It may not suit the scientific mind-set

Experts may carp and niggle over particular aspects
exclusive to their particular specialty.

clip_image001[4]By way of a comment, DaveB writes:

I would concede a point of interpretation from the Methchild Flury-Lemburg quotation at the heading of Ian Wilson’s Chapter 6 ‘The Cloth’s Own Tale’. Effectively that nothing in the weaving or sewing techniques speaks against a high-quality product of textile workers of the first century AD. It might equally be said that it is within the capability of 20th century textile workers, although the process of extracting the linen from the flax is clearly quite different. The important point she makes however is that the cloth cannot be rejected as not being of 1st century provenance simply on the grounds of the weaving or sewing techniques used.

However, elsewhere she rejects it as being of medieval provenance because of the width of the cloth. She refers for example to bed-sheets which commonly had a seam running down their middle, as medieval looms lacked the width of ancient types.

I think it a serious error of logic in focusing on only one property at a time and then making a judgment simply on that. It may not suit the scientific mind-set, but it is how evidence works in our law-courts. The TOTAL evidence must be weighed to arrive at a successful conclusion. I prefer to think in terms of Venn diagrams. Thus evidence might satisfy Propositions A, B, C and D but not satisfy Propositions E and F. It may be that E and F are so critical as to negate the conclusion, or it may be that they are can be considered as not so relevant. However if all propositions A through to F are in fact satisfied then there is clearly a strong case.

In the case of the TS, there are several points of evidence that point to its authenticity. Some of these are very strong, others less so. The question of weaving and sewing tends perhaps to be the type of evidence that allows the admissibility of authenticity without it being necessarily corroborative. The forensic evidence is particularly strong and tends to be coroborative. The question of halophyte pollens demonstrates that the TS was certainly at some time in Palestine, other pollens that it was there during the months of March or April. The arogonite limestone is persuasive but needs further independent confirmation.

It is important not to lose sight of the whole picture. Experts may carp and niggle over particular aspects exclusive to their particular specialty. But experts never get to sit on juries, their role is advisory only. The judge’s direction is always couched in terms of what the evidence leads a reasonable person to conclude.

New Book Recommendation on STERA’s Facebook Page

This was just posted:

As the Christmas holiday approaches, I wanted to recommend a great book that would make a wonderful gift for those on your shopping list. "Witnesses to Mystery" is a beautiful, English language hard bound book filled with beautiful color photographs and detailed information on many important relics. The entire first chapter is dedicated to the Shroud of Turin.

imageWitnesses to Mystery: Investigations Into Christ’s Relics Hardcover

In this lavishly illustrated large coffee-table volume, writer Gorny and photographer Rosikon embarked on a two year investigative journey to seek the truth behind all the relics associated with the passion of Christ. The authors investigated a rich body of documentary evidence found in various museums, archives and churches surrounding sacred objects believed to have been preserved since Jesus’ lifetime, exploring and collaborating with historians and scientists in their attempt to verify the relics’ authenticity. They reach their conclusions not so much on the basis of faith as on the evidence supplied by historical sources and expert scientific opinion.

The relics associated with the Passion – the suffering, death and burial of Christ – have long proved something of an enigma for the scientific community. Relics investigated, and photographed, for this glorious volume include: the Cross, nails, crown of thorns, pillar of scourging, Christ’s tunic, the Veil of Manoppello, the Sudarium of Oviedo, the famous Shroud of Turin burial cloth and more.

For more information see these recent posting:

Shroud of Turin Presentation by David Rolfe on May 16th 2014 at the University of Kent, Canterbury

Check out this flyer:


A Point of View

imageStephen Jones in his latest posting wants to make sure we understand his point of view. 

Because of the Vatican’s duplicity (in the sense of "double dealing," "deception by pretending to entertain one set of intentions while acting under the influence of another"):

"duplicity … a. Deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech. b. An instance of deliberate deceptiveness; double-dealing. 2. The quality or state of being twofold or double. … [Middle English duplicite, from Old French, from Late Latin duplicits, doubleness, from Latin duplex, duplic-, twofold … acting in bad faith; deception by pretending to entertain one set of intentions while acting under the influence of another, double-dealing" The Free Dictionary, 15 November 2013).

in refusing to confirm or deny that any of its relics (in particular the Shroud of Turin), are authentic or not, it would not be surprising if the secular media assumes this is merely a stunt to win converts to, or prevent Catholics leaving, Catholicism. It seems two-faced for the Pope and his bishops to mount a huge ceremony featuring these bones and yet refuse to confirm or deny that they really believe them to be authentic.

And when Pope Francis says:

"How is this possible? How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love." ("Turin Shroud: full text of Pope Francis’ comments," The Telegraph, 30 Mar 2013).

Stephen thinks:

which, if it was translated correctly, means that Pope Francis thinks the Shroud of Turin is not even a relic, and is tantamount to him declaring it to be a fake!

This may be the biggest mystery of all?

clip_image001A reader, who is a computer graphics expert, writes:

Has anyone ever attempted to create a graph of measured distance between points on a three-dimensional human form (or just a head) and an abstract surface or hypothetical plane using gray-scale tones or luma to represent the data? In other words has anyone produced a heightmap? See

I contend that such a set of measurements would produce a fuzzy, ghost like representation of the body form and not the detailed and realistic image we see on the shroud. This would be true for both linear and curved gray-scales. The image on the shroud does not represent collimated body to cloth distance. The claim that it does is pure fiction. I suggest that the VP-8 Image Analyzer was not used correctly thus leading to a lot of misunderstanding.

What is interesting is that if you apply two-dimensional (xy) Gaussian filters to a digital shroud of Turin image, you create a heightmap equivalent. That gives a good plot. Given that it is mathematically impossible to go the other way, just as you cannot find the dividend and the divisor from the quotient, it would be impossible to produce the actual image on the shroud from the data derived. This may be the biggest mystery of all.

That is hard to understand. However, what follows is an edited reposting from February that may help.

What is right or wrong with the material from page 9 of The Shroud: A Critical Summary of Observations, Data and Hypotheses, by Robert W. Siefker and Daniel S. Spicer, which states in Table I, Item 3.0:

The luminance distribution of both front and back images can be correlated to the clearances between the three-dimensional surface of the body and a covering cloth. This is why many state that the Shroud is a 3D image. . . .

imageThe variation in the image density has been analyzed mathematically to render a high resolution 3-dimensional body image.

While a photograph can be either a positive or a negative, there is no correlation in a photograph between the density of the imprint and the distance to the object. Uniquely, the image on the shroud appears denser in the areas where the vertical distance to the body from the cloth surface would logically be shorter. This allows the use of a simple mathematical function to recover the 3-dimensional information about the body. The 3-D characteristics present on the Shroud cannot be recovered with any normal reflected light photograph or painting.

We are being forced to think of this only in terms of a cloth covering a body. While this may be the case, this is an assumption and not an image characteristic. It should be avoided.

A better way to describe this is to use accepted terminology from the world of three-dimensional graphics. The image is a height-field or height-map.

Smoke ring height fieldSmoke ring plotted as craterWith a VP8 Image Analyzer or newer computer software (POV Ray, ImageJ, etc.), the gray scale values at many xy points in the height-field to the left are plotted as elevation or terrain.

The software uses several variables including an altitude scale, a viewing angle and a virtual light source to enable us to visualize the shape.

Face as height fieldFace plottedThe same software with the same viewing angles and artificial lighting produces the apparent elevation in the face. This is true for the entire body of the man imaged on the Shroud of Turin.

It is important to note, as
Siefker and Spicer state, a normal photograph or a painting is a representation of reflected light as detected by a camera or perceived from an artists viewing position. 

There is no useful relationship between the gray scale values in a normal painting or photograph and spatial distance as found in height-fields.

imageVirtual reality and gaming software regularly uses similar height-field images (above left) to produce realistic landscapes. NASA uses them to generate 3D surface representations of the moon and planets. Those height-fields are created by radar and lasers. Google Earth software makes 3D renderings of our planet the same way. NOAA produces 3D images of hurricanes from radar data represented in height-fields. Height-fields are regularly used in new-generation 3D ultrasound sonograms.

Note: Height-field is a convenient term. Gray scale values found in such a dataset are applicable for both vertical and horizontal plots.

Here is an image I prepared using ImageJ. See: Do Your Own VP8-Like 3D Images of the Shroud of Turin

A Quote You Won’t Want to Use

imageStephen Jones is analyzing an article , “Pope Francis Does it Again,”  that appeared in the Las Vegas Guardian Express three days ago. In a posting, Pope Francis shows St Peter’s bones to public for first time Stephen tells us:


This is the difference between the Shroud of Turin and other Catholic relics (with the exception of the Sudarium of Oviedo). The Shroud’s authenticity has been confirmed Biblically, artistically, historically and scientifically,independent of Catholic tradition, which is why Protestants like me accept it.

You see, Paul Roy, in the Guardian Express has written:

Through the years however, as new scientific methods are developed to date artifacts and learn more about them, some of these artifacts come closer and closer to being verified as real. The Shroud of Turin for example has long been believed to be the cloth used to bury Jesus in his tomb and from where his resurrection happened. Since its discovery the shroud has been called both real and a fake, yet, each time it has been tested, it is the most tested piece of material in the world, more evidence comes to light showing it is very possible it is authentic and that Jesus, or at least a man was wrapped in it after having been crucified.

Add a measure of enthusiasm or whatever and you get Stephen’s conclusion. I dare say that isn’t representative of the thinking of Protestants I know.

Unraveling Unusual Stitches in the Turin Shroud

it would seem that the stitch on the Shroud is the basic standard one
which one would use then and now to join two pieces of cloth.

imageCharles Freeman, by way of a (44th) comment to The Shroud is 8 x 2 Assyrian Whatchamacallits, writes:

Selvedges and stitches. I am now quite used to following up a source quoted in Wilson and finding something very different from what he suggests (the classic remains the discrepancy between Wilson’s depiction of della Rovere’s actual portrayal of Christ in the Shroud and his own version, p. 28 of my 2010 edition of Wilson’s The Shroud in which Wilson even reverses the position of the arms!).

So while I was having a research day in the Cambridge University Library, I called in the Masada Report to check out the source references given above. In my edition of Wilson the discussion is on p. 109-110.

P. 169, fig. sixteen does exist. It does show a selvedge on a goat hair cloth. The excavators appear to have illustrated it because it is woven on a tubular or two beamed loom. No other example of the use of this kind of loom or selvedge has been found this early in the Mediterranean . However, earlier examples are known in northern Europe from earlier so the suggestion is that either the cloth originated in northern Europe –more likely – see further below- – or is evidence for the first use of this kind of selvedge in the Mediterranean. Wilson then gives a reference to Gabriel Vial’s 1989 report on the Shroud in which Vial talks of the construction of the Shroud’s selvedge as ’tout a fait inhabituelle’. He does not give the page number in my edition of The Shroud, but it is p. 15 with an illustration on p.16 of the Shroud’s selvedge. (The article is in the CIETA Bulletin for 1989, Dave B quotes a reference for pages 27-9 from his edition of Wilson but this is a completely different article!) The problem is that the selvedge on the Shroud does not appear the same as the selvedge shown in the Masada report. So all we can do is agree with Vial –the article is his own report of his examination of the Shroud while they were choosing the sample for radiocarbon dating on 21st April, 1988, so is interesting and perhaps even important in its own right- that the selvedge on the Shroud is ‘very unusual’.

We next go on to the reference to figs. 111-113 on pages 201-11 of the Masada report. Yes these figs. do exist and on these pages. They all refer to the same fragment of wool. It is picked out and illustrated as it is wool, 2:2, Z twist spin, balanced diamond twill. So except for the Z spin being similar to that of the Shroud , I can’t see why this is relevant- it is not herringbone, linen or 3:1. In the discussion on the origins of the textiles found at Masada (p. 239), this cloth is placed in their group iv. The excavators’ conclusion is that these textiles probably came from northern Europe as this kind of twist (Z) and this kind of pattern is known from examples there. They suggest it may have come in with Roman soldiers who were involved in the crushing of the Masada revolt. I simply cannot see why Wilson provides a reference to a piece of cloth that has absolutely nothing in common with the Shroud except that its thread is Z spun (and thus as the excavators suggest probably spun in northern Europe).

So far nothing about stitching at all so I had to find my own reference to the stitching in the Masada report and it is found on pp 170-1 where they discuss the 45 textiles that have stitching on them. They illustrate six of these stitches on figs. 20-25 but they do not describe any of them as exceptional. So I was surprised to find that Wilson reproduces Masada fig. 23 (as his fig. 8)- which is a counter-hemming stitch- as one which the excavators ‘adjudged to be a very unusual seam’. I can’t find any reference to such a judgement but as Wilson has provided no references it may have been somewhere outside the accompanying text in this section.

Luckily I had access to a higher authority- my wife who designed and sewed theatre costumes for her degree and then went on to work in the textiles department of the Victoria and Albert Museum. She took one look at Wilson’s ‘unusual seam’ and said in fact that this was the standard stitch for joining two pieces of cloth together when one wanted to make sure the ends did not fray. Nothing unusual about it at all!

Wilson does mention that Mechthild Flury-Lemberg is on record as saying that this stitch is similar to the one on the Shroud but he gives no reference for her opinion. In fact, it would seem that the stitch on the Shroud is the basic standard one which one would use then and now to join two pieces of cloth.

And so how much more time does one waste with Wilson? I have certainly better things to do but at least I can warn Shroud researchers to take anything that Wilson says with a large pinch of salt. I had only to read into the next page to find other issues that I could have dealt with in the same way as here but life is too short and I have far more interesting and accurate historians to work with. Hugh seems the man for the job of taking a critique of Wilson further – sorry Hugh but so long as people are going on quoting Wilson in their support it needs to be done.

Happy Hanukkah


I was going to wait until this evening, but I’ll be travelling.

Off Topic: New Novel – The Donation of Constantine

imageJason Pat writes:

This is to let you know that Simon LeVay’s new novel, ‘The Donation of Constantine,’ has just come out. It’s a religious-historical novel set in 8th-century Italy, and it revolves around the famous and enigmatic forgery known as — you guessed it — the Donation of Constantine. Here’s a brief description:

In the middle of the eighth century, the decaying city of Rome lies defenseless against the advance of the warmongering Lombards. The new Pope, Stephen II, appeals for help from the Eastern Emperor, but none arrives. In desperation, the Pope’s younger brother and an English nun conspire to change the course of history—at the risk of their own souls. Based on real people and actual events, this is a story of intrigue, passion, war, and the struggle for control of medieval Europe.

The book does deal seriously with Catholic politics and the evolution of the papacy — and in that sense it holds up a distant mirror to the present-day Church — but it’s all wrapped up in an adventure story that should please anyone.

There’s more information about His book at its website, This site includes information on how to order the physical book or the ebook in the U.S., the U.K., or Europe. The Amazon page for the paperback is here

[ . . . ]

Sounds fun. I ordered a Kindle version.

A Guest Posting by Yannick Clément: Solid as a Brick Wall

STURP Integrity


Over the years up until today, we have seen many skeptics about the authenticity of the Shroud (most of them are fans of the man made forgery scenario) accusing the STURP team of being religious fanatics (or religious biased).

So, here’s an argument that I think is as solid as a brick wall to show once and for all that this team effort to analyze the Shroud in 1978 and the years following was performed with great honesty and professionalism: The main conclusion of the team concerning the nature of the image formation on the cloth was “we don’t know yet” and not “it comes from a process that is scientifically unexplainable (in the sense that it is most probably related to some supernatural process)”.

In sum, if the STURP team would have been religiously biased, their conclusion would never have been the kind of “admission of failure” that it was concerning the image formation! NEVER! The team would have done all it can to strongly suggest a supernatural or miraculous process instead, which is not at all what have come out of their great work, proving it was a real honest and professionally performed scientific effort.

Because of their “we don’t know how it got formed” statement in their final conclusion versus the body image, I think anyone can forget the idea that this scientific team was biased in any way. Unfortunately, over the years, and principally since the publishing of the C14 dating results, many supernatural and/or religious fanatics out there have taken the “we don’t know” statement of STURP and turned it into a “we can’t fully explain it, so it most be related to the Resurrection of Christ”, which is a very bad extrapolation that is not worthy of any serious scientific thinking and which is absolutely not what STURP’s conclusion meant. 

Maybe STURP should have emphasize a bit the more their conclusion by underlining the fact that the image formation process was unexplainable IN THE PRESENT STATE OF OUR SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE SHROUD and, of course, this could change in the future if a new series of direct researches on the relic can be allowed by the Vatican…

I hope this short reflection of mine will be good to make people from the 2 principal fringe of Shroud science (i.e. the hardcore skeptics and the supernatural-religious fanatics) reflect and maybe realize how some of their thinking and statements about the Shroud image is far from what STURP really was and from what really was their primary scientific conclusion about the Shroud image.  


WAG from Oklahoma City writes:

Imagine a life size statue, part of a crucifix in a cathedral, falling to the floor as stress bearing shoulders break apart. Imagine workmen carefully wrapping the statue in a linen altar cloth. They place the arms over the torso so they fit under the cloth. Imagine workers cleaning the statue with a cleaning fluid. Imagine a chemical reaction taking place that forms an image on the cloth. Imagine a priest thinking this was a miracle. Imagine a cash strapped bishop changing the story a bit and adding some blood from the cathedral hospital.

I think a partial hat tip to Colin is in order.

No that is not the shroud image. That is John Lennon, the first thing that came to mind with all those imagines.

Running out of options?

imageIn a reply to Thibault, Colin had written:

It may surprise you to know that I too am still sceptical about the TS image being a scorch – but not enough to embrace any kind of radiation model (so what does that leave – discounting Maillard?) .

Those words rolled around gently in the back of my mind, almost lost to a storm swirl of highly charged  comments. Now I want to think about it.

“. . . what does that leave . . .” ?

I don’t think we have exhausted the scorch idea. Colin’s LOTTO idea has yet to be explored. And there are probably other scorching methods not yet thought of. The natural-by-chemical-reaction, ala Maillard, is possibly still a wide open field. Radiation models will continue. I think most people think about this in terms of some form of energy caused by the resurrection although more natural triggering events such as earthquakes have been proposed.

In 2005, Nathan Wilson proposed the Shadow Shroud method (pictured). It was, if nothing else, ingenious:

. . . no one has been able to explain how a photonegative image of a man could be three-dimensionally encrypted onto linen by medieval forgers unable even to appreciate the completeness of their own art. The Shadow Theory postulates that such an image could be created using only painted glass and sunlight.

So what else have we not thought of. Louis did you just write, “Kelly, do you think bilirubin can form images of a human body?”  Seriously?

I still say: None of the above.

Common ground between believers and atheists

imageMatthew Becklo see some possibility for common ground between the believers in God and atheists. Taking some text from Michael Novak’s No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers:

Both the atheist and the believer stand in similar darkness. The atheist does not see God – but neither does the believer … we all stand in darkness concerning our deepest questionings … withal, a certain modesty should descend upon us. Believers in God well know, in the night, that what the atheist holds may be true. At least some atheists seem willing to concede that those who believe in God might be correct. Sheer modesty compels us to listen carefully, in the hopes that we might learn.

Becklo expounds:

This is an especially good caveat for the faithful. Pope Francis wrote in his first encyclical Lumen Fidei (or “The Light of Faith”): “One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey…”

In other words, faith does not mean knowing God through and through and tapping a stockpile of straightforward answers.Instead, it’s an ontological light burning in the same existential darkness that scandalizes the atheist. “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness,” Francis reminds us, “but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.”

See how easily we layer in our beliefs about the shroud.

Hat tip for this goes to Andrew Sullivan who tips his hat to Matthew Cantirino at First Things.

A Guest Posting by O.K. : Blood on the face of TSM?

imageThe question of the blood-covered face of the TSM is, in my opinion, a matter of great interest and importance. In the recent comment1, Hugh Farey raised a very important matter of the possible existence (or non-existence) of image under bloodstains. Based on Adler’s observation of cleansed blood fibers, it is generally assumed that there is no image under blood stains.2 But Hugh argues that:

All the Mark Evans photos showing bloodstains clearly show that most of the red particles have been rubbed off the upper surfaces of the threads, and are mostly confined to the cracks and crevices where one thread crosses another. The surfaces from which the blood has been rubbed off are as yellow as the rest of the image fibres, and do not carry the distinctive silky white appearance of the non-image threads.

So, in Hugh’s opinion, there is apparent conflict between Adler’s conclusions (it is however necessary to note that Pierluigi Baima-Bollone, who performed independent analysis of blood-covered threads agrees that there is no image under bloodstains3, earlier in 1973 other bloodied threads were analyzed by G. Frache and G. Filogamo) and Mark Evans photos. But another option comes to my mind, is it possible that some of the so called body image was actually created by blood?

What prompted me to this solution, is an analyzis of the various photographs of the Shroud, as well as Tamburelli & Ballosino’s eidomatic 3D reconstructions of the TSM face. Processing Enrie’s photos (STURP did not give them their images), they cleared the face from apparent blood flows and obtained these results:4


Another image shows eliminated blood traces:


That’s what interests us. Are those traces a real blood?

Evidences For Testing Hypotheses About The Body Image Formation Of The Turin Shroud by Fanti et al have following remark:

A44) The luminance level of the head image in the positive photograph of Durante (2000) is 10% and more lower (darker) than that of the whole body image (Moran 2002).

This was used by one sceptic to “prove” that the image of the face and rest of the body are separate images created by the forger. I refuted this statement by saying that this actually makes no sense, without clarification, what do we mean by luminance level (average, maximum) and what photography do we use. Because their sensitivity in different wavelengths can be different. That’s crucial here. Let’s analyze two photographs, one by Enrie, and one by Schwortz:


The differences are obvious. On the Schwortz photo, the blood marks are much more intense in comparison with the body image, than on Enrie one. It is due to the fact that Enrie’s plates were much more sensitive in the yellow part of the visual spectrum, while Schwortz’ were more sensitive in red. The most important observation is, however, that the face on the Schwortz’ is much more intense than on Enrie, almost as intense as the blood marks –thus suggesting that it is actually created by the blood marks! The most intense are beard, mustache, hair and eyebrows (which easily absorb blood) as well as nostrils, from which the blood spilled.

What’s connection of this to Hugh’s reservations? Hugh claims that the surfaces from which the blood has been rubbed off are as yellow as the rest of the image fibres, and do not carry the distinctive silky white appearance of the non-image threads. I want to ask, whether those darker fibers from the regions were blood has been rubbed off by erosion are actually not the image fibers (which would suggest that there is an image below blood stains, contrary to Adler and others) but blood residuals creating image. Thus there would be no conflict between Adler’s and Hugh’s observation. The slight differences in color, are, in my opinion, not enough to distinguish whether dark layer on the fiber is actually the image, or blood residuals.

Just my suggestion for further considerations. I would like to add also that one must remember that we don’t know precisely where blood flecks originally ended –the image areas on even individual fibers can be right next to the blood areas. Thus only direct examination of fibers can give us answer whether there is, or isn’t the image below blood.

1 See

2 See for example Evidences for testing hypotheses about the body image formation of the Turin Shroud , The Third Dallas International Conference On the Shroud of Turin: Dallas, Texas, September 8-11, 2005, Raymond N. Rogers, Frequently Asked Questions

3 Pierluigi Baima Bollone, Całun Turyński 101 pytań i odpowiedzi, Wydawnictwo Wam, Kraków 2002, pg. 143)

4 The images are taken from

The evidence of things not seen

imageJohn L. Allen, Jr. (pictured), a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and vaticanologist (why not, it is in the dictionary), in a special yesterday for CNN, writes:

First of all, the bones Francis will venerate on Sunday spent centuries resting in the site linked to Peter’s martyrdom and burial. That history makes them, at a minimum, what Catholic tradition regards as "relics by contact," meaning objects physically connected to the legacy of the saint.

Beyond that, Francis knows these bones have been hallowed by countless acts of prayer and devotion, and that like other famous relics, such as the Shroud of Turin or the Belt of Mary, they evoke awe and devotion regardless of their actual provenance. Especially for the first pope from Latin America, a continent where popular devotion is the very soul of religious experience, that mystical power is not to be dismissed.

Faith, as the Bible puts it, lies in "the evidence of things not seen." In that sense, an exhibit of the bones of St. Peter, surrounded by scientific controversy yet wrapped in a blanket of belief, is probably the perfect capstone for a "Year of Faith."

Does intense study and debate about the shroud similarly evoke awe and even devotion? Does it increase faith or get in the way. William F. Buckley, in Nearer My God: An Autobiography of Faith wondered, using miracles as a litmus test:

Is it perfect faith that conjures up the miracle? Why is it that no miracles have been recorded at the splendid shrine of the most wondrous of all relics, the Shroud of Turin, but a good many are said to have come to pass at the shrine of the girl-saint Bernadette Soubirous? Are miracles, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? I do not doubt that Jesus worked his miracles; yet how long the results thereof endured, and whether what the witnesses beheld was physically ‘real,’ we have no means of knowing. Oh for a revelation!

Oh for a revelation!

Hugh Farey on the possibility of image color under bloodstains

imageOnly Adler [pictured to the right] carried out any such study, and this is what he said: “Interestingly, fibrils freed of their coatings using this technique [protease to dissolve away any protein] closely resemble the non-image fibrils of the Shroud.” I cannot take this as a general truth. All the Mark Evans photos showing bloodstains clearly show that most of the red particles have been rubbed off the upper surfaces of the threads, and are mostly confined to the cracks and crevices where one thread crosses another. The surfaces from which the blood has been rubbed off are as yellow as the rest of the image fibres, and do not carry the distinctive silky white appearance of the non-image threads.

On Wild Ducks


Tom Watson, Jr., for many years Chairman of the Board and CEO of IBM, once said,

Kierkegaard drew his point — you can make wild ducks tame, but you can never make tame ducks wild again. One might also add that the duck who is tamed will never go anywhere any more.

I kept that quotation on the wall of my office. Visitors often noted, however, that it is the wild ducks that get shot at.

You. like Hugh, are a wild duck around here. You experiment. You hypothesize. You question what others have observed, perhaps even imagined. You are constructively skeptical. Your smart and you’re a smart ass. All of this is appreciated. It isn’t (or at least should not be) about being pro-authenticity or anti-authenticity but about being pro-truth. That takes a lot of high-flying, wild duckism. Yours is a valuable role.

My role is different. I’m the guy that walks around with a shotgun looking for low flying birds. Sorry about the buckshot you saw flying by. Okay, so I missed. So keep on flying, wildly and high.

No insult was intended.


Is the Image on the Shroud of Turin a Selfie?

the scientific study of the Shroud of Turin

imageDo you remember the laughter that ensued when you used the word sindonology? Well things are improving.





the scientific study of the Shroud of Turin.

1965–70;  < Italian sindon ( e ) the shroud in which Christ was interred(< Greek (NT) sindṓn winding sheet, Greek: muslin sheet; cf. sindon) + -o- + -logy

Related forms

sin·do·nol·o·gist, noun

imageFrom:  Collins English Dictionary: Pioneers in dictionary publishing since 1819



  1. the study of the shroud that the body of Christ is thought to have been wrapped in

From: Wiktionary:




  1. The study of the Shroud of Turin.


1965–70; < It sindon(e) the shroud in which Christ was interred (< Gk (NT) sindṓn winding sheet, Gk: muslin sheet; cf. sindon) + -o- + -logy

Related terms


  • study of holy shroud


From: The Free Dictionary by Farlex


the study of fabric artifacts, especially the supposed burial shroud of Christ. — sindonologist, n.

See also: Christ

However: Merriam-Webster’s doesn’t have sindonology yet. Neither does the grand poobah of dictionaries, Oxford, which can find room for selfie (a photograph that one has taken of oneself). Selfie was just named Oxford’s Word of the Year leading me to wonder if some sindonologist’s, Antonacci and Jackson for instance, or Rogers, might call the image on the shroud a selfie.

First Annual Bertrand Russell Award in Sindonology

this strange hybrid method, through which a literary genre convinces itself it is a science

imageBenjamin Wallace-Wells, in the latest issue of New York magazine, writes about 50 years of conspiracy theory. He is focused on American politics but he could have just as well been considering the shroud – think of Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince for starters.

The seduction of conspiracy is the way it orders chaos. In the summer of 1964, the English philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell—past 90 years old then and possibly the most famously rational person on the planet—read the early accounts of the Warren Commission Report [=The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy] with mounting alarm. None of the important questions, he thought, were being answered. There was the matter of the parade route being changed without explanation at the last minute, so that the motorcade passed Lee Harvey Oswald’s workplace; the geometrically confounding arrangement of entry and exit wounds; the curious fact that an alibi witness who helped get an alternate suspect released from custody turned out to be a stripper at Jack Ruby’s club.

The logician went to work. Meticulously, Russell documented the discrepancies between each first-person account and the divergences between each report in the media. He gave his document a modest, scientific-sounding title (“16 Questions on the Assassination”) and a just-the-facts tone. This strange hybrid method, through which a literary genre convinces itself it is a science, has become not just a template for ornate conspiracies but a defining way in which American stories are told.

. . . or shroud scenarios are imagined. And thus I am inspired to nominate Colin Berry for the First Annual Bertrand Russell Award in Sindonology; remember that for awhile Colin was championing something to do with Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar. Now it is a remodeled crucifix:

. . . How many folks here are aware of the presence of the so-called sedillis marks on each of the buttocks (symmetrical sets of 3 marks each forming a triangle)?

Mario Latendresse interprets them as an additional torture device of Roman crucifixion, and Yannick Clement, mentioned at the end of the above link, thinks they may be burns marks, not blood.

I think they are where mounting bolts(sawn off to flush stubs) or maybe open bolt holes for a lifesize crucifix existed and which imaged onto the dorsal view as a scorch. They were subsequently disguised as blood marks.

I’m presently revisiting some older ideas I expressed many moons ago that the Shroud was made from a crucifixion bronze from which the arms were removed and re-positioned. There was probably a loin cloth to be disposed of too, but that could help resolve some oddities re the figure on the Lirey badge, especially that curious coiled belt, which Wilson interpreted as blood from the lance wound, gathered on the underside of the back, and which I previously thought could be a chain used to secure a victim.


I’m now returning to the idea that the image was imprinted from a life-size crucifixion bronze, and yes, it would have had a loin cloth, but the artistically-rumpled up parts that identify it immediately as a tied-off cloth could easily have been filed off. What;s interesting me at the moment, especially thinking about the Shroud’s peculiar hands and fingers is the possibility that arms may have been sawn off and re-positioned to create the horizontal entombment posture with crossed hands, My little brass crucifix, bought a year ago in France, is providing lots of clues as to what needed to be done to re-model a crucifixion statue as a post-crucifixion template for the tomb scene.

Congratulations. And may we also welcome our friend from across the pond to the ranks of American thinkers.

STERA on Facebook Today

Barrie Schwortz reports:

In case you missed it… Don Luigi Fossati was an avid Shroud scholar since the 1940’s and authored many books, essays and articles on the subject, as well as creating the first filmstrips of the Shroud in 1950. One of my favorite articles is titled "Photographing the Holy Shroud During the 1898 Exhibition," because it includes a letter from Secondo Pia. Don Fossati died in 2007.


Quote for Today

imageStephen Jones writes regarding the Vatican exhibition of what some believe are the bones of St. Peter, the Apostle:

There is no way to confirm that these are the Apostle Peter’s bones, but they probably are. However, as per the Vatican’s duplicitous policy of refusing to confirm or deny that any Catholic relic is authentic (including the Shroud of Turin), "No pope has ever stated categorically that the bones belonged to Saint Peter":

Definition: Oxford Dictionaries

If you will be near Whippany, New Jersey, in December

this raises the question: what does Vatican-approved and authenticated mean?


imageHANOVER TWP. – A Vatican authenticated copy of The Shroud of Turin, one of six in the United States will be on display from Sunday, Dec. 1 to Sunday, Dec. 15 at Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church, 60 North Jefferson Road, in Whippany.

The actual shroud is famous for its claim to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ. Kept in the Cathedral of the Italian city of Turin, it is usually exposed for veneration every 10 years; it is almost never taken outside the confines of the city itself.

There are, however, Vatican-approved and authenticated copies of the Shroud that are sent out to various parts of the world to allow access to a more general public eager to venerate it or simply interested in viewing it.

There are six such copies in the United States, one of which is kept in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia.

The church will be open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. with liturgy at 9 a.m. and a special prayer service at 7 p.m.; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays with liturgy at 5 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays with a prayer service at 4 p.m.

For more Information and to set up group visits, call 973-887-3616 or

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