People view the Shroud of Turin on display at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, in this April 26, 2010, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
June, Pope Francis will be making a pilgrimage to Turin, Italy, home of the
famous Shroud of Turin, which many believe is the 2,000-year-old burial cloth
of Jesus Christ. The pope’s June 21-22 visit will include time venerating the
Shroud at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. Francis will then visit the
tomb of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, buried in a nearby altar. The trip will also
include a commemoration of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians and patron
saint of youth who worked in Turin; this year marks the 200th anniversary of
his birth. The papal visit will take advantage of April 19-June 24 exposition
of the Shroud, which was last displayed in public in 2010.
Shroud, which is a 14.5’ by 3.5’ linen cloth bearing the image of the front and
back of a man who has been scourged and crucified, has been kept in Turin since
Schwortz is one of the world’s leading experts on the Shroud. In 1978, Schwortz, a
technical photographer, was invited to participate in the first ever in-depth
scientific examination of the cloth, known as the Shroud of Turin Research
Project (STRUP). A non-practicing Jew at the time, he reluctantly agreed
to be part of STRUP, fully expecting the team to prove that the Shroud was a
painted image from the Middle Ages. But after many years of study and
reflection he came to believe in its authenticity.
by frequent inaccurate media reports on the subject, in 1996 Schwortz launched a website to share the true story of the
Shroud and scientific research that had been performed on it. Two decades
later he still makes Shroud presentations in the media and to a variety of
groups, including seminarians in Rome.
recently spoke with CWR.
are some of the most compelling arguments that the Shroud is authentic?
Barrie Schwortz (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
years ago, when I went to Italy with STRUP to examine the Shroud, I assumed it
was a fake, some sort of medieval painting. But after 10 minutes studying
it, I knew it was not [a painting]. As a professional photographer, I was
looking for brush strokes. But there was no paint and no brush strokes.
17 years I refused to accept that the Shroud was authentic. The last
argument holding me back was related to the blood. The blood on the Shroud
is reddish, but blood on a cloth, even after just a few hours, should turn
brown or black. I had a conversation with Alan Adler, a blood chemist, on
the phone and I shared my reservation. He got upset and asked, “Didn’t you read
had found a high content of bilirubin on the Shroud, which explains why the
blood on the Shroud is red. When a man is beaten and has had no water, he
can go into shock and the liver starts pumping out bilirubin. It makes the
blood stay red forever. It was the last piece of the puzzle for me. I
had nothing left to complain about. Sometimes I wonder why I hadn’t asked
Alan Adler that question 17 years before, but I guess I wasn’t ready for the
answer back then.
this was the final evidence that convinced me, it is no one particular piece of
evidence that proves the Shroud is authentic. The entirety of evidence
indicates that it is.
of my favorite testimonials as to the authenticity of the Shroud actually came
from my Jewish mother. She was originally from Poland, and had only a high
school education. She heard one of my lectures, and afterwards we were driving
home. She was quiet for a long timeyou have to worry when a Jewish mother
is quietso I asked her, “Mom, what did you think?” She said, “Barrie, of
course it’s authentic. They wouldn’t have kept it for 2,000 years if it
that was an excellent point. According to Jewish law, a blood-soaked
shroud would have had to have been kept in the grave. To remove it, in fact,
you would have been putting yourself at risk because you were violating the
most plausible explanation to me for the Shroud, both because of the science
and my own personal background as a Jew, is that it was the cloth that was used
to wrap Jesus’ body.
are some of the common falsehoods about the Shroud?
would take hours to compose such a list. There seems to be a constant cacophony
of nonsense being put out about the Shroud. One involves a medieval artist
creating it by using three different photographic exposures and his own urine;
I call that the “Shroud of Urine” theory. Now why would someone go to all
that trouble when they simply could have painted an image?
Shroud is a complex object, and a six-page article or 44-minute
documentarywhich must be entertainingcan’t do it justice. That’s why I
created www.shroud.com so that people can review
all the data and come to their own conclusion based on the facts.
does the Shroud tell us about the physical sufferings of Christ?
literally a document of the Passion and the torture Jesus suffered. His
face was severely beaten, and was particularly swollen around the eyes. I’m a
fan of professional boxing; the facial image on the Shroud reminds me of a
boxer who’s just lost a match.
man has been severely scourged. Not only do we observe the wounds on the
back, but the thongs wrapped around the body and hit the front as well.
Forensically speaking, the image on the Shroud is more accurate than common
depictions we see in art.
has a spear wound on his side. His legs are not broken, as was typically the
case with men who are crucified. His head and scalp are covered in
wounds. Again, in art, we often see the Crown of Thorns depicted as a small
circle resembling laurel leaves around Christ’s head. But that is not
realistic. The soldiers actually took a thorn bush and smashed it down on his
see the back of one hand, which indicates that the nails were driven not
through the center of the palm, but an inch closer to the wrist. For a
Roman soldier crucifying 20 or more people at a time, that makes sense. It’s
the perfect place to drive a nail that will hold, and then you can move on to
your next victim.
the feet, it’s impossible for us to judge if a single nail held both feet, or
if nails were driven in each one. We have the actual remains of two crucifixion
victims, and two nails were used in their feet.
stretched out on the cross so that his arms were dislocated? And, had part of
his beard been plucked out?
Schwortz: The forensic evidence tells
us that he could have been stretched so that his arms were dislocated. And,
we do observe a V-notch in his beard, indicating that it could have been
the end, the forensic evidence indicates that the Gospel account is an accurate
depiction of what happened during the Passion of Christ.
people have seen many other things in the Shroud, such as Roman coins covering
yes. People see coins, flowers, and all kinds of other things that may or
may not be there. Regarding the coins, on our STRUP team we had a NASA imaging
scientista good Catholic, in factwho indicated that the weave of the linen
was too coarse to pick up the inscription of a coin. What we’re certain of
is that we see an image of a man, and isn’t that what is important?
your study of the Shroud, what kind of physical description of Christ can you
a well-built man; what we might describe as buff today. He had a strong upper
body, a deep chest and good-sized shoulders. This makes sense, as he was a
carpenter. At that time you’d have to go out and fell a tree, cut it up
and carve it, all things which would require a lot of physical strength.
his height, it’s hard to tell. There is no defined edge of the image. It
just fades out. The cloth, too, can be affected by humidity and
stretched. That said, our best guess is 5’10” or 5’11”. So, he’d be a
taller man for the time, but not so tall that the Gospel writers made note of
it. In fact, we have the remains of Jewish men from the era that were over
have a ponytail?
certainly looks like it. Orthodox Jews of the period wore their hair long.
can you tell us of the cloth itself?
a high-quality cloth that a man of high stature would have owned. It was
probably made in Syria, and brought to Jerusalem on the back of a camel. Since
it was imported, it would have been expensive. This is consistent with the
Gospel account, which indicated that Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy
man. He probably owned it and had been planning to use it for
my own Jewish father died he planned out his entire funeral. It’s
reasonable to believe that Joseph of Arimathea did the same. When Christ died
he gave him his own shroud, planning to buy another one for himself at some
website just celebrated its 19th anniversary.
1995, I was talking to a friend, and he said, “You know that Shroud thing
you’ve been studying? It was a painting by Leonardo da Vinci.” I
asked him where he got that information. He said, “My wife and I were at
the grocery store, and we saw it in a tabloid at the check-out.”
Leonardo da Vinci was a pretty good artist, but we have documentation about the
Shroud dating back 100 years before he was born. No one is that
good! I remember writing myself a note: “Consider building a website.” I
did, and I’ve been overseeing and adding to it ever since.
realized long ago what a great privilege it was to be in that room in Italy
with STRUP in 1978. But with that privilege came a responsibility. As
I tell my audiences, I wasn’t in that room for me, but for you. I don’t know
why God picked me to be there, but what better witness than a skeptic? I
had no emotional attachment to or interest in the subject at the time.
was involved in your time with STRUP in 1978?
arrived a week early with 80 crates of equipment, which was seized for five
days by Italian customs. We had a limited time to implement a 67-page test
plan, and as we had lost five days of preparation, we weren’t certain we could
run all of our tests.
Catholic Church itself had very little involvement. The Church, in fact,
didn’t own the Shroud at the time. King Umberto, Duke of Savoy (the former
ruling family of Italy), whose family had owned the Shroud for six centuries,
gave permission for us to study it. The Church in Turin was merely the
custodian of the artifact.
initially asked for 96 hours to study it, but we were allowed to see it about
120 hours. We were there to collect data, not draw conclusions. We
were there to answer one simple question: how was the image formed? In the
three years following we produced papers that were submitted to peer-reviewed
journals. In the end, we could only tell how it did not get
there. It was not a painting, it was not a scorch, and it was not a
team was composed of experts of a variety of faiths, from Catholics to total
skeptics. We had Mormons, Evangelical Christians, and Jews. Our
religious belief was not a criterion for being on the team. In fact, as a
Jew, I felt uncomfortable being on the team and I tried to quit twice. One
of my friends on the STRUP team, Don Lynn, worked for JPL and was a good
Catholic. When I told him I wanted to quit because I was Jewish, he asked,
“Have you forgotten that Jesus was a Jew?”
told him I didn’t know much about Jesus, but I did know he was a Jew. He
asked, “Don’t you think he’d want one of the Chosen People on our team?” He
told me to go to Turin and do the best job I could, and not worry about being a
there any other objects in the world that compare to the Shroud?
is nothing like it.
effect have you seen the Shroud have on people?
I’ve observed a broad range of responses. Some have no
reaction, but for many others it revives their faltering faith. But, in the
end, faith is not based on a piece of cloth, but is a gift of God stirred in
the hearts of those who look upon it.