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The Shroud of Turin--the purported burial sheet of Jesus Christ, a 14-foot-long swath of herringbone-twill linen housed in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy--has joined ESP and UFOs as one of the great enigmas of the modern world. Embedded in the cloth is a mysterious image of a crucified man with a spear wound in his side, whip marks on his back, and rivulets of blood flowing down his forehead. Is this a supernatural portrait of the Son of God, or a cleverly painted forgery? This book, a judicious review of the debate by the author of The Shroud of Turin (1978), offers the latest photos and scientific data derived from the 1978 experiments of the American-staffed Shroud of Turin Research Project. Although Watson is a True Believer, he bends over backwards to accommodate the skeptics. Much of his text recounts the findings of Dr. Walter McCrone, an American microanalyst who believes the figure on the shroud to be the work of an artist using gelatin-bound iron oxide dust. However, Dr. McCrone never examined the shroud directly, and most scientists who have done so find no evidence of painting; rather, reports Watson, the image appears to result from deterioration of the linen fibers through some unknown method. In addition to chemical detective work, Watson delves into medieval painting techniques, Renaissance political squabbles, and first-century botany. For those weary of technical analyses, he provides a rich, sometimes macabre photo gallery ranging from X-rays of the chest wound to a close-up of a pollen grain found lying on the shroud. But all this evidence remains insufficient, he concludes, issuing a call for further tests, including textile analysis and carbon dating of the fabric (finally possible thanks to new techniques which would require the destruction of only a fingernail-sized sliver of cloth). A book notable for its fairness to opposing points of view, its readable discussion of highly technical material, and its spectacular illustrations of an enduring mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 1986
Publisher: Doubleday