The aptly named Shroud of Turin has been shrouded in mystery since its appearance in the mid-14th century. Stored in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, it is considered by many to bear the image of Jesus of Nazareth, miraculously transferred to the cloth when it allegedly wrapped the body after burial. Others who believe the carbon dating which indicates the cloth was made in the mid-14th century refer to the mysterious image as the Man in the Shroud. Whoever it is, we now had a 3D sculpture of the image, courtesy of Giulio Fanti, a teacher of mechanical and thermal measurements at the University of Padua in Padua, Italy, and a student of the Shroud.
“This statue is the three-dimensional representation in actual size of the Man of the Shroud, created following the precise measurements taken from the cloth in which the body of Christ was wrapped after the crucifixion. Therefore, we believe that we finally have the precise image of what Jesus looked like on this earth. From now on, He may no longer be depicted without taking this work into account.”
From that quote in the Italian weekly magazine Chi and reported by Turin’s La Stampa news source, there seems to be no doubt in Fanti’s mind whose image is on the shroud … and now on a three-dimensional statue (picture here). While is well-protected in Turin from both the curious and the elements (the last public viewing was arranged by Pope Francis in 2013), Giulio Fanti has had access to the Shroud and numerous photographs and tests of it in his quest to prove its validity and disprove the carbon-dating tests. He’s the head of the Shroud Science Group, about 140 scientists dedicated to study of it, and has authored 8 books and more than 50 scientific works on the Shroud.
As a professor of mechanical engineering, Fanti was an ideal candidate to look at the two-dimensional measurements of the Man in the Shroud as a blueprint and translate them into three-dimensional directions which were then given to plaster master Sergio Rodella, who made the actual statue. In that respect, it’s no surprise that the ‘man in the statue’, like the Man in the Shroud, measures 5 feet, 11 inches in height, has a beard, long hair and Caucasian features, and looks like a man who died traumatically.
“On the Shroud, I counted 370 wounds from the flagellation, without taking into account the wounds on his sides, which the Shroud doesn’t show because it only enveloped the back and front of the body. We can therefore hypothesize a total of at least 600 blows. In addition, the three-dimensional reconstruction has made it possible to discover that at the moment of his death, the man of the Shroud sagged down towards the right, because his right shoulder was dislocated so seriously as to injure the nerves.”
The wounds may match a crucifixion, but the size and features don’t match what other historians believe Jesus of Nazareth looked like. In her new book, "What Did Jesus Look Like?", Joan Taylor, professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King's College London, used archaeology, images on coins and in paintings, and texts from the time period to determine what Jews in Judea and Egypt at the time of Jesus looked like. From that, Taylor thinks Jesus was about 5 feet 5 inches (1.7 meters) tall with brown eyes, black hair and olive-brown skin … but no long hair, beard or European nose and features. (Depictions here)
Scientifically speaking, Fanti has created an accurate 3-D statue of the Man in the Shroud, and Taylor has depicted an accurate image of what a Jewish man living in Nazareth at the time of Jesus would look like. Do either conclusively prove or disprove the identity of the Man in the Shroud? No. Does the Catholic Church or any other religious body require belief that the Man in the Shroud is Jesus of Nazareth? No.
Will the arguments continue? Definitely yes.