Turin Shroud development
For centuries the Turin Shroud, regarded by some as the burial cloth of Jesus, by others as the most elaborate hoax in history, has inspired extraordinary and conflicting passions. Popes, princes and paupers have for 700 years been making pilgrimages the length of Europe to stand in its presence while scientists have dedicated their whole working lives to trying to explain rationally how the ghostly image on the cloth, even more striking when seen as a photographic negative, and matching in every last detail the crucifixion narrative, could have been created. And still a final, commonly agreed answer remains elusive, despite carbon-dating in 1988 having pronounced it a forgery.
“That’s what first attracted me,” says Thomas de Wesselow, an engagingly serious 40-year-old Cambridge academic. “I’ve always loved a mystery ever since I was a boy.” And so he became the latest in a long line to abandon everything to try to solve the riddle of the Shroud.
Eight years ago, de Wesselow was a successful art historian, based at King’s College, making a name for himself in scholarly circles by taking a fresh look at centuries-old disputes over the attribution of masterpieces of Renaissance painting. Today, he still lives in the university city – we are sitting in its Fitzwilliam Museum café – but de Wesselow has thrown up his conventional career and any hopes of a professorial chair to join the ranks of what he laughingly calls “shroudies”.
“In academia, the subject of the Shroud is seen as toxic,” he reports, “and no one wants to open the can of worms, but try as I might I just couldn’t resist it as an intellectual puzzle.”...
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