The Shroud Is Just Another Hoax Forged During the Middle Ages

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”—The Great Gatsby

See Also: The CNN Shroud of TurinRelics Still Potent: The Shroud of Turin

By Antonio Lombatti
Università Popolare
Parma, Italia
August 2017

No other quote could better illuminate the latest “evidence” that “will challenge the skeptics” (“Turin Shroud: the latest evidence will challenge the sceptics”) in the absurd and never-ending debate on the Shroud of Turin (SoT). Nothing is new aside from some distinct efforts by Catholic researchers who are incapable of accepting the fact that this relic is just one of the thousands of hoaxes forged during the Middle Ages. So, even if I had decided to hang up my pen on this matter years ago, I sometimes feel like I must hold that pen again to stand up for science.

Twenty years ago, I wrote that this scholarly debate could end by considering the following points:

  1. There’s no mention in the Gospels or early Christian writings of such a relic.
  2. Jewish burial practices differ from what we see on the SoT.
  3. There is no mention of a burial cloth of Jesus with a double, full imprint (front and back) until the XIVth century.
  4. The French bishop Pierre d’Arcis investigated the matter and found the forger who confessed.
  5. Pope Clement VII wrote wherein he stated that the shroud was only a representation of Jesus’ real burial shroud.

So, what about this latest evidence? The article lists 7 points in favor of the authenticity, most of which were tackled by me in previous posts. However, for a better understanding, it is more appropriate to deal with them briefly, again.

1) “Not only can scientists and historians not reproduce the image using medieval technologies, but they also can't reproduce it with modern technology.”

FALSE. Luigi Garlaschelli (University of Pavia) reproduced a full shroud with similar features: Keep in mind that even two coins produced in the same mint would look somehow different under the microscope.

2) “The 3D capabilities of the image. The image of the man on the Shroud can be read by 3D imaging technology.”

FALSE. See Garlaschelli’s shroud mentioned above.

3) “The evidence of crucifixion.”


FALSE. The only evidence of crucifixion that archaeologists have found so far (the Giv’at ha-Mivtar remains) shows just the opposite. As for the “nails in the hands” issue, what we see on the SoT is only a presumed exit hole which comes from the palm and not the wrist. In my opinion, it is a brush stroke located in the traditional spot of paintings of the time. (photo to the right)

4) “Pollen from the Shroud is not only from the Jerusalem area but from Turkey and the other places the Shroud is supposed to have resided.”

FALSE. On the pollen issue, Gaetano Ciccone penned the definitive article:

5) “The evidence of Jewish burial customs. The Shroud details are perfectly consistent with first-century Jewish burial customs.”

FALSE. As every professional archaeologist knows and has written (Levi Rahmani, Amos Kloner, Shimon Gibson, Rachel Hachlili, Joe Zias, James Tabor, et al.) the medieval French forger ignored Jewish burial practices of the Roman Palestine.

6) “The blood and the image. The bloodstains on the Shroud are real human blood, not paint.”

FALSE. Walter McCrone wrote that there is no human blood on the SoT: However, a talented forger could also have added real blood to retouch the image. What is impossible to manipulate, though, is the direction of the paint flow (and the hair as well) as if the man were standing instead of lying on his back.

7) “The type of cloth. The cloth is consistent with fabrics from first-century Israel, but not medieval Europe.”

FALSE. Orit Shamir, Head of Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Curator of Ancient Textiles, presented a paper in a congress; she remarked that nothing like the SoT linen has ever been excavated in the Land of Israel dating from the Roman Palestine

The journalist concludes his essay by saying that, according to his belief in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, “he walks by faith and not by sight.” I do hope so, but I continue to meet Catholics who consistently exploit pseudoscience to support their faith.

Comments (2)

Thanks for your patient work on this subject - just to ask whether a milder term than 'hoax' is possible, say 'work of art that became sacralised'?

#1 - Martin Hughes - 08/21/2017 - 21:25

During the Middle Ages, relics generated employment and produced a profitable enterprise. Middlemen traded in these fakes and cathedrals and humble churches were enriched by them. Relics were used to raise money. And if pilgrims were slow in visiting the shrines, clergy often took the holy bones and other blessed objects on the road for fund-raising.
Relics, therefore, were a big business. Commerce in saints' bones, bodies, handkerchiefs, vests and shoes (Jesus's relics were the most valued) created a horde of busy merchants who traded in shady goods. The relic was frequently bought and sold and became an investment, enriching its owners. Relics created an opportunity to raise money, and attracted supplicants and their gifts. Peddling relics helped generate an inexhaustible supply of fakes for sale to the faithful laity. Relics raised money for building abbeys, cathedrals and other shrines. They generated wealth and enriched the men of God.
This is why - I believe - "hoax" is better than "sacralised work of art". The Turin Shroud was forged to fool the gullible. And to make money.

#2 - Antonio Lombatti - 08/22/2017 - 08:32

Article Comments

Submitted by Robert L. Peters on Mon, 08/21/2023 - 09:00


There is evidence of radiation that created the image of the man's teeth in the SoT, from behind the skin of the lips and mouth. The elongated finger structures captured in the SoT are the man's hand and finger bones, also seen "through" the skin of the hands and fingers. This was initially thought to be a deformity of the man in the SoT, but closer examination reveals certain parts of the man in the shroud appear to have to be radiographic qualities depicting teeth and bones, much like an X-Ray.

The article and reproduction do not mention this characteristic of the SoT and do not seem to account for it. Was it just a super clever group of artists that could nearly perfectly depict an image that looks like an X-Ray, even though no one had ever seen an X-Ray before? Not to say one unaddressed detail makes the shroud authentic, but to debunk it, there must be a rational "reasonable doubt" explanation of every detail not represented when one claims to have made a perfect duplicate. It can't be "close" or a "proof of concept." All the intricacies must be addressed and duplicated. Otherwise, the "duplicate" comes off looking more like the forgery.

Truth exists outside of the contrivances and contortions of the human mind.

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