Turin Shroud expected to attract two million visitors

World's most famous holy relic on display for only sixth time in a century

The face of Christ or a brilliant hoax? More than two million of the faithful, undecided or merely curious who are expected to converge on Turin Cathedral this spring will be able to decide for themselves when the most famous religious relic in the world goes on display for only the sixth time in 100 years.

The public viewing of the Turin Shroud, the cloth that some say bears the imprint of Jesus's face after his crucifixion, will be the first since a painstaking restoration was completed in 2002.

Fiorenzo Alfieri, Turin's councillor for culture, said this week that around one million people have already ordered tickets to see the relic, which will be on display in its bulletproof, climate-controlled case from 10 April to 23 May. Mr Alfieri expected more than two million visitors from around the globe.

Traditionally, the public is allowed to see the shroud every 25 years, but church officials have said they understand its "importance to the economy and employment" of the northern Italian city – hence their decision to allow the latest public display just 10 years after the last one.

Whether the most-studied artifact in human history really does bear the image of Christ or merely the skilled work of medieval pranksters has been the source of debate for centuries, however. The cloth bears the faint image of the front and back of a tall, long-haired, bearded man and appears to be stained by blood of wounds indicative of crucifixion.

Independent carbon-dating tests done in 1988 by researchers at Oxford, Zurich and Tucson, Arizona, estimated that the Shroud was made between 1260 and 1390, suggesting it was a hoax.

But some scientists have argued that contamination over the ages may have skewed the results.

One Vatican researcher claims to have found faint traces of script in Aramaic, ancient Greek and Latin on the shroud, while two Israeli scientists said plant pollen found on the cloth supported the view that it comes from the Holy Land.

In 2005, a study, published in the scientific journal Thermonautica Acta, claimed that the Shroud was between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.

In addition, people who believe in the relic's authenticity say that scientists have never been able to adequately explain how the shroud's image was made. Monsignor Giuseppe Ghiberti, president of the Turin archdiocese's commission on the Shroud, said the Vatican might consider a new round of scientific tests after the public display ends, given recent developments in the field of carbon-dating.

But in April and May visitors will be able to decide for themselves if the Shroud appears realistic. Viewing – a maximum of five minutes a person – is free by reservation, which can be made online.

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit the shroud on 2 May. The Vatican itself has carefully avoided opining on the Shroud's authenticity but has instead described it as "a powerful symbol of Christ's suffering".

It is thought that the Shroud travelled widely before it was brought to France in the 14th century by a crusader. Nuns subsequently looked after it before it was given to the Turin archbishop in 1578 by the Duke of Savoy. The relic was then bequeathed to the Pope by former King Umberto II of Italy, upon his death in 1983.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project