|About the method||
|Regarding the study|
the method :
These pages are an attempt to assess and interpret from a medical point of view the marks and images on the Shroud. I should say of course, the marks and images that are revealed in the numerous existing scientific photographs of the Shroud, because it is normally kept well wrapped up and securely locked away to protect it from light, moisture and other damage. Thus, all my information comes from my own reading and from photographs published in the books. A bibliography of my main sources will be found in the hypertext links, and before going any further, I want to take this opportunity of thanking all the authors for the excellence of their work. A special thank-you goes to my confrere Pierre Barbet, with his remarkable powers of observation, his analytical mind, his humanism and his piety. He was a precious guide during our medical approach to the Shroud.
When I first became interested in the Shroud, about twenty years ago, I had difficulties in seeing all the detail that other researchers and authors were describing. Remembering these difficulties I have tried as far as possible to place the explanatory notes alongside the photos and sketches, and I have not hesitated to use coloured arrows and markers where this seemed useful.
Another difficulty was the profusion of details that support the conclusions of the authors. These details are indispensable to their arguments but tend to confuse and overwhelm newcomers to the subject. I have avoided this 'clutter' by storing most of these details off the page, and making them available through hypertexte blue links.
As a reference source for those who are discovering the Shroud, and wanting to hear in great detail what others think about it, this resume may seem too short and incomplete. The fact is that sindonology is a discipline too vast to hope to explain all sides of it, even briefly. Instead, with the advice of Pierre Barbet, I have concentrated on the medical aspects of the images on the Shroud ; i.e. I have attempted to compare and relate the images with known historical details and with medical knowledge.
The fact that I am still interested in the Turin Shroud after 20 years, is simply because I am convinced of its authenticity. Without this conviction I would have given it up long ago. In the beginning it was not like this. Initially I was far from convinced. My conviction came only after some time -- after critical and minutely detailed studies of the images on the Shroud, and by reading the explanations in the publications of eminent experts.
As far as possible, I have tried to present the facts in a neutral and balanced manner, to put aside my own convictions, and to proceed in a way that is completely detached from the potentiel religious aspect of the relic. In the text I have avoided giving it the title of 'Holy Shroud', for this would be to anticipate my conclusions, but I have used a capital letter at the start of the word Shroud to mark the value of the object.
By character, probably, and by scientific education and training, certainly, I prefer to trust the concrete, the solid connection between established facts. I have a healthy interest and curiosity for new theories but tend to view them with suspicion, sometimes even skepticism. This side to my character has made me stick to the known facts in this paper. There are a lot of theories on the history of the Shroud, on details still being studied, and on how the images could have been formed, that are fascinating, but I have chosen to leave them out of this work, for I believe that a mixture, even a well defined mixture, of facts and theories, can only be a source of confusion. I prefer that readers arrive at their own conclusions based only on the demonstrable facts. For those who want to go deeper into this, the bibliography shows a list of recommended further reading.
The authenticity of the Turin Shroud has been argued over, often passionately, for generations. Both camps, those who believe in it, and those who don't, include world class experts of every discipline, eminent professors and scientists of international fame. You may ask how, when such specialists cannot agree, the rest of us can judge whether or not the Shroud is genuine? One answer to this is that you do not need to be a specialist to look closely at the photos of the Shroud and see enough detail to draw some conclusions of your own.
Consider the following case :
Open any school book or atlas showing a satellite photo of France. Everyone who looks at this, and who has had enough education, knows without a shadow of doubt that this is a picture of France.
With existing technology, certain satellite photos show detail down to an area 15 cm ( 6 inches) square. There are reports that with the best military satellite photos one can read writing in the sand, on roofs, and on trucks. When overlapping aerial photographs are put side by side and viewed through stereoscopic lenses, experts can easily see and measure relief, the heights of factory chimneys, the depths of quarries, the heights of hills, etc. This topographical relief, combined with other information, lets us see how geological transformation took place over time. It helps us understand the orogeny that pushed up the Alps and the Pyrenees. Botanists can identify vegetation (forest, crops, etc.) from these photos, and from this form conclusions about the type and acidity of the soil, and the origins of the vegetation. Architects, town planners, tax authorities, and sociologists, can study the distribution of buildings and urban and rural infrastructure and draw conclusions about the type of society that lives there. A mixed group of such experts could eventually write a complete report on the interaction between the land and its inhabitants.
The average individual does not have the competence to discuss each detail and argument with each specialist, but can at least recognise that this is a photo of France, taken from Space, and can spot many topographical features in the country -- the biggest peninsulas, bays, rivers, and cities. Without being a geologist, architect, botanist or sociologist, anyone with a basic general knowledge of France will know with certainty that this is a photo of France, and will be able to pick out Brittany, the Loire, the conurbations of Paris, Lyon and Marseille, etc. He or she will know with equal certainty that it is not a photo of Britain, nor Spain, nor India; and if this photo was enlarged sufficiently to read names over stores, and some read Drugstore or Pizza, the reader will already have seen enough other detail to reject the possibility that this is the USA or Italy. Common sense will suggest that these are non-French words written on stores in France. Without being a specialist, he or she will have spotted enough evidence to arrive at a basic conclusion.
In brief, without being a specialist, each of us with our own eyes, our common sense and an open mind, can look at the Turin Shroud, try to understand what we are seeing, and arrive at a first opinion. Our primary options are either :
In the process of examining the Shroud, and before making our decision, we should ask ourselves three questions :
If in the course of our study we are not satisfied with the evidence, we could say that in our initial opinion the Shroud is unconvincing, perhaps medieval, perhaps even a medieval forgery. It would, after all, not be the first claimed relict to be rejected in this way.
By contrast, if we discover evidence and information that could not have been known, nor imagined in the Middle Ages, and if we cannot prove any medieval fabrication, forgery or falsification, then we can't help concluding that the Shroud dates from long before 1357, the date when it was first shown in public. This does not does not allow us to conclude that it was the actual winding-sheet of Jesus Christ, but it allows us to be certain that it is not a product of the Middle Ages. We may not presently understand the exact mechanisms that formed the images on the cloth, but that should not be a reason to reject it.
The stakes are high ! so let's move foreward methodically, step by step, with care and an open mind.