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Further historical considerations about the Turin Shroud

05 June 2015


From Mr Charles Freeman

Sir, - May I respond briefly to letters about the authenticity of the Turin Shroud (15 and 22 May)?

There are indeed herringbone weaves from the ancient world, but the Shroud is a three-in-one herringbone, first known in third- century-AD silk damasks. The only known three-in-one herringbone in linen is dated to the 14th century.

Attempts to challenge the radiocarbon dating of 1260-1390 have all failed. No one questions the expertise of the three laboratories involved. Photos of the internal structure of the Shroud and a close-up examination of the sample corner by Mechthild Flury-Lemberg during the 2002 restoration confirmed that the samples were from the original weave.

The significance of the pollen evidence is disputed. A recent study, "Problems with Pollen" by Hugh Farey in Newsletter 79 (June 2014) of the British Society for the Turin Shroud, outlines the problems, notably the close grouping of most of the (undated) pollen in one small area of the Shroud. This suggests the placing of the pollen by hand. There is no reason to suggest that this was earlier than the medieval period (a returning pilgrim from the Holy Land perhaps?).

The reason that I made no mention of the Image of Edessa is that this, dated to the late sixth century, was solely of Christ's face, supposedly transferred on to a cloth offered him when he was still alive. Numerous depictions confirm this, and so there can be no connection with the double image of a full-sized dead body of the Shroud of Turin.

Until there is convincing evidence to suggest otherwise, let us resist the lure of authenticity, and treasure the Shroud as it is, a rare survival of a complete medieval linen, and possibly a unique relic of the birth of European drama.


Oak Farm, Brandeston
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP13 7AX

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