Thursday 4 December 2014

Catholic Deception - Pope To Venerate The Fake of Turin

A typical ‘souvenir’ of an exposition with presiding clergy (1608), one of several made between 1578 and 1750.

The Trustees of the British Museum.
The Origins of the Shroud of Turin | History Today

News that Pope Francis is to make a pilgrimage to Turin Cathedral to venerate the Shroud of Turin, despite it now being regarded only by the most die-hard supporters as anything other than a fairly crude 14th Century painting on linen made from flax which grew in the 14th Century, shows that the 'reforming' Pope, whom many people thought was going to modernise the Catholic Church and introduce a modicum of honesty into its teachings and dealings with people, is still happy to follow his predecessors and mislead the credulous and gullible with forgeries and deliberate deceptions.

The Pope's announcement came only a few days after the publication in History Today of a slamming refutation of the Shroud's authenticity by a British historian. I've written before about this forgery here and here so it's pleasing to read this exposé by historian and writer, Charles Freeman, who, in this article destroys any remaining vestige of arguments for the shroud's authenticity and offers a possible explanation for its existence. An intent to deceive may well not have been the motive of the 'artist' who created it. That came later probably from the Savoy family who bought it and, of course, was adopted later by the Catholic Church in its constant search for the means to fool gullible people and keep them giving the clergy power, money and privileges.

Like his predecessors, Pope Francis, too, confirms that devotion to the shroud that millions and millions of pilgrims recognise as a sign of the mystery of the passion and death of the Lord.

Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin
Freeman gives several reasons, in addition to the damning carbon14-dating evidence from three independent centres which converge on a date around 1300 with a better than 95% certainty as the date the flax was cut, for believing the image on the cloth was not only painted but painted in the early 14th Century. He also points out how little of this evidence was even considered by the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) which lacked the necessary expertise to even recognise the significance of important clues, such as the presence of gesso on the fabric, the presence of cotton fibres and the style of weave. The project team include no experts on medieval art, archaeology or textiles - the very areas where evidence of non-authenticity would be expected to be found. Not surprisingly, the Project declared in it's final report before disbanding in 1981 that:

We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.

Had STURP had these missing experts they would have realised that:
  • The reason the pigment had not penetrated the fibres (behind the conclusion that the image had not been painted on) was because of the presence of gesso, which was mentioned merely in passing. An expert in medieval art could have told them the presence of gesso showed the linen had been prepared for painting and was used to prevent the paint being absorbed into the fibres and so keeping the cloth supple. It was a standard technique for painting flags, banners, etc. The presence of gesso was evidence for the image being painted and painted by an artist who knew what to do. The STURP team had dismissed it as 'dust'.

    Gesso is composed of ground chalk mixed with animal glue and is spread on fabric with a knife so almost all of it is immediately scraped off before it can be absorbed, again to prevent the linen becoming stiff. It was commonly used in South Germany in the 14th Century, the probable location of the Shroud's manufacture.
  • The image on the Shroud has changed over time. In the earliest depictions in 1355 and 1559 it was naked. From 1578 it had a loincloth, probably added in response to a prohibition on lascivia in art, signed by the Bishop of Nice, Francesco Lamberti, in whose see Turin then lay, at the Council of Trent in 1563. The loincloth has now been removed, leaving only a pale mark on the buttocks.
  • The front and rear views do not match up with the rear image being seven centimetres shorter than the front image and the images of the head do not touch, as they would have if the cloth had been wrapped around a body. It is impossible to cross the hands over the genitals as depicted on the front view if the elbows are touching the floor (with the body laying on its back) as shown in the rear view and the hair is not fallen back as it would have been with a body laying down.
  • One of the earliest written accounts of the Shroud by a Benedictine monk at the abbey of Saint-Jacques in Liège describes it as miro artificio depicta (‘admirably painted’).
  • The weave of the cloth, a herringbone weave produced by passing the weft under one thread of the warp and then over the next three, is almost unknown with no examples of it being used for linen before the 14th Century. This is much easier to produce on a treadle loom such as those introduce to Europe from China in about 1000 CE. The width of the Shroud strip is also characteristic of a treadle loom weave which is limited by the distance a person can normally throw the shuttle by hand. A secondary piece of evidence of a European origin is the twist of the thread. In the Middle East this is normally twisted anti-clockwise to give the so-called 'S' twist. The thread of the Shroud linen has the characteristic European clockwise or 'Z' twist.
  • The presence of cotton fibres of the species Gossypium herbacaeum in fairly large numbers is only likely to have occurred after 1200 CE when cotton from Italy was used in the same weaving workshops as linen in northern Italy and southern Germany.
  • A single cloth being the funerary shroud of Jesus is inconsistent with the Bible which describes at least two cloths - a face cloth and strips of linen.

    And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

    Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

    John 20:5-7

    A forger, at least one forging to order, would surely have been aware of what exactly he was trying to forge.

So, if the Turin Shroud isn't authentic and it wasn't intended as a forgery, as the non-representation of a figure laying down suggests, assuming this wasn't merely inept on the part of the putative forger, what was it for exactly?

It was while I was researching the different ceremonies and the liturgies of Easter Week that I came across that of the Quem Queritis, ‘Whom do you seek?’ The ceremony was a re-enactment of the visit of the Three (sometimes Two) Marys to the tomb on ‘the third day’, as recounted in the Gospel of Mark, and it took place early on Easter Day. The earliest records of this come from the 10th century...

In the 11th century there was a significant addition to the number of characters when John and Peter were introduced. This was a re-creation of that dramatic moment, described in Chapter 20 of John’s gospel, when Mary Magdalene tells Peter and that ‘other disciple that Jesus loved’, usually taken to be John, of the empty tomb and they both run to see it. The grave clothes, the facecloth separate from the rest, are lying there and in this extended version of the play, often now called the Visitatio Sepulchri, it is Peter and John who bring out the cloths and display them to the congregation with the chant: ‘See, O brethren, here are the facecloth and the wrappings and the body is not to be found in the tomb.’

Here Charles Freeman has a simple explanation, and probably explains why the cloth was venerated to begin with.

It was common in medieval Europe, especially in southern Germany, for churches and cathedrals to put on plays depicting events from the Bible, the most important being the supposed discovery of the empty tomb, or Quem Queritis. This enacted the various accounts of this event and required several different versions including one with two Mary's, one with three Mary's and one with several women and Peter and 'the disciple whom Jesus loved' because of the several different and irreconcilable versions in the 'inerrant' Bible but they all tended to finish with one of the actors going into the tomb to get the shroud and holding it up to the astonished crowd who were led to believe they were witnessing an enactment of the real thing.

Some of these shrouds were decorated like the Turin Shroud for added authenticity and to give the crowd a view of what dead Jesus would have looked like having been scourged, crucified and stabbed with a sword. Lots of fresh-looking blood would have been essential.

The props used in this annual event would have been kept in the church's treasury and would have become venerated much like the depictions of Jesus and Mary which are still paraded through the streets in Catholic and Orthodox countries today still are.

Incidentally, if you want to try to reconcile all these different accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection in the Bible, try John W Loftus' Easter Challenge.

Lambs to the slaughter
The Shroud of Turin very probably started life in 14th Century southern Germany or northern Italy as one such prop and was only later elevated to its present status when someone hit on the ruse of claiming it to be the actual funerary body wrapping of Jesus to give the faithful yet another reason to remain faithful, to trek to the Cathedral to buy the tacky souvenirs and keep on giving money.

By giving his stamp of authority to an obvious and known forgery (whilst lacking the moral courage to get off the fence and declare it to be a fake or at the very least, not what it is claimed to be) Pope Francis has again shown that maintaining the Catholic Church's income stream and maintaining the Catholic Church's dependence on deceptions and 'miracles' to keep the faithful faithful, is more important to him and his Church than is the truth.

There is no morality in business; all that matters is the bottom line on the profit and loss account.

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