Shroud of Turin Facts

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What Did Jesus Look Like

It is clear to those who study the New Testament that there are no descriptions of the physical appearance of Jesus in scripture. Early documents of the period offer no help. By the 5th century, Augustine of Hippo was making the claim.

The earliest depictions of Jesus most showed a young, beardless man, with short hair. He was often depicted in story-like settings as a shepherd.

Then suddenly, starting in the sixth century, a new common appearance for Jesus emerged in Middle eastern art. We see it today in hundreds of icons, paintings, mosaics, and Byzantine coins. This common quality seems to have started in the Middle East about the same time that the Image of Edessa was discovered.

Jesus, in the newer depictions, had shoulder length hair, an elongated thin nose, and a forked beard. Numerous other characteristics appeared in these portraits and some of them were seemingly of no particular artistic merit. Many portraits had two wisps of hair that dropped at an angle from a central parting of the hair. Many works showed Jesus with large "owlish" eyes. Paul Vignon, a French scholar, who first categorized these facial attributes in 1930, also described a square cornered U shape between the eyebrows, a downward pointing triangle on the bridge of the nose, a raised right eyebrow, accents on both cheeks with the accent on the right cheek being somewhat lower, an enlarged left nostril, an accent line below the nose, a gap in the beard below the lower lip, and hair on one side of the head that was shorter than on the other side.

Now with modern image analysis technology we can clearly see that the portraits in numerous works of art are most probably sourced from a single image and those pictorial characteristics. Those characteristics are found on the Shroud of Turin.

Some most notable and telling portraits include:

  • Christ Pantocrator, an icon at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (550 CE)
  • Byzantine Justinian II solidus, a coin (695)
  • Icon of Christ at St. Ambrose, (now in Milan) (700s)
  • Christ Enthroned, a mosaic in the narthex of Hagia Sophia Cathedral (850-900)
  • Christ Pantocrator, a dome mosaic in a church in Daphni (1050-1100)
  • Christ the Merciful, a mosaic icon now in a Berlin museum (1000s)
  • Christ Pantocrator, an apse mosaic in Cefalu Cathedral, Sicily (1148)

A Chrysanthemum image found on the Shroud is particularly significant. What makes this so is not just the prominence and clarity of the image on the Shroud, but the fact that this flower is depicted accurately, as to its likeness and relationship to the face, on some early icons and coins. This includes the Pantocrator icon at St. Catherine’s Monastery and the seventh century Justinian solidus coin.

  The scientific study of the Turin shroud is like a microcosm of the scientific search for God: it does more to inflame any debate than settle it.”

  And yet, the shroud is a remarkable artefact, one of the few religious relics to have a justifiably mythical status.

  It is simply not known how the ghostly image of a serene, bearded man was made.”

Scientist-Journalist Philip Ball
Nature, January 2005

Nature, that most prestigious of scientific journals, that once had bragging rights to claim that the Shroud was fake, responding to new, peer-reviewed studies that discredit the carbon 14 dating and show that the Shroud could be authentic.


  1. The Shroud of Turin is certainly much older than the now discredited radiocarbon date of 1260-1390. It is at least twice as old and it could be 2000 years old.  FACTS
  2. Though no one knows how it was made, the image is a selective caramel-like darkening of an otherwise clear coating of starch fractions and various saccharides.  FACTS
  3. The blood is real blood.  FACTS
  4. Much of what we think we see in the image is an optical illusion FACTS

Shroud of Turin Facts Check: 2005 Facts