Shroud of Turin Facts

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Christ Pantocrator from St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai (550 CE)

Christ Pantocrator from St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai (550 C.E.)

There really are no descriptions of Jesus' appearance in the New Testament; none whatsoever. Nor are there any meaningful descriptions in any known early Church sources. St. Augustine of Hippo made a point of this when he wrote his monumental works in the fifth century. But starting in the sixth century a new common appearance for Jesus emerged in Middle eastern art. We see it today in many pictures of Jesus: icons, paintings, mosaics and Byzantine coins. This common picture quality seems to have started in the Middle East about the same time that the Image of Edessa was discovered in 544 CE. Up until then, pictures of Jesus were mostly of a young, beardless man, often with short hair, often in story-like settings in which he was depicted as a shepherd.

Suddenly, throughout the Middle East, and eventually throughout Mediterranean Europe, pictures of Jesus became frontal portraits with distinctive facial characteristics. Jesus had shoulder length hair, an elongated thin nose, and a forked beard. Numerous other characteristics appeared in these pictures, and some of them were seemingly strange and 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 pictures 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.

Enlarged 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