IL GIORNALE - Wednesday, February 2, 2005, page 14

The Shroud converts the anti-Shroud scientist – The mystery of the Holy Linen

The American chemist Raymond Rogers had confuted the truthfulness of Christ’s image, but in the end he has changed his mind: “Certainly not medieval! That cloth dates to Jesus’ times.”  


The veil is lifted again from the dearest sheet for the Christian world. A relic – the Holy Shroud – which represents still today the synthesis of three seemingly irreconcilable dimensions: science, faith and history. Now the American chemist Raymond Rogers has started on the scientific “side”, confirming the contents of his article, published in the magazine Termochimica Acta, an article which sheds new light on the mystery, maintaining that “the Holy Shroud of Turin is an extremely ancient find and not a forgery of medieval origin”;  but, perhaps, more than the news in itself, it is the way Rogers (at first sceptical on the fact that the face imprinted on the Shroud was Christ’s) has arrived to such a conclusion: a method on which Professor Battaglia goes into details widely in his article you can read in this page. But let’s go back to the American scholar’s statements, issued to the Associated Press: “The chemistry says that it was a real burial sheet, that the blood stains on it are real blood, and that the technology used to make the fabric was exactly the one described by Pliny the Old in his time, about 70 A.D.” “I cannot confute that it was the burial sheet which wrapped Christ’s body,” adds Rogers, “but I can state that the age of the sacred cloth is consistent  with the age Jesus lived in.”

Which is, anyway, the most significant scientific datum? Rogers answers this question maintaining that “the Shroud is 1300-3000 years old and is, therefore, much older than the medieval age, as the radiocarbon analyses, carried out in the 80s, had concluded.” Rogers maintains that the radiocarbon dating on the alleged burial cloth which would have wrapped Jesus is absolutely valid, but it has been carried out on a fragment with a stamp size; this fragment had been sewn for a mending after one of the fires the Shroud had undergone, the first of which in France in 1357. “We are sure that fragment is not part of the original,” wrote Rogers, observing  that the “patch” contains cotton fibres, while the rest of the Shroud is made of pure linen.

The “mistake” of 1988 research could be, in short, traced back to the use of a “wrong sample”; this would have been taken from a medieval cloth, used to repair the damages caused by a fire on the original sheet. The linen Shroud has been, in fact, attacked by the fire many times, since its existence was recorded in France in 1357. In particular, it was involved in a fire in 1532; it was then repaired by some nuns, who darned the holes and sewed the sheet to a backing cloth known as Holland cloth. Rogers’ research has also shown the presence of a chemical substance called vanillin in the sample and in the Holland cloth, but not in the rest of the Shroud. The vanillin is produced by the thermic decomposition of the lignin, a chemical compound which can be found in some plants, such as flax; in time it disappears and so its presence or absence in a material allows its dating. “The fact that the vanillin was not found in the Shroud fibres shows that the sheet is enough old,” states Rogers. “A study of the kinetics of the vanillin loss suggests that it would be between 1300 and 3000 years of age.”

In 1988 research, scientists of three universities had concluded, instead, that the Shroud dated back to a period between 1260 and 1390, which had brought to the conclusion that it could not be the sheet where Jesus’ body had been wrapped for his burial. A doubt which has never touched who – in front of that tenuous imprint of the Shroud – has only felt the impulse to cry. And pray.