Pope John Paul II described the fourteen foot long and three and a half foot wide Shroud of Turin as an ‘icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age.’ It is revered as the shroud with which Joseph of Arimathea wrapped Jesus’ body.
Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man who was a part of the Sanhedrin, the council which conspired against Jesus and had him condemned to crucifixion instead of Barabbas. Joseph was a secret believer in the fact that Jesus was the promised Messiah who would save the world. The shroud is held sacred because it carries the facial and bodily imprints of Jesus Christ together with the blood marks on the exact spots where his hands and feet were nailed to the cross.
The facial features only became clearly visible in 1898 when Secondo Pia photographed the shroud after getting the necessary permission from the King of Italy. To his surprise, he found on the negative of his photograph a clear positive image of the face of Jesus. This meant that the shroud had been rendered as a negative and the photographic plate was the positive of Jesus’ face. This was considered as a miracle in itself.
Symbolism of the cloth
The cloth could become the negative only if there had been some radiation from the dead body of Jesus. This fact further reinforced the faith of believers in the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Christians all over the world have accepted the shroud as a religious relic. They are dismayed by the attempts to analyse, sample and date the shroud.
Studying the shroud
The study of the shroud is called Sindonology. The shroud has survived many catastrophes including a fire. It had been restored with love and reverence by the Sisters of Poor Clare with patches of cloth which were only removed later when the entire shroud underwent a restoration on the orders of the Holy See. The shroud has been in Turin since 1578. It is kept in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.
The reverse side of the shroud had always been hidden. When the cloth was extended to its full length in 2004, the unseen half held the image of the back of a man’s body. Despite the testing and reports to the contrary, the image will always remain etched on the minds of Christians all over the world.