“The Shroud is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Christ in existence, or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever products of the human mind and hand on record. It is either one or the other; there is no middle ground.”—Historian John Walsh
Is it real or is it a fake? For more than 600 years since the Shroud of Turin first appeared, religious scholars, researchers and scientists have debated the authenticity of this 14-foot linen cloth as the burial shroud of Jesus Christ.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church has a replica of the famous artifact on display in its sanctuary through the end of July. It is scanned from the original cloth and printed onto plastic film. A nearby television and DVD player offer visitors several explanatory videos to watch. The church is generally open all day from early morning through evening every day except Monday.
The replica belongs to the Shroud of Turin Institute, an Oregon non-profit organization. OLPH Pastor Rev. John Boyle said the Institute contacted him about hosting the display.
“We were originally slated to welcome it during Holy Week, the very week the Church commemorates the suffering and death of Jesus,” Boyle said. “So it would have been a very appropriate time to have this image of the cloth in which Jesus is thought to have been buried. However, COVID-19 happened and so that hosting was cancelled. We were contacted once again and received the replica around the beginning of June.”
The cloth bears a faint yellowed image of a bearded, crucified man with bloodstains that match the wounds suffered by Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in all four of the Bible’s gospel narratives. Experts who have studied the cloth describe the man as muscular and tall with a height between 5’7” to 6’2”.
There are two timelines involving the Shroud’s history. The first is before 1356 and based on circumstantial evidence, legend, art and coins. The second timeline is after 1356 when the history is documented and accepted by historians.
The cloth has been “protected” for six centuries. It was hidden in a wall for more than 400 years then survived the medieval crusades, countless wars, numerous fires, and even Hitler. Since 1578, it has been preserved in the royal chapel of the cathedral of San Giovanni Battista in Turin, Italy.
Rev. Boyle said the Catholic Church has not taken a formal position on the Shroud’s authenticity as Christ’s burial cloth.
He explained, “Many studies have been made of the original shroud, including carbon dating, and the results are interpreted both in favor of and against authenticity. The fact remains, however, that no one has come up with a satisfactory explanation of how the image adheres to the cloth. There is no evidence of paint pigment. Also, the image is a negative. If one inverts the image, (visitors can try this with a cell phone camera) one can see very clearly the image of a man’s face and the rest of his body, including the wounds of a man who was scourged and nailed to cross.”
He added, “If it is a medieval fake, one has to explain how, before the advent of photography, the faker would have thought of this technique. Measurements of the wounds on the body line up with the instruments of torture that would have been used by the Roman soldiers.
“The Church does not take a formal position on the matter since our faith does not depend on whether or not the cloth kept in Turin is truly the burial shroud Our Lord was wrapped in after His crucifixion. It can however strengthen one’s faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,” he said.
As an OLPH parishioner and Catholic convert Lori Eckstine said she is grateful for the opportunity to experience the replica of the Turin Shroud.
“The Shroud is not what gives me faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah Savior who was crucified, died, and rose again because there is ample scientific and historical evidence to support those,” Eckstine said. “The Shroud accurately depicts a Roman scourging and crucifixion in the era of Christ’s life. Having the Shroud to view brings the immense suffering and sacrifice of Jesus within reach of my human senses as if I was there.”
Rev. Boyle said the significance of the shroud to church members and to the Catholic Church reinforces their faith that Jesus is the Son of God made man.
“We believe Christ truly lived, died and rose again. He suffered for our sins and became our Redeemer,” he said. “To contemplate the wounds that were inflicted on His body moves us to respond with love and compunction for our sins and to be ready to lay down our lives for Him and, as Jesus did, for our neighbor. It is also very moving to think that the face we see in the image could be the face of the God-made-man.”
Science has not been able to render a clear verdict on its authenticity so the Shroud remains one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries. OLPH members invite those interested in this famous historic artifact to stop by and see it before the end of July. Parish staff and parishioners are happy to answer visitors’ questions.