AVVENIRE Agorà - Friday,  October 9, 2009, page 27

The controversy – A Revealed Mystery?

After the umpteenth announcement, the Center of Sindonology director speaks out  
«Make the Shroud again?» Try it



It is a refrain that repeats itself regularly by now. Every time a Shroud exhibition is announced, in the preceding months there are a series of discoveries, introduced as sensational, that would demonstrate that the Shroud is a fake, realized with the most varied techniques, obviously in Middle Ages. Already at the beginning of last summer, the news came from the United States that the Shroud would be the self-portrait of Leonardo, realized by the Tuscany genius in a real darkroom, using a bust with his own features, that would have left the print on a cloth treated with egg white and gelatin: practically, the invention of the photography must have taken place almost 400 years earlier! And till now we hadn’t known anything of it! To this hypothesis another was immediately added (in fact already put forward for a long time), that claims that the Shroud image is easy realizable with a pyrographic tool.

Some thirty years ago a doctor from Bari claimed had been able to successfully obtain a print similar to the Shroud one, using the thermal energy generated by a heated bas-relief. And we could go on for a long time with the list of such theories. This time a chemist from Pavia, according to the news reported by some newspapers, claims he himself has realized an identical print to the Shroud one, using the body of one his assistants and a plaster cast as matrices and using reddish ocher, liquid tempera, sulphuric acid and cobalt aluminate. I have no reason to doubt of the care and professional competence with which such artifacts have been realized, but I have strong perplexities that they can be seriously put in comparison with the Shroud and its image. It is not sufficient to obtain an image that to a visual examination seems similar to the one on the Shroud. Perhaps, till some decades ago it would have been sufficient, today no more.

The image of the Shroud and the so-called “blood spots” visible on the cloth have been studied deeply above all as a result of the campaign of collection of data and samples carried out on the Shroud from 8 to 13 October 1978. The results of the analysis of such data have been revealed by the scientists who participated in the research in tens of articles published on prestigious international scientific magazines. In particular, the American scientists who were members of the Sturp (Shroud of Turin Research Project) carried out a series of tests (spectroscopy in the visible and in the ultraviolet for reflectance and fluorescence, X-rays and IR spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy, infrared thermography, X-ray, etc) both on the image zones and on the blood zones, assessing the absolute lack of pigment and coloring substances on the sheet and demonstrating, moreover, that the body image is absent under of the blood spots (and, therefore, that it formed later than they did) and that it is due to an oxidation-dehydration of the cellulose of the superficial fibers of the textile with the  formation of conjugated carbonyl groups. Such an alteration is noticeable only superficially for a depth of approximately 40 micrometers (that is 4 hundredths of millimeter). Moreover, it has been demonstrated that the coloration of the fibers in the image zones is uniform and the variations of intensity of the image are due to the colored fiber number per surface unit. In the blood zones the porphyrin rings presence was revealed and the same zones have had typical reactions of immunofluorescence of the human blood of AB group, and many other more are the characteristics of the image revealed by the analyses carried out after the 1978 tests.

It is, therefore, obvious that to be able to assert that an identical image to the Shroud one has been obtained (it does not matter by which technique or method) it is indispensable to carry out on it the same analyses made on the Shroud and to obtain all the same identical results. Therefore, I invite those who want to undertake such experiments to carry out such analyses on the images they obtain, publishing their results on scientific magazines. As far as I know, up to now all the proposed theories, even if interesting in themselves, have always turned out to be inadequate, either because they have not been supported by serious experimental tests, or because such tests have shown that the obtained images had physical-chemical characteristics very different from those possessed by the Shroud image.