IL TEMPO - Sunday, August 11, 2002, page 15

The protection of the Relic
The Shroud is a "unique" to be conserved in its integrity
Francesco SISINNI *

The NEWS of a most recent intervention on the Shroud, a relic that most of the scientific world thinks authentic and that all Christian believers in the world venerates as sacred, surprises and worries, all the more that such an intervention would have been allowed from those who, like the Church, with its famous edicts and its extraordinary Supervisors, has written fundamental pages in the history of protection.

The news, just released, communicates that from the sheet, that would have wrapped the body of Jesus, deposed from the cross, would have been removed the thirty patches and the backing cloth, called of Holland, with which nearly five centuries ago they thought it right to patch it in the holes caused by the 1532 fire. The image and the suggestion that the news reawakens in our memory and conscience would  induce to tell of that icy Turinese dawn, in which with the Cardinal Saldarini and some experts of the Ministry for the Cultural Inheritance decided to move the case containing the Shroud in a sure place for the period of the works in the Nineties, which also included the restoration of the Guarini Chapel or tell of those interesting conversations with Maria Gabriella of Savoy in the amiable convivial encounters at the Circle of the Hunting, flavored by the learned amphitryon Falcone Lucifero's Carducciana (translator's note: Giosuè Carducci was an Italian poet) lyric emphasis or, still, of the outcomes of the preparation and the participation to the International Symposium of Sindonology, promoted by the Lumsa, in Orvieto in 1999 or, finally and more simply, of the uncontrollable commotion always caused by the vision of those signs of martyrdom and death - and of death by cross.

However, here we just want to recall what has been learned and lived in so many years of study and experience, both in the theory and in the practical experience of the restoration, because the Shroud is a "document" of an extraordinary interest and an exceptional value, and that the Shroud is such a document is proved by the bi-millenarian memory, formed on that "testimony" committed to the tradition until the 13th century and to the history at least from 1300 up to today.
As one knows, it is just the tradition which narrates that that sheet, which "photographs" the dead Christ,  was carried by Jesus' Apostles themselves  to Edessa, where it would have been guarded by the king Abgar and from there it would have passed to Constantinople, to be venerated there in the Church of Blacherne, built for that purpose. The Shroud was brought to Athens, as a result of a theft, where it would have been stolen again and recovered.

From 1300 to 1453 - and this it is history - it belonged to the Charny family, who guarded it in the French village of Lirey.  Bought by Ludovico of Savoy, it was guarded in Chambéry, in the Sainte Chapelle, where it endured the 1532 fire and was restored with the cloths, which would have been removed now.  In 1587 Emanuele Filiberto carried the Shroud to Turin, where it has been kept since then in the Cathedral, since 1694, in the Guarini Chapel.  In 1983 the exiled king Umberto II gave its possession to the Pope and since then the Bishop of Turin has been its custodian.  In 1997 someone dared install some kitchens in a place contiguous to the Cathedral for a government lunch.  From those kitchens the fire must have spread, which would have destroyed the sacred relic if a young fireman, risking his life, had not saved it.

Well, would this important object, on whose material and historical authenticity scholars from every part of the world have worked hard and, above all, in front of which millions of faithful from all over the world have kneeled down, have now undergone such a heavy intervention?  And that in spite of the widespread convincement that the "do not touch," as far as the relics are concerned, is not dictated by a mere Conservatism, but by the consolidated culture of the protection, that admonishes us to have the due respect not only for the object in itself, but also for what the history has left on it, with signs which are testimonies to be conserved as well.  For example, today who would dare remove the Renaissance and baroque integrations, and not only Bernini's famous ones, from the statues which have reached us mutilated from the Greek-Roman Classical Age?  Nevertheless, those statues are not that "unique", that the Shroud is, instead.  Sure, if the news of the intervention is founded, there must have been extremely serious reasons and therefore serious and urgent necessities to intervene.  Therefore, a prompt information about it would be highly desirable, and so - to paraphrase Spadolini  - we would tighten the Tiber once again.

* Cultural adviser of the Ministry of the Education in Aldo Moro’s times, in 1974 collaborates with the Minister Giovanni Spadolini to the creation of the Ministry for the Cultural Inheritance and Environmental; he is its first National Council General Secretary and, then, its General Manager for 18 years. Appointed General Manager for the Defense of the Territory in the Ministry of the Public Labors, he is, then, appointed person in charge by the C.E.S. Office of Presidency for the protection of the Environment and is a member of some Commissions of Experts in the Higher Council of the Public Labors. He is the author of numerous essays and works. Main Councilman of the Society “Dante Alighieri” and Dante’s House, Professor of Philosophy, History and History of the Arts in various Italian and foreign Universities, is a member of several national and international Academies and Cultural Institutes.  He is the Director of the post-degree Improvement Course of Historical-artistic Studies of Gubbio. He is a member of the Orders of Knighthood of Malta, the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, Saint George and Saint Gregory and is Knight of Great Cross of the Order of the Italian Republic. He is a member of the Papal Commission for the Cultural Inheritage of the Church in the world.  He is currently director of the Master in Historical-artistic Studies and Protection and Valorization of the cultural patrimony and environment at the LUMSA (Assumption University) of Rome.