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Waldemar Januszczak doesn’t think the Shroud of Turin is real, BUT . . . (Updated)

Anthony, a reader of this blog, writes:

Many thanks for the blog you put together each day. I have to admit that, as a non-scientist, I am rather adrift about the significance of the latest Italian findings. Stephen E Jones appears to conclude that they prove all the doubters wrong. I think you are rather more reticent. Whatever, I am more concerned about a December 22nd letter in England’s Daily Telegraph by Waldemar Januszczak [pictured] in which he states that that the image on the shroud is an obvious fake because it is in keeping with the art of the period of the carbon dating. Waldemar is an ebullient presenter of various art programmes on the BBC. Art, the impression he gives, is his life and his spirituality. I cannot believe therefore that he can be wrong in this. Could someone enlighten me?

Anthony, I think this other letter to the editors of the Daily Telegraph from Michael Daley (pictured just below), Director of ArtWatch UK,  answers this quite well.

SIR – Waldemar Januszczak (Letters, December 22) pronounces the Turin Shroud a cleverly imprinted impression of a bearded, apparently crucified man, reflecting the artistic conventions of the Middle Ages, though earlier depictions of Christ had attributed to him the features of a blond, curly haired boy.

We are armed with many centuries’ worth of scientific advances, and numerous formidable analytical technical studies of the material composition of the Shroud, but two questions remain.

What would Christ’s true appearance have been after his crucifixion? Secondly, by what means could a fraudster of the Middle Ages have so cleverly imprinted an apparent photographic negative impression on a piece of fabric, so long before the invention of photography?

Given that fakes tend to belong to identifiable family types, I wonder whether Mr Januszczak knows of any similar artefacts.

Michael Daley
Director, ArtWatch UK
Barnet, Hertfordshire

In this blog, I would be happy to discuss any medieval art that “is in keeping with the art of the period of the carbon dating,” or, for that matter, any period in history. One need not be a scientist to understand such qualities as being like a photographic negative or having three-dimensional encoding. We could demonstrate this right here with off-the-shelf computer software.

The letter from Daley may be found at Just how could the Turin Shroud have been faked? – Telegraph. I have not been able to find the letter from Januszczak. If someone does have a link, please let us all know so we can read the letter.


Anthony kindly sent along a copy of Januszczak’s letter. It reads:

Dear Sir

Whenever the authenticity of the Turin Shroud is discussed, no one ever mentions the most obvious proof of the shroud’s falsehood: theactual image of Christ on the cloth. This bearded, long-haired, suffering Christ was popular in the Middle Ages but had no precedents in the art of earlier epochs.

The first images of Christ showed a blond, curly haired boy who worked miracles. These early Christs often had feminine characteristics too. It took 600 years for images of Christ with a beard to appear. And even when this bearded Christ did emerge, he was enthroned like an emperor not covered with wounds or crucified.

The Middle Ages invented this suffering, bearded Christ and then somehow found a clever way to imprint the image on the fake Turin Shroud.

Waldemar Januszczak

London N6

Anthony then asked, “My question is, apart from the abracadabra at the end, whether the rest is accurate.”

Yes, I think so in large measure. Most commonly Christ was depicted as young – actually notably as a young shepherd carrying a lamb. It is widely believed, however, that the image of the Christ Pantocrator developed after the finding of the Image of Edessa in A.D. 544. The earliest and best example is the 6th century Pantocrator from St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai which bears an uncanny resemblance to the shroud. For this reason and other reasons the Image of Edessa is thought to be the Shroud of Turin. I certainly think so.  It is also important to note that two other lines of images evolved almost certainly from this same sixth century discovery. And thus I challenge the use of the word “invented” in the letter. They are very telling. One is the Man of Sorrow image (left below) which developed after the Edessa image arrived in Constantinople in A.D. 944. The other is manuscript illustration such as we find in the Hungarian Pray Manuscript (right below), ca. 1194. This last, in particular, from before the carbon dating period, shows clearly that Waldemar Januszczak is on thin ice unless he can show a single negative image or image with 3D encoding.

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