Here is "The other marks (6): Writing," which is part 17 of my series, "The Shroud of Turin." The previous post in this series was part 16, "2.6. The other marks (5): Coins over eyes ." See the Contents page for more information about this series.
2. WHAT IS THE SHROUD OF TURIN?
2.6. THE OTHER MARKS (6): WRITING
© Stephen E. Jones
Introduction As previously explained, by "other marks" is meant those significant marks on the Shroud of Turin which are not wounds (see "2.4. The wounds") or bloodstains (see "2.5. The Bloodstains"). And the order in which these "other marks" are presented is from the most to the least obvious, which is not necessarily from the most to the least important. This is the last post on "the other marks".
Writing on the Shroud? That I have included a page on the topic of "writing on the Shroud" should not be taken to mean that I am claiming that there is any writing on the Shroud (apart from the inscriptions on the coins over the Shroud man's eyes - see part 16, "Coins over eyes"). Rather, I am covering this topic for completeness of my "Other marks" section.
[Above: Illustration of various writings claimed to be on the Shroud. Being over a photographic negative, the actual claimed would be on the other side of the face. The source is probably from the book, "La sindone di Gesù Nazareno" (2009), by Barbara Frale (see below), but there is a smaller monochrome version of it in Guerrera, 2001, p.114S]
Pietro Ugolotti In 1978 Pietro Ugolotti, a pharmacist and amateur Shroud researcher, was examining a 1969 photograph of the Shroud taken by Giovanni Battista Judica-Cordiglia and he noticed what he thought was writing on the face of the man on the Shroud.
[Above: Right eyebrow area of the man on the Shroud (to the right of the `reversed 3' bloodstain, showing square shapes which presumably are the claimed Hebrew letters. But see Enrie 1931 negative below which suggests these square shapes are merely a flaw in the linen weave.]
[Above: Enrie 1931 negative of the right eyebrow area of the man on the Shroud (to the left of the `reverse 3' bloodstain because this is a laterally inverted negative) and extending off the man's face. Note that the claimed Hebrew characters appear to be part of a flaw in the linen weave which continues off the man's face.]
Aldo Marastoni Ugolotti then contacted Aldo Marastoni, a philologist at the Catholic University of Milan, who examined the photographs and claimed to have discovered inscriptions written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Marastoni claimed there were at least three Hebrew letters above the right eyebrow: ת (tau), ו (vaw), which may be a י (yod), and צ (tsade). The meaning of these letters is unclear but Marastoni thought they might be the end of a Hebrew or Aramaic phrase, because the letters are followed by what may be a punctuation mark, or it may be a fourth letter, ל (lamed). In the centre of the forehead Marastoni claimed there was a double impression of fragments of a word in Latin, the letters "IB" and "IBER" with the final "R" uncertain. Marastoni theorised this could have been part of the name of the Roman Emperor, Tiberius Caesar who reigned from AD 14-37 and so was the Emperor under whose ultimate authority Jesus was crucified. On the left side of the face (right side on a photographic negative), from the bottom upwards, Marastoni claimed there were Latin letters "INN ECE, characteristic of the first century AD, which he theorised was part of "IN NECEM" ("to death"). This same phrase was supposedly repeated in reverse horizontally under the chin and also from the top down on the left of the face. On the left side of the face next to "INNECE" the capital letters "S N AZARE" are claimed to be there, with the "S" being the ending part of a word, presumably being part of "Jesus Nazarenus". To explain his claimed pattern of letters, repeating and framing the man's face, Marastoni proposed that a hood was placed over the condemned man's head, which was made of a permeable material and the death sentence was inscribed on it. The writing was then transferred onto the man's skin by his sweat. Marastoni also proposed that a type of fork in the shape of a "U" was placed under the man's chin and attached to the crossbeam. See below for problems of Ugolotti's and Marastoni's theory.
[Above: Face of the man on the Shroud on which the letters "INN ECE" (red and yellow borders); "IB" "IBER" (blue border); and "S N AZARE" (green border) are claimed by Marastoni to be. But on the Enrie 1931 negative below, these areas seem to be merely repeating patterns in the linen weave.]
[Above: Enrie 1931 negative showing that the claimed Latin words framing the face of the man on the Shroud, are merely repeating patterns in the linen weave (see also below).]
[Above: Enrie 1931 negative photograph showing that the claimed letters down the left(right in this negative) side of the man's face (red border) continue down off the face and also are repeated off the face to the side (blue border).]
Problems of Ugolotti & Marastoni's theory Problems of Ugolotti & Marastoni's theory include, Judica-Cordiglia's 1969 photographs were a small size (6 x 12 cm), which means there is a loss of detail as the photograph is enlarged. There is no historical support for the custom of writing on funeral shrouds in the first century. To the Romans Jesus was just another common Jewish criminal and there would be no reason for them to record under which emperor he had been executed. Even if some of the inscriptions were confirmed to be authentic they might have been made in a different time period to that of the formation of the body image. As for Marastoni's hood and fork theories, there is no archaeological support for those customs. And if the man is Jesus, which Marastoni maintains because of the claimed words "S N AZARE" ("Jesus of Nazareth"), then there is no mention of a hood in the Gospels. Moreover the Gospels record that Jesus spoke from the cross and looked at those around Him (Lk 23:39-43; Jn 19:25-27), therefore, His head cannot have been covered. And the gospel of John records that when Jesus died He bowed His head (Jn 19:30), which would have been impossible if His head were held in position by a fork attached to the cross. And as can be seen above, the claimed writing framing the man's face continues off the face and therefore is merely patterns in the linen weave.
Prof. Pierluigi Baima Bollone reported that his colleague, Prof. Nello Balossino, claims to have found by computer processing of an Enrie 1931 photograph some of these letters, and that even some traces of them seem to be visible by direct examination of the cloth. But Balossino found no trace of them were visible on colour and infra-red photographs taken in 1978 and 1997, nor on those taken by Giancarlo Durante in 1997. And Prof. Baima Bollone himself, even though he would presumably have examined all of his colleague Balossino's claimed writing on the Shroud, states:
"Personally I have not yet been able to identify, on all the photographs of the Shroud that I have been able to examine, signs with similar characteristics in the positions indicated. Moreover I am completely unable to understand the mechanism of impression of these graphic traces".
[Above: Crossed lines above the right knee (left in negative). Durantee 2002 positive (left) and Enrie 1931 negative(right). As can be seen, there are faint regular shapes which may be writing, more clearly visible on the Durante positive. But some of those regular shapes are repeated off the knee, so they cannot be the writing.]
Writing above the right knee However, Baima Bollone does claim there are ink letters around two crossed lines just above the right knee. Baima Bollone believes he can see in the two quarters on the left of the cross the letters "ISSIE" and "ESY" above and below the horizontal bar. He also believes the letters "SNCT" precede the "ISSIE" and some letters follow "ESY" which might be "I SERE STR". Baima Bollone suggests they might be part of the Latin invocation "SANTISSIME JESY MISERERE NOSTRI" ("Most Holy Jesus have mercy on us"). Paleographically the letters appear to be pre-Gothic from the Italy-France area around the 11th century, and may be ink writing which filtered through a sheet of parchment in contact with the Shroud. If this could be substantiated it would be further evidence against the 1260-1390 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud.
André Marion and Anne-Laure Courage In 1997, Prof. André Marion and his student Anne-Laure Courage working with the Institut d' Optique d'Orsay of Paris, claimed they had found further writings around the face of the man on the Shroud. Some of the Greek letters they claim to have confirmed as being around the Shroud face include: "ΡΕΖΩ" (REZO) which in ancient Greek is the word "to complete" in a sacrificial sense; "ΨΣΚΙΑ" (PsKIA), which could have been part of the word "ΩΨΣΚΙΑ" (OPsKIA) which means "shadow of a face" or "a face barely visible" and "ΗΣΟΓ" (HSOG) which they claim is part of "ΙΗΣΟΓ" (IHSOG) "Jesus". Marion and Courage presented their claimed discoveries in a paper, "Deciphering 'Ghost' Lettering Visible on the Shroud" at the the French Shroud group CIELT's (Centre International d'Études sur le Linceul de Turin) Third International Symposium on the Shroud in Nice on 12 and 13 May 1997. Classics scholar Mark Guscin was also at the Nice Symposium session when they presented their paper.
Problems of Marion & Courage's theory Marion and Courage's theory is based on Ugolotti & Marastoni's theory with the addition of computer processing. Therefore the problems of Ugolotti and Marastoni's theory above are also problems of Marion and Courage's theory. They relied on Marastoni's theory that the letters claimed to be around the face of Jesus on the Shroud had been on two U-shaped wooden frames which held His head in position. But at the Nice Symposium, Marion and Courage admitted that only one such support would have been enough. Marion and Courage also admitted at the Nice Symposium that none of the letters they claim to to `see' are visible to the naked eye.
In the question and answer session which followed Marion and Courage's presentation at the Nice Symposium, Guscin pointed out a number of major problems with their use of Greek . For example, their claim that the Greek letters ΨΣΚΙΑ (PsKIA) are an abbreviation of ΩΨΣΚΙΑ (OPsKIA) fails because the group ΨΣ (PsS) is impossible in Greek since Ψ is phonetically "ps" which makes the second "s" redundant. Marion and Courage tried to get around this by claiming the Σ (S) is the start of the next word, so forming the word ΣΚΙΑ (SKIA) "shadow". However this contradicts their claim that there is a gap between the Σ (S) and the other letters ΚΙΑ(KIA)" and it also leaves the letter Ψ (Ps) on its own. Marion and Courage tried to get around this by claiming that this was an abbreviation of the Greek ΩΨ (OPs), which means "face". But one isolated letter can never represent a whole word in Greek. Moreover Ω ΨSΚΙΑ (OPsKIA) is in the nominative case, where "shadow of a face" would need to be in the genitive ("of") case ΟΨΕΩΣ (OPsEOS), which is nothing like what Marion and Courage claim they see on the Shroud". In their response to Guscin's questions, Marion and Courage were forced to admit that they did not know any Greek") and that their interpretation was only a theory! But there are too many errors and assumptions for these inscription of Marion and Courage (and therefore of Ugolotti and Marastoni) to be accepted as really being on the Shroud.
Barbara Frale In 2003, Dr Barbara Frale, a Vatican archive researcher, rediscovered the Chinon Parchment, a record of the trial of the Knights Templar, which had been wrongly catalogued. The document showed that Pope Clement V (1264–1314) had accepted the Templars were guilty of "grave sins", such as corruption and sexual immorality, but not of heresy. Frale's discovery has led to calls for the Pope to officially pardon the Templars, but that does not seem to have happened yet.
Then in April 2009, Dr Frale, who was about to publish a book in Italian, "I Templari e La Sindone di Cristo" ("The Templars and the Shroud of Christ"), claimed in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, that she had found in the Vatican's secret archives an unpublished account of the 1287 initiation into the Templars of a young Frenchman, Arnaut Sabbatier, who according to Frale's translation, was "shown a long piece of linen on which was impressed the figure of a man and told to worship it, kissing the feet three times". Frale stated that her discovery vindicated Ian Wilson's theory that the Templars had secretly held the Shroud for most of the "missing years" after it disappeared during the Fourth Crusade's sack of Constantinople in 1204 and before it reappeared at Lirey, France in the 14th century. Wilson was surprised to read about Frale's discovery in a news article, mentioning him by name, as vindicating his theory, because Frale had never contacted him. When Wilson emailed Frale, requesting a transcript of the Sabbatier deposition, or at least of the passage referring to the "long linen cloth," Frale refused, claiming that the Archives Nationales in Paris had sent her only a "bad reproduction" photocopy with "very dark" pages (which itself contradicts Frale's claim that she found the account unpublished in the Vatican's secret archives-see also below), and that she did not normally make transcriptions. Then when Wilson obtained his own copy of Frale's book, "I Templari e La Sindone di Cristo," he was surprised to find that she had provided less details about the Sabbatier document in the book than was in the article.
In 2010, an Italian specialist in Christian history, Dr Andrea Nicolotti (who is strongly opposed to Wilson's Templar theory and indeed the Shroud's authenticity), told Wilson that he had been checking up on Frale and found she had made falsifications in her translation of the Sabbatier deposition. While three of Sabbatier's fellow Templars all described their order's `idol' as made of wood (L. lignum), Sabbatier's account said it was made of linen (L. lineum). So scholars had previously assumed that a scribe had made a transcription error and they had corrected Sabbatier's account to read lignum, to correspond to the other Templars' depositions in the same manuscript. But Frale, even though she must have been aware of the other three Templars' accounts the same manuscript mentioning lignum (wood), had translated that part of Sabbatier's account as lineum (linen). Moreover, there was nothing in the original Latin text of Sabbatier's account which described the lignum (or lineum) as "long" and "imprinted". So both those crucial elements for identifying Sabbatier's account with the Shroud were evidently made up by Frale! Furthermore, the manuscript containing the Sabbatier deposition was not a new discovery by Frale, nor was it a part of "unpublished documents" as Frale is quoted as saying, nor was it "in the Holy See's Secret Archives" as Frale implied, but was published in 1907 by a German scholar Heinrich Finke, a copy of which was in the British Library, which Frale could have directed Wilson to. In fact Nicolotti later provided Wilson with a photo of the key page of the document he obtained from the Archives Nationales in Paris, and far from being a badly reproduced, "very dark" photocopy, the photo is clear, in colour and perfectly legible. Indeed, Nicolotti informed Wilson that the same photo had been published, along with and an interview with Frale, in the Italian magazine Fenix's June 2009 issue (see below), which was one month before Frale assured Wilson in writing that she possessed only an illegible photocopy of it. While Wilson could not at the time comment on Frale's claim to have discovered lettering on the Shroud (see below), on the basis of his experience with her regarding the Sabbatier's account he harboured the strongest doubts concerning those also.
[Above: Part of Templar Arnaut Sabbatier's 1287 initiation ceremony account, published in the Italian magazine Fenix in its June 2009 issue, which Frale told Wilson a month later that her copy was too "bad" and "dark" for her to send it to him!]
In November 2009, Frale, sensationally claimed in another new book, "La Sindone di Gesù Nazareno" ("The Shroud of Jesus of Nazareth") that she had discovered Christ's "death certificate" on the Turin Shroud.
Frale claimed that it was an actual papyrus document which was attached to the corpse with glue, and the metal-based ink seeped into the Shroud covering Jesus' body, leaving a faint imprint of the letters. According to Frale's reconstruction, the certificate read:
"In the year 16 of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius Jesus the Nazarene, taken down in the early evening after having been condemned to death by a Roman judge because he was found guilty by a Hebrew authority, is hereby sent for burial with the obligation of being consigned to his family only after one full year."Frale even claims she can see the words "signed by" but the signature has not survived! Frale claimed that death certificates were issued by the Romans so that relatives of a crucifixion victim could retrieve the body from a communal morgue. Frale said that computer analysis of photographs of the shroud revealed extremely faint words written in Greek, Aramaic and Latin which attested to the Shroud's authenticity. Frale stated that, "My research begins where that of the French researchers [Marion and Courage] ends" which implies that it was their computer processing Frale relied upon. Frale claimed she had been able to decipher the Greek words "(I)esou(s) Nnazarennos", or Jesus the Nazarene, and "(T)iber(iou)", Tiberius, the Roman emperor at the time of Christ's crucifixion. Frale claimed that the death certificate inscription she found on the Shroud was "consistent with the Gospels account".
Problems of Frale's theory According to Frale's theory the letters she claims are on Shroud are comprised of metal based ink. A Shroud sceptic, chemistry professor Luigi Garlaschelli, rightly pointed out that Frale's theory could therefore be tested by analysis of the Shroud for traces of ink or metals. That Frale herself does not mention this as a test of her theory shows that she does not really believe it to be true! Another Shroud sceptic, historian Antonio Lombatti, pointed out the Romans did not return the body of a crucified person to relatives but left it on the cross and then disposed of it at a dump to add to its deterrent value. If Frale did depend on Marion and Courage's computer processing of Shroud photographs, which seems likely since Frale herself would presumably be unable to do it, then it would be significant that Frale rejects Marion and Courage's (and Marastoni's) theory that that the letters around Jesus' face on the Shroud were on two U-shaped wooden frames (see above). Other than that, the problems of Marion and Courage's (and Marastoni's) theory (see above) are also problems of Frale's theory. The word "Nnazarennos" is not possible in Greek and the "e" (ε) would have to be "h" (η). And Frale's papyrus "death certificate" document attached by glue to the face of Jesus is not "consistent with the Gospels account." There is no mention in the Gospels of a "death certificate" attached to the face of Jesus, but there is a mention of an inscription written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, but it was attached not to Jesus' face but to the cross as John 19:19-20 records:
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.
Conclusion With the possible exception of the 11th century writing above the right knee (see above), there is no compelling evidence for, and much evidence against, the theory that there is writing on the Shroud of Turin. Even among scholars who believe in the Shroud's authenticity, most have dismissed as unreliable the computer enhanced images of `letters' on the Shroud upon which Marastoni's, Marion and Courage's, and Frale's, theories are based. As Dr Bruno Barberis, director of the International Center for Shroud Studies of Turin, commented, "There is no evidence that those letters do exist. Many have seen faint writings on the cloth. Rather than a shroud it looks like an encyclopedia"!
1. Allegri, R., 2013, "New Light on the Shroud: An interview with Dr. Barbara Frale," Messenger of Saint Anthony. [return]
2. Baima Bollone, P., 2000, "Images of Extraneous Objects on the Shroud," in Scannerini, S. & Savarino, P., eds, 2000, "The Turin Shroud: Past, Present and Future," International scientific symposium, Turin, 2-5 March 2000," Effatà: Cantalupa, p.125. [return]
3. Guerrera, V., 2001, "The Shroud of Turin: A Case for Authenticity," TAN: Rockford IL, p.106. [return]
4. ShroudScope: Durante 2002 Vertical. [return]
5. ShroudScope: Enrie Negative Vertical. [return]
6. Guerrera, 2001, p.106. [return]
7. Ibid. [return]
8. Guerrera, 2001, pp.106-107. [return]
9. Guerrera, 2001, p.107. [return]
10. Ibid. [return]
11. "Tiberius," Wikipedia, 10 May 2013. [return]
12. Guerrera, 2001, p.107. [return]
13. Ibid. [return]
14. Ibid. [return]
15. Ibid. [return]
16. Ibid. [return]
17. Ibid. [return]
18. ShroudScope: Durante 2002 Vertical. [return]
19. ShroudScope: Enrie Negative Vertical. [return]
20. ShroudScope: Enrie Negative Vertical. [return]
21. Moroni, M., 1991, "Pontius Pilate's Coin on the Right Eye of the Man in the Holy Shroud, in the Light of the New Archaeological Findings," in Berard, A., ed., 1991, "History, Science, Theology and the Shroud," Symposium Proceedings, St. Louis Missouri, June 22-23, 1991, The Man in the Shroud Committee of Amarillo, Texas: Amarillo TX, p.282. [return]
22. Guscin, M., 1999, "The `Inscriptions' on the Shroud," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 50, November. [return]
23. Balossino, N., 2000, "Computer Processing of the Body Image," in Scannerini & Savarino, 2000, p.114. [return]
24. Balossino, 2000, p.114. [return]
25. Guscin, 1999. [return]
26. Guerrera, 2001, p.108. [return]
27. Ibid. [return]
28. Ibid. [return]
29. Baima Bollone, 2000, p.128. [return]
30. Ibid. [return]
31. Ibid. [return]
32. Baima Bollone, 2000, p.127. [return]
33. ShroudScope: Durante 2002 Vertical. [return]
34. ShroudScope: Enrie Negative Vertical. [return]
35. Baima Bollone, 2000, p.128. [return]
36. Baima Bollone, 2000, pp.128-129. [return]
37. Baima Bollone, 2000, p.129. [return]
38. Ibid. [return]
39. Ibid. [return]
40. Damon, P.E., et al., 1989, "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16 February, pp. 611-615. [return]
41. Guerrera, 2001, p.109. [return]
42. Ibid. [return]
43. Ibid. [return]
44. Ibid. [return]
45. Guscin, M., 1997, "Nice 12-13 May, 1997: Some Notes on the Nice Symposium," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 46, November/December. [return]
46. Ibid. [return]
47. MyBOOX, eBook store. [return]
48. Ibid. [return]
49. Guscin, 1999. [return]
50. Ibid. [return]
51. Ibid. [return]
52. Ibid. [return]
53. Ibid. [return]
54. Ibid. [return]
55. Ibid. [return]
56. Ibid. [return]
57. Ibid. [return]
58. Ibid. [return]
59. Ibid. [return]
60. Ibid. [return]
61. Guscin, 1997. [return]
62. Guscin, 1999. [return]
63. Owen, R., 2009a, "'Missing' Turin shroud was in knights' safe keeping," The Australian, April 7. [return]
64. Ibid. [return]
65. Pullella, P., 2007, "Knights Templar win heresy reprieve after 700 years," Reuters, October 12. [return]
66. "Knights Templar: Chinon Parchment," Wikipedia, 29 May 2013. [return]
67. Thavis, J., 2009, "Knights Templar may have secretly held shroud, Vatican expert says," Catholic News Service, April 6. [return]
68. Wilson I., 2011, "The Shroud, the Knights Templar and Barbara Frale," BSTS Newsletter, No. 73, June. [return]
69. Hooper, J., 2009, "Turin Shroud link with Templars proved by archives, claims historian," The Guardian, 6 April. [return]
70. Owen, 2009a. [return]
71. Wilson, 2011. [return]
72. Ibid. [return]
73. Ibid. [return]
74. Ibid. [return]
75. Marinelli, E., 2011, "Wiping the Slate Clean," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 74, December. [return]
76. Wilson, 2011. [return]
77. Ibid. [return]
78. Ibid. [return]
79. Ibid. [return]
80. Ibid. [return]
81. Lorenzi, R., 2009a, "Shroud of Turin Secretly Hidden," Discovery News, April 6. [return]
82. Hooper, 2009. [return]
83. Wilson, 2011. [return]
84. Ibid. [return]
85. Ibid. [return]
86. Ibid. [return]
87. Ibid. [return]
88. Owen, 2009a. [return]
89. Squires, N., 2009, "Jesus Christ's 'death certificate' found on Turin Shroud," Daily Telegraph," 20 November. [return]
90. Russo, R., 2010, "La sindone di Gesù Nazareno di Barbara Frale," BooksBlog, 5 February. [return]
91. "Does Hidden Text Prove Shroud of Turin Real?," Fox News, November 20, 2009. [return]
92. Squires, 2009. [return]
93. Owen, R., 2009b, "Death certificate is imprinted on the Shroud of Turin, says Vatican scholar," The Times, November 21. [return]
92. Squires, 2009. [return]
94. Owen, 2009b. [return]
95. Squires, 2009. [return]
96. Ibid. [return]
97. Lorenzi, R., 2009b, "Big Pic: Close-Up of Latest Shroud of Turin Claim," Discovery News. November 24. [return]
98. Squires, 2009. [return]
99. Owen, 2009b. [return]
100. Fox News, 2009. [return]
101. Ibid. [return]
102. Guscin, 1999. [return]
103. Fox News, 2009. [return]
104. Lorenzi, 2009b. [return]
Continued in part 18, "3.The Bible and the Shroud."
Last updated: 9 June, 2013.