The Shroud of Turin Now on Display

One of Christianity’s most sacred relics, the Shroud of Turin, is now on display at the Cathedral of Turin through May 23. Accompanying the exhibit are a few unique, related activities. One such plan, which church authorities do not endorse, is the sale of 3-D glasses to enhance viewers’ ability to see minute details on the shroud, including the wounds on the feet, side, and wrists of the man pictured on the cloth. The Times Online reports that the Salesian religious order plans to sell the two-filter 3-D glasses for 2 euros each in its bookshop in Turin. According to Discovery News, these glasses are called HI-Rex-1 and HI-Rex-1L, and allow wearers to view the blood traces and the outline of a man’s body through two filters in the glasses lens.

Another exhibition aims to bring life to the man that Christians claim as their savior by showing films that spotlight the life of Jesus, reports Italian news agency ANSA. The exhibit, called Ecce Homo, will take place at Turin’s National Museum of Cinema and include stills, posters, books, scores, and other related memorabilia from 30 recent films. The films, ranging from 1927 to 2004, include The King of Kings, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Passion of the Christ.

The exhibit invites visitors to analyze how filmmakers’ concepts of the life and times of Jesus have changed over the past century, and to explore different interpretations of major events in Jesus’ life, including birth, his miracles, faith, and followers, betrayal, the Last Supper, and crucifixion. All 30 films will be shown over the next few weeks at the museum’s cinema. The exhibit’s title, Ecce Homo, means “Behold the Man” in Latin and refers to the words Pontius Pilate allegedly announced to the crowd as Jesus was bound for his crucifixion.

Of course, many believe that the shroud contains an image of the face of Jesus Christ, and that it was used to wrap his body upon his burial in a stone tomb. Skeptics disagree with these claims, arguing that carbon-dating tests performed in the 1980s date the shroud to medieval times; more recent tests contradict these results and suggest that the shroud is around 3,000 years old. Last week, Discovery News announced that a new method of carbon dating could end this dispute and prove how old the shroud is. Unlike previous carbon dating methods, which rely on removing a sample of the object for analysis, scientist Marvin Rowe’s method involves placing the object in a chamber with a plasma, an electrically charged gas. The gas then oxidizes the surface of the object without destroying it, producing carbon dioxide for use in carbon-14 analysis.

The shroud, which is normally only displayed to the public every 25 years, was last on display in 2000 when the Roman Catholic Church celebrated the new millennium. Since its last public appearance, the shroud has been restored, as the patchwork repairs done by nuns in the Middle Ages were removed in 2002. The image on the cloth is only clearly visible under photographic negatives and is an image of a long-haired, bearded man with bloodied wounds to his feet, wrists, and side.

If you decide to visit the shroud, expect crowds and long lines – the city of Turin expects around two million visitors, each of whom will be given three minutes to view the holy cloth. Pope Benedict will make a pilgrimage to see the shroud on May 2nd, a day that will likely be especially crowded. Information on how to purchase tickets and tips for pilgrims is available here. Visitors must book (free) tickets in advance in order to see the Shroud. – Elaine Murphy