on the shroud. The only exception can be considered an experiment on a living person, conducted at the Vatican. Subject's hands were moistened with 1000-fold dilution of lactic acid (approximately at this concentration it is released with sweat during stress and high loads) and sprinkled with red clay heated to 40 degrees. After two hours, fairly clear prints were obtained on the fabric.
At the same time, researchers found traces of hemoglobin, bilirubin and other blood components, which could only belong to humans or great apes. The blood group was IV. But at the same time traces of paint were found. Previously, it was assumed that she got on the canvas during copying: in different years, the shroud was copied at least 60 times. However, the studies carried out have shown that the fabric of the shroud is in places colored not with blood, but with purple of artificial origin, which they learned to make in the Middle Ages. Thus, it was proved that the unknown master nevertheless “painted on” the image with tempera on a gelatin base, and this was done not earlier than the XIII century, when this technique of painting lines appeared. The data obtained could indicate both the late origin of the relic and its "restoration" in the Middle Ages. Professor of the history of the University of South Carolina Daniel C. Scavrone and French researchers L. Picknett and K. Prince even suggested that in 1492, a great connoisseur of light and colors, Leonardo da Vinci, had a hand in her. That year Leonardo saw the shroud in Milan, perhaps he painted on the face of Jesus Christ in the so-called additional, reversible colors, which caused the appearance of a positive image of his appearance on Secundo Pia's photo-negative.
The most important milestone in the study of the Shroud was in 1988, when the Roman Catholic Church gave permission for its radiocarbon research. This work was entrusted to three independent laboratories - the Geneva Center for Scientific Information and Documentation, the University of Oxford and the University of Arizona. Representatives of each of these centers were given unmarked bottles with samples of four fabrics: one of them contained a piece of the shroud, the other contained fabric from the times of the Roman Empire, the third contained fabric from the early Middle Ages, and the fourth contained fabric from the early 14th century. The conclusions of all three laboratories were disappointing: with an accuracy of 95%, radioactive analysis established that the fabric of the shroud was made between 1260 and 1390. The Archbishop of Turin, Anastasio Alberto Ballestero, was forced to agree with this conclusion. Following him, Pope John Paul II, during his visit to Africa in his speech on April 28, 1989, stated that the Catholic Church recognizes the Turin Shroud only as a sacred relic - an image painted on a canvas that is used in the pre-Easter service in all Catholic and Orthodox temples, but not as genuine burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Thus, the Vatican officially recognized the result of a scientific study of the age of the Turin Shroud. The Pope's words did not affect the popularity of this relic. Its demonstrations in 1998 and 2000 caused a constant stir. Next time it is supposed to be exhibited for display in 2025. Maybe new discoveries and surprises await scientists?