People from all walks of life are currently converging on St Anne’s Cathedral in Leeds to see the full-sized replica of the Shroud of Turin which will be exhibited for the first time in the city till 30 November.
This 12-feet long shroud bears a faint image of the front and back of a man. The original shroud, venerated for centuries by Roman Catholics, is housed in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Turin. It is claimed to be the actual burial shroud used to wrap the body of Jesus of Nazareth after his crucifixion, when his bodily image, it is believed, was miraculously imprinted on it.
Seeing the shroud: an intriguing and emotional experience
Devotee Maureen Clapham spent several minutes in front of the shroud as she meditated on Christ’s sufferings, becoming extremely emotional. The 75-year-old said: “I’ve been to the Holy Land. I had seen the pictures of the shroud and read about it in books but seeing the replica I could put things together. But it’s hard to put my feelings into words.” She plans to visit the relics again with her husband.
Heather Pulman was passing by the Cathedral when she saw a poster and decided to see the exhibit. She said: “I was intrigued. I’ve always been interested in the history of religions. It’s all about science versus religion. Science usually contradicts belief. In this case, I feel it is quite contradictory.” Her father, Glyn Pulman, had been wanting to see the shroud for a while, as the sense of history appeals to him. “I saw it for the first time. The simplicity is remarkable.” The father and daughter duo read all the details about the shroud with great interest.
Apart from the full-size replica of the shroud, the other exhibits include a replica of the crown of thorns, a spear, and a flagrum (whip) made of wood covered with leather. The tip is made of metal and the thongs are of leather too. There is also a set of original Roman nails, dating back to 83-87 AD. They were found at Inchtuthil, Perthshire, Scotland, and donated to the exhibition by Peter and Janet Coleman.
What does science say about the shroud?
In 1978, an in-depth scientific study of the Shroud of Turin was performed by a group of international experts for the first time under the heading of Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). Over the course of three years, experts carried out a series of tests to determine the scientific properties of the image on the shroud and how it was formed. Various possible explanations for the image were explored. Might it be a painting, for example? Could it be a scorch mark?
Experts concluded that it’s not a painting as there is no evidence of paint. Nor is the image a scorch, established by imaging the cloth using ultraviolet light filters (scorches fluoresce when viewed with UV light). There have also been very interesting photographic analyses of the image on the shroud, apparently suggesting that it is consistent with having been produced on impact with a 3D body. The image, it is claimed, varies in resolution according to which parts would have been in direct contact (or not) with an actual body.
On the other hand, the carbon dating of the shroud in 1988 yielded a 14th century date which is still controversial. The mystery therefore continues, but the Vatican has no plans to allow any further testing besides conservation of the cloth.
Visiting the replica Shroud of Turin
People of all faiths are welcome to visit St Anne’s Cathedral daily outside of service times. Entry is free of charge.
There is also a free talk on the shroud on 18 November at 12.40pm after the noon mass, and again on 27 November at 2pm after the scheduled organ recital.