Friday, June 15, 2012

`The Turin Shroud is a fake ... and it's one of 40': Antonio Lombatti

Here are my comments on an article in Britain's Daily Mail, which is repeated in Independent Online, Belfast Telegraph, etc. For a critique, see "Shroud of Turin expert makes lots of claims but where's the proof?," Donna Anderson, Coast to Coast Radio Examiner, June 11, 2012. The article's words are are bold to distinguish them from mine.

"The Turin Shroud is a fake ... and it's one of 40: Historian claims linen cloths were produced 1,300 years after crucifixion," Daily Mail, Matthew Kalman, 11 June 2012. Since the crucifixion of Jesus was either in AD 30 or 33, therefore "1,300 years after crucifixion" means

[Above (click to enlarge): The frontal head and upper body area of a copy of the Turin Shroud discovered in 1999 in a box in the monasterial church of Broumov, Czechia (formerly Czechoslovakia). The linen cloth is 4.71 m x 1.2 m, about the same size as the Shroud. Accompanying it was a letter of authenticity from the then Archbishop of Turin, dated 4 May 1651. Unlike the Shroud original, but like all other copies of the Shroud, it has no photographic negative or three-dimensional properties, and the image shows brush strokes and paint particles. Also note the above Latin inscription "EXTRACTVM AB ORIGINALI" (derived from the original): Dr. Leo Bazant-Hegemark, "Report on the Czechia Shroud Copy," 1999 & "Broumovo vienuolynas," Mytrips.It, 1 September, 2011.]

that Antonio Lombatti is claiming that the Shroud of Turin was forged about 1330. But then (for starters) Lombatti would have the problem of explaining away the Pray Manuscript, which is securely dated 1192-95 (i.e. about 135 years before Lombatti claims the Shroud was forged), and shares at least 12 unique features with the Shroud (see "My critique of "The Pray Codex," Wikipedia, 1 May 2011"). These include the following seven main features [my numbering in square brackets]:

"Perhaps most compelling of all is a drawing on a page of the Hungarian Pray manuscript preserved in the National Szechenyi Library, Budapest ... [Berkovits, I., "Illuminated Manuscripts in Hungary, XI-XVI Centuries," 1969, pl.III] Not only do we yet again see the awkward [1] arm crossing, this time, most unusually, Jesus is represented as [2] totally nude, exactly as on the Shroud. Again exactly as in the case of the Shroud, all four fingers on each of Jesus's hands can be seen, but [3] no thumbs. Just over Jesus's right eye there is a [4] single forehead bloodstain. Delineated in red, this is located in exactly the same position as that very distinctive reverse '3'-shaped stain on Jesus's forehead on the Shroud that we noted earlier. Exactly as in the case of the Shroud, the cloth in which Jesus is being wrapped is of [5] double body length type, the second half, as known from other versions of the same scene, extending over Joseph of Arimathea's shoulder. If all this is not enough, the cover of what appears to be the tomb is decorated with a [6] herringbone pattern in which can be seen [7] four holes in an identical arrangement to the so-called 'poker-holes' on the Shroud that we have suggested were sustained during Caliph Mu'awiyah's 'trial by fire' experiment back around 680." (Wilson, I., "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," 2010, pp.183-184).

So unless Lombatti can provide a plausible, comprehensive and point-by-point, explanation of those unique shared features on the Pray Manuscript and the Shroud (for starters), his theory that the Shroud was forged in Turkey in about 1330 must be rejected as inadequate.

Not only is the Turin Shroud probably a medieval fake but it is just one of an astonishing 40 so-called burial cloths of Jesus, according to an eminent church historian. Note the qualification "probably." For the Shroud to be proved to be "a medieval fake" Lombatti (or his ilk) would have to:

  • Prove conclusively that it could not have been the burial sheet of Jesus;

  • Provide a convincing counter explanation of all the positive evidence for the Shroud's authenticity (e.g. the fifteen Vignon markings found on the Shroud and on Byzantine icons dating back to the 6th century; the Shroud image's major characteristics, including its photographic negativity centuries before photography was invented, its three-dimensionality, its extreme superficiality, its non-directionality; its anatomical accuracy centuries before that anatomical knowledge existed; the bloodclots that would have adhered to both the cloth and the body are unbroken; xray images of teeth and finger bones; the perfect fit of bloodstains on the back of the head with those on the Sudarium of Oviedo, which has been held in obscurity within a reliquary chest in Oviedo, Spain since at least 840, etc);

  • Identify the forger and explain how he forged the Shroud image; and

  • Duplicate the Shroud image on linen, complete with all its major features, using knowledge and technology only available in the 14th century or before.

And also note Lombatti's false claim that these forty (plus) copies of the Shroud were "so-called burial cloths of Jesus." They would only be that if they all were claimed to be the original, but as we shall see below, most (if not all) of them were only claimed to be copies of the original Shroud of Turin (as it was later called).

Moreover, note Lombatti's fallacious reasoning that because there are forty known copies of the Shroud (actually there are many more than that, which I didn't realise - see below), therefore the original they were all copied from, must itself be "a medieval fake." But if that were the case, then the "dozens of the surviving replicas of the" Mona Lisa, would mean the original Mona Lisa would also have to be a fake!:

"The REAL face of Mona Lisa: First copy of da Vinci masterpiece reveals she had sculpted eyebrows and was more plump," Daily Mail," Nazia Parveen, 2 February 2012. The earliest copy of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, Mona Lisa, has been found in the vaults of a Spanish museum, looking younger and more ravishing than the original. Art historians have hailed the discovery, made during conservation work at the Prado Museum, as one of the most remarkable in recent times. Museum officials said it was almost certainly painted by one of Leonardo da Vinci's apprentices alongside the master himself as he did the original ... There are dozens of the surviving replicas of the masterpiece from the 16th and 17th centuries ...

Antonio Lombatti said the false shrouds circulated in the Middle Ages, but most of them were later destroyed. First, a copy of something is not necessarily "false." A copy would only be false if it was claimed to be the original but was not. But again see below that many (if not most) of those so-called "false shrouds" had stated on them that they were "derived from the original" - the Shroud.

There is nothing new in this claim by Lombatti that there are many copies of the Shroud. In 2004 a paper by a Daniel Duque Torres, who had made a special study of Shroud copies, was published in the British Society of the Turin Shroud Newsletter:

"There are copies [of the Shroud of Turin] the same size as the original, some very small ones (just 10 cm long), others with the spear and nail wounds in different positions, some with a crown of thorns and others without it, some from the same workshop and others absolutely anonymous. Some have texts written on (in Latin, French, Spanish and Italian) etc, ... [in] the eighteenth century ... a copy was made without permission of the House of Savoy, painted from another copy that had been given to Charles II, king of Spain. Another copy was made from the second one. The Savoy family encouraged the tradition to such an extent that Princess Francisca Maria Apollonia spent long periods of her leisure time painting copies of the Shroud that were then distributed according to specific requests or simple friendship. ... many copies made in the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth were given to the royal family and nobility of Spain ... Many of the copies from this time were produced in Chambéry, where the original was kept until 1578. However, in the second half of the seventeenth century and all through the eighteenth, most copies stayed in Italy ... copies were made for the other side of the Atlantic (Argentina and Mexico) ... There are earlier copies in France, although most probably based on the Besançon shroud. ... When we know the date of a copy we can sometimes attribute it to a specific painter or even relate it to another copy which has since been lost. Such is the case of the copy kept in Pamplona, Spain, painted in 1571. This copy was only discovered recently and we can confidently state that it is the "twin" of the copy in Alcoy (Alicante), Spain, also painted in 1571. ... A similar relationship can be established for the famous Lierre (Belgium) copy, painted in 1516, once attributed to Durero but more probably the work of Bernard van Orley, and the copy held today by the National Museum of Ancient Art in Xábregas, Lisbon (Portugal), painted in the early sixteenth century. The Emperor Maximilian of Austria had requested both. There are documents which suggest that the Lierre copy was ordered by Margarita of Austria, Duchess of Savoy, when she moved the court from Malinas to Brussels ... There are two things that can be seen on Shroud copies – the texts, informing us of where and when it was made or reminding us of what the original is, and the image painted onto the cloth. ... There are various ways that this is explained on the copies, either telling people what it is or simply confirming the authenticity of the copy. Sentences such as ... the most common "Extractum ex originali", on numerous copies dating from the 17th century, when more copies were made than in any other century. Most copies were touched to the original, excepting of course those made fraudulently from other copies without the owner's permission. In this way a secondary relic "ad tactum" was created. This is evident from the cloth of many copies, on which a sentence to the effect of "touched to the original" was written in different languages ... If a date is given on the copy, it is usually just the year, although sometimes we can find the day and month, even the date when the copy was touched to the original. ... Given that the painters in question tried unsuccessfully to recreate the "impossible" Shroud image as realistically as they could, the result has never really been valued from an artistic point of view ... the aim was not so much to paint a beautiful image as to recall the original with pious intentions. One notable exception to this is the copy in the Descalzas Reales (Madrid, Spain, unknown date), painted with clearly artistic intentions. ... Fantino, Conti, Bocciardo, Princess Francisca María Apollonia and a priest at the church of Chambéry were all painters who at one time or another decided to copy the object that had caught their attention and yet which turned out to be so difficult to copy exactly ... Not taking into account the 19th and 20th centuries, and bearing in mind that there are another 40 copies known to have been made but never found ... we can state that 130 copies are known to have been produced. This number will no doubt keep growing as new copies come to light." ("Shroud Copies," Daniel Duque Torres, British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 59, June 2004).

As can be seen above, many (if not most) of these copies of the Shroud state on them that that they are copies of the Shroud, including who was the artist, the date they were copied, and for whom they were copied. If Lombatti has included in his "at least 40" copies of the Shroud any of these which state they are copies of the Shroud, then again he is misleading his readers by giving the impression that these were all independent originals in competition with the Shroud.

One of the most famous copies of the Shroud which was destroyed in the French Revolution was the Besançon shroud. Another famous copy that has survived is the Lier shroud of 1516. None of these `shrouds' claimed to be "burial cloths of Jesus," they all post-date the undisputed c.1355 date of the Shroud, are all grossly inferior to the Shroud and all lack the Shroud's unique major features (e.g. photographic negativity, three-dimensional, extreme superficiality, lack of directionality, etc). If Lombatti did not clearly point out to his readers in his journal article (see below) the uniqueness of the Shroud of Turin compared to these forty copies of it (and going by his media statement he didn't), then he would have misled his readers (if not himself).

He said the Turin Shroud itself – showing an image of a bearded man and venerated for centuries as Christ's burial cloth – appears to have originated in Turkey some 1,300 years after the Crucifixion. Note Lombatti's qualification "appears" in addition to his earlier qualification "probably"! Clearly Lombatti does not know but is just speculating. Otherwise, he needs to state: Who was this early 14th century Turkish artistic genius who created the Shroud? How did he do it? Where are the other examples of his work? Where are the contemporary references to him and his Shroud?

Lombatti, of the Università Popolare in Parma, Italy, cited work by a 19th century French historian who had studied surviving medieval documents. Is that all? Why doesn't Lombatti name this "19th century French historian" in this article and these "medieval documents"? Lombatti's paper is in Italian, but presumably Italian Shroud pro-authenticity theorists will in due course critique it in English.

From his website Lombatti appears to be a professional skeptic and debunker (an Italian version of Joe Nickell), using Nickell's favourite "guilt by association" technique, lumping "the 'Shroud of Turin'" with "The 'da Vinci Code'" into the same category called by him "fantarchaeology":

Pseudoscienze Bibliche e False Reliquie di Antonio Lombatti (Biblical and pseudo False Relics Antonio Lombatti) We're living in an age of "fantarchaeology": apocryphal gospels which supposedly conceal the real essence of Christianity; alledged [sic] conspiracies by the Knights Templar; pseudo-historical books that falsify sources and confuse the results of relevant research. Along with these there are botched newfangled translations of ancient texts, unverified rubbish, and meaningless legends which are presented as if they were the only authentic historical interpretation. In short, from the 'Shroud of Turin' to The 'da Vinci Code', from the 'Tomb of Jesus' to 'Noah's Ark', from the 'Templars' to the 'Holy Grail': you'll find here reliable facts. Even if they are unpopular.

But in this Lombatti is being either dishonest or ignorant, comparing the painstaking research of Shroud pro-authenticists like Ian Wilson with the fiction-masquerading-as-fact of Dan Brown.

`The Turin Shroud is only one of the many burial cloths which were circulating in the Christian world during the Middle Ages. There were at least 40,' said Lombatti. Again this is a false statement by Lombatti that these were "burial cloths." They were only copies of one original "burial cloth" - the Shroud of Turin (as it was later called). They self-evidently could not be burial cloths because their images were obviously painted. `Most of them were destroyed during the French Revolution. Some had images, others had blood-like stains, and others were completely white.' So Lombatti is lumping the Shroud of Turin with its photographic negative, three-dimensional, front and back image of a crucified Jesus, and real blood stains, with cloths that only "Some had images, others had blood-like stains, and others were completely white"!

And again, as already pointed out, Lombatti misleads his readers by not informing them of the many unique features of the Shroud compared to these "at least 40" grossly inferior copies of it.

The Turin Shroud is a linen cloth, about 14ft by 4ft, bearing a front and back view of the image of a bearded, naked man who appears to have been stabbed or tortured. And that's only for starters! And how many of Lombatti's "at least 40 ... burial cloths" were the full "about 14ft by 4ft, bearing a front and back ... image"?

Ever since the detail on the cloth was revealed by negative photography in the late 19th century it has attracted thousands of pilgrims to the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Turin. Yes, "negative photography"! How many of Lombatti's "at least 40 ... burial cloths" had a photographic negative image? Only one-the Shroud of Turin!

In a research paper to be published this month in the scholarly journal Studi Medievali, Lombatti says the shroud was most likely given to French knight Geoffroy de Charny as a memento from a crusade to Smyrna, Turkey, in 1346. Again, note the speculative "most likely" to be added to Lombatti's previous qualification, "appears" and "probably"! Presumably Lombatti has no hard evidence of his claim otherwise he would have cited it in this article.

It is well known that Geoffroy de Charny I (c. 1300–1356) was part of a crusade that fought in Smyrna, Turkey, in 1346, but there is no evidence that he acquired the Shroud then:

"While the fate of Smyrna was still in the balance, a French nobleman, Humbert II, Dauphin of Vienne, announced his wish to go on a crusade. He was a weak though pious man, who succeeded in persuading the pope to give his crusade his blessing. After some indecision on the part of the pope, it was decided to send Humbert and his army to supplement the Christian effort at Smyrna. He set out from Marseilles with a company of knights and priests, which included Geoffrey de Charny the Elder, in May 1345 and reached Smyrna the following year. His army defeated the Turks in a battle outside the walls, but by 1347 the expedition had returned to France. The whole thing had been a singularly pointless exercise, but its importance lies in the theory advanced by some students of the Shroud's history, that Geoffrey de Charny obtained it in the course of the campaign. It must be said that there is singularly little evidence to support this theory, but as it has been recently repeated in a reputable article on the Shroud, I should mention it." (Currer-Briggs, N., "The Shroud and the Grail," 1987, p.48).

Besides, it is one thing to claim that in 1346 Geoffrey de Charny I obtained the Shroud in Smyrna (even though there is no evidence he did); and quite another to claim that the Shroud "originated in Turkey" about 1,330. The former is not inconsistent with the Vignon markings evidence that the Shroud existed in at least the 6th century, and the Pray Manuscript evidence that the Shroud was in Constantinople before 1192-95, but the latter is.

The de Charny family are the first recorded owners of the shroud. There is no space to go into it, but it is more likely that Geoffrey de Charny I's wife Jeanne de Vergy was the actual owner of the Shroud.

Lombatti found that Geoffroy was unable to join a pilgrimage to Jerusalem after liberating Smyrna, so he was given the shroud as a symbol of his participation in the crusade to Turkey. Why would Geoffrey de Charny I be given the Shroud just because he was unable to join a pilgrimage to Jerusalem? Also, if he was given the Shroud in this legitimate way, why was it such a surprise when he exhibited it in Lirey in c.1355 and why did he and his son Geoffrey II never give a straight answer as how they came to own the Shroud?

The Catholic Church has never officially commented on the shroud's authenticity, but has made samples available to scientists for testing. Although the "Catholic Church" has never officially claimed the Shroud to be authentic, most (if not all) Popes since the 14th century seem to have personally regarded it to be. Including the current Pope Benedict Benedict XVI, has made it clear that he regards the Shroud as authentic.

In 2009 a Vatican researcher said she had found the words `Jesus Nazarene' on the cloth, This was Barbara Frale, but most of her fellow Shroud pro-authenticists (including me and Ian Wilson - see regard her claims as false (if not fraudulent designed to sell her book):

"Once again we are being bombarded by media claims about the Shroud of Turin, although this time admittedly from a pro-authenticity position by researcher Barbara Frale ... Frale claims she has `discovered' inscriptions on the Shroud that prove it is authentic. However, she is basing her conclusions on the work done by French researchers Marion and Courage (published in the late 1990's) which made these same claims. Rather than submitting her work to a journal that could review and verify her research, she ... is publishing her work in a commercial book (and only in Italian). In fact, the recent press coverage seems to be mainly designed to promote the sale of that book. Once again, we are seeing `science' reported by press releases rather than in the conventional scientific literature." ("Science by Press Release (Again). Another Editorial Response by Barrie Schwortz,", 21 November 2009).

But nevertheless it is the Shroud of Turin which is the focus of ongoing interest, not the many copies of it which still exist today. This alone refutes Lombatti's claim that the Shroud of Turin is just one of many "so-called burial cloths of Jesus" which "circulated in the Middle Ages". Indeed Lombatti tacitly refutes it himself by focusing on the Shroud of Turin and not any of the other Shroud copies.

while two years later Italian government researchers claimed the image of a man had been caused by a supernatural `flash of light'. This was the Italian ENEA report that the Shroud's image could only be replicated by an excimer ultraviolet laser. See my post "Italian study claims Turin Shroud is Christ's authentic burial robe." While the ENEA scientists did not use the word "supernatural," that is the only explanation of how a dead body generated the equivalent of "34 thousand billion watts" of light-energy to "reproduce the entire Shroud image":

"However, ENEA scientists warn, `it should be noted that the total power of VUV radiations required to instantly color the surface of linen that corresponds to a human of average height, body surface area equal to = 2000 MW/cm2 17000 cm2 = 34 thousand billion watts makes it impractical today to reproduce the entire Shroud image using a single laser excimer, since this power cannot be produced by any VUV light source built to date (the most powerful available on the market come to several billion watts)" (Tosatti, M., "The Shroud is Not a Fake," The Vatican Insider, 12 December 2011).

But carbon tests carried out in Oxford in 1988 firmly dated the material to 1260-1390. It wasn't only the Oxford radiocarbon dating laboratory but also two others at Tucson, Arizona and Zurich, Switzerland. But because of the overwhelming weight of evidence that the Shroud was in existence from at least the 6th century, the 1988 radiocarbon dating of a single, tiny, unrepresentative, sample of the Shroud to "AD 1260-1390" simply has to be wrong! [See my "The 1260-1390 radiocarbon date of the Turin Shroud was the result of a computer hacking"] Indeed the very fact that three major radiocarbon dating laboratories requested that they be allowed to date the Shroud of Turin, and not any other of Lombatti's "40 so-called burial cloths of Jesus" gives the lie to Lombatti's claim that the Shroud is just another of the many "false shrouds [which] circulated in the Middle Ages"!

Posted 15 June 2012. Updated 1 July 2024.