IL MESSAGGERO - Friday, August 9, 2002, page 8

The 1534 "patches" and backing cloth eliminated
Sindone, a new mystery: thirty darns disappeared
The operation has been led by the Swiss textile expert Flury-Lemberg between June and July.
But the Commission for the relic preservation has not been involved.
Turin, radical restoration intervention on Jesus' burial sheet.  Damages are feared.

At first sight, the news appears incredible.  The Shroud of Turin is not anymore the one millions and millions of people have venerated and contemplated in the last 1978, 1998 and Jubilee exhibitions.  A month ago, in the utmost secrecy, they have made it change its universally known aspect.  The Shroud of Turin is not anymore the one it has been for nearly five centuries, from April 1534 until some weeks ago. A restoration has been eliminated that had lasted since then.  In fact, the thirty patches of various sizes, which the Chambéry Clare nuns had sewn on the Sheet in the restoration carried out after the fire of December 4, 1532, that had burnt it in various areas, have been removed.  Moreover, the so-called "Holland cloth," then sewn on the back of the Shroud in order to better support it, has been replaced.

The most important antique-relic of Christianity, of universal value, because thought to be Jesus of Nazareth's burial sheet, with amazing confirmations from many scientific tests of various disciplines, has undergone an intervention certainly of no little conservative significance, with the elimination of a restoration of many centuries and remarkable risks for the Shroud Man's image itself. All of that was carried out in the utmost secrecy, without the scientific community and the religious one being informed and without ever being suggested to unsew the patches and the Holland cloth in any of the eight international conferences on the Shroud studies in the last four years.  That demonstrates that no sindonologist thought such an intervention for the Shroud preservation.

From the historical-documentary point of view, the damage is obvious.  Even if they may have acted with precaution and professionalism, the unsewing of the patches on the burned parts of the cloth, above all the one nearest the side wound, cannot have happened without loss of small fragments.  It seems amazing indeed that such a permission has been guaranteed by the Custodian, Cardinal Severino Poletto, and granted (even if, as far as we know, with remarkable difficulty) by the Holy See, who is the relic owner.  The "operation-patches" took place from last June 20 to July 22. The Shroud was removed from the new case put under the royal stand, in the left transept of the Turin Cathedral, and brought in the new adjoining sacristy, become inaccessible during all the works. The patches were removed from the sheet, 4.37 m long and 1.11 m wide. Those patches, more or less triangular, are in parallel couples next to the frontal and dorsal images of the Man, naked, scourged, hit on the face, who brought a helmet of thorns on the head and the horizontal arm of a cross on the shoulders, who was crucified with nails and pierced on the side after his death. In the fire of the night between December 3 and 4, 1532, in the "Sainte Chapelle" of Chambéry, a corner of the Shroud (folded in 48 layers measuring 27 cm to 36) was burnt, provoking symmetrical burns to the longitudinal and cross-sectional lines of folding.

The operation has been led by a textile expert of international reputation, the Swiss Mechtild Flury-Lemberg who, after removing the patches and the Holland cloth, has replaced the latter with a cloth of her property. The patches removed have been preserved in a sealed container, as well as the Holland cloth.  One of the cloth foldings near the Man of the Shroud's face would have disappeared as a result of these unsewings, but another one would have remained. It seems that the two people in charge of the International Center of Sindonology, the mathematician Bruno Barberis, its director, and Gian Maria Zaccone, director of the Museum, have inspired this intervention, while Mgr.  Giuseppe Ghiberti, the most important collaborator of the cardinal as far as the Shroud is concerned, seems to have been reluctant. Moreover, the whole Commission for the Shroud preservation (where, nevertheless, the same Flury-Lemberg is the only textile expert) does not seem to have been involved, nor, least of all, was Pier Luigi Baima Bollone, predecessor of Barberis and one of the most qualified scientists-sindonologists.  Why has this clamorous "transformation" of the Shroud been carried out?, ask those few who have come to know it.  Sure, the photos taken by the present trusted photographer of the Center, Giancarlo Durante, are worth millions of Euro and the next volume that will publish them will obtain for this a worldwide resonance.  Nevertheless, a lot of things are not clear in what happened.