Shroud of Turin Facts

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The Sudarium of Oviedo

In the northern Spanish city of Oviedo, in a small chapel attached to the city’s cathedral, there is a small bloodstained dishcloth size piece of linen that some believe is one of the burial cloths mentioned in John’s Gospel. Tradition has it that this cloth, commonly known as the Sudarium of Oviedo, was used to cover Jesus’ bloodied face following his death on the cross. Numerous historic documents tell us that the Sudarium, unquestionably, has been in Oviedo since the 8th century and in Spain since the 7th century. It seems, too, to have arrived from Jerusalem.

Documents from the late Roman period and the early Middle Ages are often sketchy and prone to chronological mistakes, and those pertaining to the Sudarium are no exception. But from a multiplicity of sources, scholars have extracted core elements of historical certainty and plausibility sufficient for a fair degree of historical reconstruction. We can be quite sure that the Sudarium came to Oviedo from Jerusalem, and there is some evidence it dates back to the first century C.E. Its journey to its present location began in 644 C.E. when Persians under Chosroes II invaded Jerusalem. To protect the Sudarium, it was moved out of the city to safety. We are uncertain of its route to Spain. It may have been first taken to Alexandria along with numerous other relics (real or otherwise, and stored in a chest or “ark”) and from there, in succeeding years, along the coast of North Africa ahead of advancing armies. Some historians have suggested a more direct sea route to Spain, but forensic pollen evidence indicates that the Sudarium was in North Africa, just as the presence of other pollen spores evidences that it was at one time in the Jerusalem environs. Whatever the route, we know that after it arrived in Spain, it was kept in Toledo for about 75 years. For some time after it arrived, it was in the custody of the great bishop and an early-medieval scholar, Isidore of Seville. Then in 718, to protect it from Arab armies, which had invaded Spain only seven years earlier, it was moved northward with fleeing Christians. In 761, Oviedo became the capital of a northern, well-defended enclave of Christians on the Iberian Peninsula and it was to this city that the Sudarium was brought for safekeeping. It has been in Oviedo ever since.

The path of the Sudarium links its origin to the same time and place of the Shroud. Moreover, forensic analysis of the bloodstains suggests strongly that both the Sudarium and the Shroud covered the same human head at nearly the same time. Bloodstain patterns show that the Sudarium was placed about the man’s head while he was still in a vertical position, presumably before he was removed from the cross. It was then removed before the Shroud was placed over the man’s face.

  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