The Shroud of Turin: sacred Christian relic or clever fake? This backhanded compliment makes Walsh's point (which was my `tagline' quote at the end of my introductory post) that:
"The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Jesus Christ in existence ... or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever, products of the human mind and hand on record. It is one or the other; there is no middle ground." (Walsh, J.E., "The Shroud," Random House: New York NY, 1963, pp.xi-xii. My emphasis).
The leading exponents of the `da Vinci Shroud' theory are Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, but not having seen the show, I don't know if it is based on their particular theory. So in commenting on this ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) summary of the TV show, while I will mention Picknett & Prince's theory, my focus will be on the common problems with all theories that the Shroud of Turin we have today was produced by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
If it was created, it must have been by someone with extraordinary skills. Which means effectively that if the Shroud was not "created" by Leonardo, then it was not "created" by any artist, i.e. the Shroud really is the very burial sheet of Jesus Christ, produced by His resurrection!
The evidence points to one man, one of the greatest geniuses who has ever lived. This is simply false that the "evidence points to" Leonardo (or any artist). There is fact no evidence that Leonardo da Vinci created the Shroud of Turin! As Wikipedia notes with understatement, "such theories are not taken seriously by all academic scholars":
"Skeptics have proposed many means for producing the image in the Middle Ages. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince (1994). proposed that the shroud is perhaps the first ever example of photography, showing the portrait of its alleged maker, Leonardo da Vinci. ... However, such theories are not taken seriously by all academic scholars, and the notion that Leonardo was a non-Christian heretic or irreligious is similarly rejected by historians."
For starters, 1) the Shroud of Turin has an undisputed European history from 1357, but Leonardo was not born until 1452 (i.e. nearly a hundred years later). As historian Mark Guscin, current editor of the British Society for the Turin Shroud newsletter, pointed out, "There was a recorded public exposition of the Shroud at Germolles ... on 13 September 1452" and "Leonardo was born in 1452":
"I first heard about the book, Turin Shroud, In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled, in the newsletter of the BSTS (British Society for the Turin Shroud). Any book with a title like this must come under immediate suspicion, as what the authors consider as the shocking truth will probably be no more than one of the many eccentric and contradictory theories that somebody has had about the Shroud. To claim that Leonardo da Vinci made the Shroud is such a ridiculous idea in itself it hardly seems worth the time and effort to refute it. A simple look at dates is enough to do this. There was a recorded public exposition of the Shroud at Germolles by Margaret de Charny on 13 September 1452, a date which not even the most ardent anti-authenticity sindonologists deny. Leonardo was born in 1452. Is it necessary to say more?" (Guscin, M., "The Oviedo Cloth," Lutterworth Press: Cambridge UK, 1998, pp.112-113).
So to keep their theory alive, Picknett & Prince's (and indeed any da Vinci Shroud) theory must claim that there were two Shrouds: a) a 14th century Shroud Mk. I that was given to the House of Savoy by Margaret de Charny in 1453; and b) a 15th-16th century Shroud Mk. II that Leonardo created for the House of Savoy in the 1490s. But a major problem for their's (and all) da Vinci Shroud theories is that "the Shroud's" movements "are consistently well attested throughout this whole period, automatically reducing to fiction the ... theory that Leonardo da Vinci `invented' it" (my emphasis):
"During the century and a quarter of the Savoys' ownership of the Shroud, from 1578 back to 1453, the cloth was by no means continuously in Chambéry, although it was of course in the fire in Chambéry's Sainte Chapelle that it received its scars and subsequent patches. This chapel, like its Turin counterpart in 1997, fared much worse than the Shroud itself, all its stained glass and fine fittings being totally destroyed. In the earlier part of this period Savoy's dukes, mostly youngsters who died before reaching maturity, constantly carried the Shroud around with them as they toured their domains with their entourages. Then when from 1502 they made the Sainte Chapelle its theoretically permanent home, first came the disastrous fire, then in 1535 followed a French invasion, which necessitated them sending the Shroud, for its own safety, on a series of refugee journeys to towns and cities as far afield as Turin, Milan, Vercelli, Aosta and Nice. It took until 1561 and the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis before Duke Emmanuel-Philibert's diplomatic and military skills enabled its temporary return to Chambéry. But despite this itinerancy, the Shroud's adventures are consistently well attested throughout this whole period, automatically reducing to fiction the recent theory that Leonardo da Vinci `invented' it in 1492. An account of June 1485, two months before England's battle of Bosworth Field, clearly records the payment of 2 ecus to ducal chaplain Jean Renguis `in recompense for two journeys which he made from Turin to Savigliano carrying the Shroud'. Two years earlier an inventory drawn up by the same Jean Renguis in partnership with sacristan Georges Carrelet, equally clearly describes the Shroud as `enveloped in a red silk drape and kept in a case covered with crimson velours, decorated with silver-gilt nails, and locked with a golden key'. Throughout the years 1478 back to 1471 archive sources enable the tracking of repeated movements of the Shroud, to Pinerolo in 1478, from Ivrea to Chambéry in 1475, from Ivrea to Moncalieri and back again in 1474, from Turin to Ivrea in 1473, from Vercelli to Turin in 1473, from Chambéry to Vercelli in 1471, and so on. Leonardo, it should be noted, was a mere nineteen-year-old in 1471." (Wilson, I., "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, 1998, p.116).
Was Leonardo da Vinci the man behind the Shroud of Turin? No. For at least seven reasons, including 1) that the Shroud was "consistently well attested throughout this whole period" (see above) so there was no period that the supposed Shroud Mk. I was out of circulation long enough for the public or members of the Savoy family to forgot what it looked like, such that they would then accept without any questions Leonardo's Shroud Mk. II.
As the following history of the Shroud between 1478-1503, while Leonardo was "in Milan for the next 18 years" from 1482 (i.e. ~1482-1499 - see below) in the employ of the "Duke of Milan," the longest period the Shroud was not being publicly exhibited or seen privately by non-members of the House of Savoy was only ~6 years from 1488-1494, and Leonardo was painting The Last Supper from 1495–1498 :
"March 20, 1478 (Good Friday): Shroud exhibited at Pinerolo.
1482: ... About this same time Leonardo da Vinci leaves Florence to serve as court painter and military engineer at the court of Ludovico Sforza (Il Moro), Duke of Milan. He will stay in Milan for the next 18 years.
June 6, 1483: Jean Renguis and Georges Carrelet, respectively chaplain and sacristan of the Sainte Chapelle at Chambéry, draw up an inventory in which the Shroud is described as "enveloped in a red silk drape, and kept in a case covered with crimson velours, decorated with silver-gilt nails, and locked with a golden key."
1485: The Shroud is regularly carried around with the Savoys as their Court journeys from castle to castle.
1488 Easter Sunday: Shroud exhibited at Savigliano.
1494 Good Friday: Dowager Duchess Bianca of Savoy exhibits the Shroud at Vercelli in the presence of Rupis, secretary to the Duke of Mantua. Leonardo begins painting of the Last Supper in Milan, on which he will work for two years.
1498: ... An inventory detailing the Shroud when at Turin in this same year describes its case as "a coffer covered with crimson velours, with silver gilt roses, and the sides silver and the Holy Shroud inside wrapped in a cloth of red silk."
June 11, 1502: At the behest of Duchess of Savoy Marguerite of Austria, the Shroud is no longer moved around with the Savoys during their travels, but given a permanent home in the Royal Chapel of Chambéry Castle. ... The Shroud is displayed on the Chapel's high altar ... .
April 14, 1503 Good Friday: Exposition of the Shroud at Bourg-en-Bresse for Archduke Philip the Handsome, grand-master of Flanders, on his return from a journey to Spain. The Shroud ... is exposed on an altar in one of the great halls of the Duke's palace. ..." (Wilson, I., "Shroud History: Highlights of the Undisputed History," 1996).
As historian Ian Wilson noted of Picknett & Prince's claim that the Shroud Mk. I disappeared "around" 1492, "the cloth's effective control" was "in the hands of ... the Dowager Duchess Bianca, a very devout woman who personally exhibited the Shroud at Vercelli in 1494, and who would hardly have failed to notice had this been a different cloth from the one that she and her retinue had carried around during their travels in the preceding years"! (my emphasis):
"To support their theory of Leonardo having made the Shroud in 1492 they [Picknett & Prince] have repeatedly quoted me as having told Lynn Picknett, `Yes, the Shroud did disappear around then.' With due deference to Ms Picknett's reporting skills, I have equally consistently insisted that I would never in my right senses have made this statement, as ought to be obvious from the chronologies of the Shroud set out both in my 1978 book and this present one. For in my lengthy chronicling of the Shroud's two `disappearances', the year 1492 most certainly does not figure and never has. In that year the Shroud's technical owner was, in fact, a two-and-a-half-year-old boy, Duke Charles II, the cloth's effective control thereby being in the hands of his widowed mother the Dowager Duchess Bianca, a very devout woman who personally exhibited the Shroud at Vercelli in 1494, and who would hardly have failed to notice had this been a different cloth from the one that she and her retinue had carried around during their travels in the preceding years." (Wilson, 1998, pp.210-212).
2) it would make Leonardo party to a major art fraud in what would be regarded in the 15th century as extremely serious (to put it mildly), such that he (and the members of the Savoy family who contracted him to do it) would probably have been executed (or if he wasn't his and their reputation would be in tatters) if it had been found out. And how could he not be found out in that Leonardo did not work alone but "maintained an extensive workshop in Milan, employing apprentices and students":
"In 1482 Leonardo moved to Milan to work in the service of the city's duke ... Ludovico Sforza ... Leonardo spent 17 years in Milan, until Ludovico's fall from power in 1499 ... As a master artist Leonardo maintained an extensive workshop in Milan, employing apprentices and students" ("Leonardo da Vinci," Encyclopaedia Britannica online, 2007).
3) in that whole 17-year period 1482-1499 when Leonardo is supposed to have created Shroud Mk. II, he was employed by the Duke of Milan, not the Duke of Savoy (see above).
4) why would Leonardo (or any great artist) create what would be his greatest work, anonymously, so that he would never get the credit for it?
5) why would Leonardo (or any great artist) waste his time on what would just be a copy of an existing work (if it was too different it would not fool the public, which after all, was supposedly the object of the excercise)?
6) despite the fact that "Leonardo's notebooks add up to thousands of closely written pages abundantly illustrated with sketches-the most voluminous literary legacy any painter has ever left behind":
"It was during his first years in Milan that Leonardo began the earliest of his notebooks. He would first make quick sketches of his observations on loose sheets or on tiny paper pads he kept in his belt; then he would arrange them according to theme and enter them in order in the notebook. Surviving in notebooks from throughout his career are a first collection of material for a painting treatise, a model book of sketches for sacred and profane architecture, a treatise on elementary theory of mechanics, and the first sections of a treatise on the human body. Leonardo's notebooks add up to thousands of closely written pages abundantly illustrated with sketches-the most voluminous literary legacy any painter has ever left behind." ("Leonardo da Vinci," Encyclopaedia Britannica online, 2007).
yet "None of Leonardo's notebooks, in which he evidently wrote down everything he thought or conceived or invented, ever mention a word about the Shroud of Turin" (my emphasis):
"None of Leonardo's notebooks, in which he evidently wrote down everything he thought or conceived or invented, ever mention a word about the Shroud of Turin. Despite the fact that Picknett and Prince claim that there are Leonardo notebooks which have been lost, the fact remains that there is not a shred of historical documentation to support the theory that Leonardo created the Shroud any more than there is to back their novel historical and theological ideas. There is as much evidence to prove that Leonardo created the Shroud as there is that he built the pyramids." (Ruffin, C.B., "The Shroud of Turin: The Most Up-To-Date Analysis of All the Facts Regarding the Church's Controversial Relic," Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington IN, 1999, p.141).
7) for all Leonardo's genius (or maybe because of it), he was actually a very slow painter whose total lifetime painting output that has survived is "only 17 ... paintings" and of those "several ... are unfinished" (my emphasis):
"Leonardo's total output in painting is really rather small; only 17 of the paintings that have survived can be definitely attributed to him, and several of them are unfinished." ("Leonardo da Vinci," Encyclopaedia Britannica online, 2007).
Therefore, as artist Isabel Piczek pointed out, Leonardo was too slow a painter to have painted the image on the Shroud, because it is of "a cadaver in the state of rigor mortis" and the artist "would have had to finish his work" in "a very limited time" which would be "too fast for the slow Leonardo" (my emphasis):
"Isabel Piczek, an artist and physicist, said that ? `The image shows a cadaver in the state of rigor mortis. He would have had to finish his work before that condition changed, and that is a very limited time, too fast for the slow Leonardo... . Working at Leonardo's speed the man of the Shroud would have been not much more than a skeleton.[Piczek, I., "Why Leonardo da Vinci Could Not Have Painted The Shroud," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 28, April/May 1991, p.15]." (Guerrera, V., "The Shroud of Turin: A Case for Authenticity," TAN: Rockford IL, 2000, p.70).
Worshipped by millions as the authentic burial cloth of Jesus, the Shroud of Turin is one of the most sacred and controversial relics of the Christian world. The Shroud itself is not "Worshipped" (which would be idolatry), but rather the One who left His image on the Shroud, Jesus Christ, is worshipped. Especially for the horrific suffering (see `tagline' quote below) that the Shroud of Turin graphically reveals Jesus went through in order to save all those who chose to receive Him (John 1:10-12).
I could have ended here, since the above seven points comprehensively refute the da Vinci Shroud theory (whether Picknett & Prince's or anyone's. But I have some more comments to make on the rest of the article. Therefore, to be continued in part #2.
Stephen E. Jones
Posted: 6 July 2007. Updated: 7 July 2016.
"Jesus and the Shroud It is revealing to compare the wounds inflicted on the man buried in the Shroud with the witness of the New Testament concerning the crucifixion procedure used with Jesus. The correlation is, simply stated, quite remarkable. Before he was crucified, Jesus was subjected to a variety of punishments. The Roman soldiers scourged him (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; John 19:1). The man of the Shroud was beaten very severely. Ricci counts more than 220 scourge wounds on his body, located on almost every area with the exception of the head, feet, and arms. [Ricci, G., "Historical, Medical, and Physical Study of the Holy Shroud," in Stevenson, K.E., ed., "Proceedings of the 1977 United States Conference of Research on The Shroud of Turin," Holy Shroud Guild: Bronx NY, 1977, p.60] Wilson records somewhat fewer scourge wounds, but still enough to constitute a very severe beating. [Wilson, I., "The Shroud of Turin," Doubleday: New York NY, 1979, p.38] We have seen how these marks were most likely inflicted by the Roman flagrum, a feared instrument of torture which inflicted great pain by sometimes even ripping out small pieces of flesh with each blow. The Romans also mocked Jesus for his claims to be the Son of God and the Messiah. The soldiers placed a purple robe on him and put a reed in his hand in order to jeer him, pretending to address him as king. They even bowed down to him, imitating worship. Then, to further scoff at him, they made a crown out of thorns and forcefully placed it on his head (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17-20; John 19:2). This is another close parallel between Jesus and the man in the Shroud. Numerous puncture wounds can be observed in the man's scalp. Close examination reveals that these wounds differ from those caused by the scourging and were independently inflicted. [Willis, D. in Wilson, Ibid., pp.36-37] The gospels also relate that Jesus was repeatedly struck in the face (Matthew 27:30; Mark 15:19; Luke 22:63-64; John 19:3). Such a beating can be observed in the image on the Shroud. The man has several bruises and swellings around both eyes, both cheeks, the nose, and the chin. After Jesus' scourging, mock crowning with thorns, and beating, he was taken away to be crucified. He was made to carry his own cross (John 19:17) but apparently stumbled and fell, since a bystander, Simon of Cyrene, was forced to carry it for him (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). Bruises on the upper back just below the shoulders indicate that the man in the Shroud also carried or supported a heavy object. We know this happened after the scourging, because the rubbing of the heavy object slightly altered the scourge wounds underneath. Additionally, there are cuts and bruises on both knees, indicating a fall on a hard surface. The left knee is particularly badly cut. The gospels relate that Jesus was nailed to the cross through the feet and the hand-wrist area (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 25-27). The Shroud likewise shows a man pierced through the wrists at the base of the palms and through the feet. Forensic pathologists are convinced that the man, like Jesus, was crucified. A striking similarity concerns the gospel report that normal crucifixion procedure included breaking the legs of the victims in order to hasten death (John 19:31-32). The discovery of the skeleton of Yohanan verifies the gospel report. However, the gospels say that the soldiers did not break Jesus' legs because he was already dead. Instead, a Roman soldier stabbed him in the side in order to assure his death. Blood and water flowed from the open wound (John 19:33-34). Similarly, the man in the Shroud did not have his legs broken and he was also stabbed in the side. Amazingly, a mixture of blood and water is ascertainable on the Shroud. The blood and water flowed vertically down the right side of the chest to the waist, where it spread horizontally across the back. Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for slaves, war captives, and the worst political prisoners. Therefore, there was normally very little interest in providing the victim with anything more than a minimal burial. Yet, the gospels explain that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who placed Jesus' body in his own new tomb. Joseph gave Jesus an individual burial, complete with linen wrappings and spices (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-55; John 19:38-42). In spite of this attention and care, the burial process was hurried and was not completed before the Sabbath began (Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55-24:1). The case of the man in the Shroud is similar. He was also buried individually in linen wrappings and there are also indications that his burial was not completed. ... This comparison of the gospel accounts with the sufferings and burial of the man of the Shroud points to the strong likelihood that the man is Jesus Christ. The evidence is consistent at every point. The man of the Shroud suffered, died, and was buried the way the gospels say Jesus was." (Stevenson, K.E. & Habermas, G.R., "Verdict on the Shroud: Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Servant Books: Ann Arbor MI, 1981, pp.122-124. Emphasis original).