SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For some, the Shroud of Turin represents a mysterious relic. For others, it’s evidence for the Resurrection.
Whether you believe or not, everyone who views the image on the shroud has to ask himself the question: Who is the man of the shroud?
A new exhibit in Sacramento, Calif., is asking viewers that very question — and providing the historical and scientific evidence to help viewers come to their own conclusion.
On March 1, the permanent exhibit “Who Is the Man of the Shroud?” opened to the public at the National Shrine Our Lady of Guadalupe here. The exhibit, which features the most recent life-size photograph of the shroud, is a replica of an exhibit that is also on display in Jerusalem and Rome.
The original exhibit opened in 2006 at Notre Dame Pontifical Institute of Jerusalem, an institution of the Holy See that is administered by the Legionaries of Christ. A second exhibit opened at the Legion’s Regina Apostolorum University in Rome.
Planning and preparations for the Sacramento permanent exhibit began more than 18 months ago. The concept was originally conceived by Legionary Father Hector Guerra, who wanted to display holographic images and a sculpture of the man of the shroud so that visitors could meditate on the Crucifixion.
The 14-foot-long Shroud of Turin bears the image of the front and back of a man who was scourged, wore a crown of thorns, and was crucified. It resides in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.
The Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine was selected for its accessibility and as a location where administration of the museum could take place. Legionaries of Christ staff both the shrine and the exhibit.
The exhibit’s inauguration, blessing and ribbon-cutting took place Feb. 27. Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto blessed the exhibit, which is housed in a brick building behind Our Lady of Guadalupe parish.
Highlights of the exhibit include the photographic replica of the shroud, which was taken July 23, 2002; replicas of the nails; whip and crown of thorns used on the victim’s body; a sculpture of the Holy Sepulcher; holographic images of the shroud; a life-size bronze sculpture based on the man of the shroud by Italian sculptor Luigi Mattei, and 22 panels that feature information on the history and scientific studies performed on the shroud over the years.
The $100,000 exhibit was paid for with private donations. The Legionaries worked with shroud experts, such as Israeli botanist Avinoam Danin, photographer Barrie Schwortz and museum expert Martine Ferre to design the exhibit.
‘God Was There’
To say interest in the Shroud of Turin is high would be an understatement. While the actual cloth usually goes on display only every 25 years, Pope Benedict XVI directed that it be displayed this spring. It was last on display 10 years ago. More than 1.2 million people have already requested tickets to see the shroud during its public display April 10 - May 23.
Organizers expect that 2 million people will come to see the relic. Pope Benedict XVI himself will visit Turin on May 2.
In addition, the History Channel aired the documentary “The Real Face of Jesus” March 30. In it, Ray Downing of digital imaging Studio Macbeth uses computer technology and works with the John Jackson Turin Shroud Center in Colorado to create a 3-D model from the image on the shroud.
Legionary seminarian Andres Emmanuelli, in Sacramento, said that future exhibits are being considered in Mexico and possibly an African country.
In addition, Father Guerra is working to create an international foundation that would gather all of the various experts on the shroud to work in collaboration.
Barrie Schwortz is one of the few individuals who have been able to study the actual shroud. Schwortz was the official documenting photographer of the 33-member international Shroud of Turin Research (Sturp) scientific team that investigated the shroud in October 1978. The Sturp team spent 120 consecutive hours examining multiple parts of the relic simultaneously with a battery of different scientific tests. Their work remains the most in-depth series of tests ever performed on the shroud.
It concluded that the “shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man” and is “not the product of an artist.” According to their summary, “no pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found on the fibrils.”
According to Schwortz, the work of the Sturp team has dominated shroud science.
“The efforts of our team contributed directly to our knowledge of the shroud,” said Schwortz.
That investigation also led Schwortz, who is Jewish, to the conclusion that the shroud is indeed the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
“That’s a Jewish man on that cloth. It’s an authentic Jewish burial cloth. I, a Jew, believe it’s an authentic relic of Jesus,” said Schwortz. “Because of the shroud, I was forced to confront my own beliefs and found out that God was there all along.”
Schwortz consulted with the Legionaries on the exhibit. He sees it as positive to have exhibits around the world.
“It’s good to have a shroud exhibit just footsteps away from where the actual events took place,” said Schwortz. “The shroud can cross boundaries that a church cannot.”
“The exhibit is designed with the purpose of bringing faith and science together,” said Father Lino Otero, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish. “It’s designed for the critic. Never does the exhibit say that this is Jesus. It’s up to the visitor to reach a conclusion.”
Since its opening, the exhibit has drawn thousands of visitors.
“The majority of visitors have come away fascinated and find the evidence very convincing,” said Father Otero.
Schwortz believes that the shroud has value not only for Christians, but to people of all faiths.
“The underlying value [of an exhibit] is that it makes you think about the shroud,” said Schwortz. “Anything that makes us think about God is a good thing, no matter what our conclusions might be.”
Tim Drake is based in St. Joseph, Minnesota.
“Who Is the Man of the Shroud?” Exhibit
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
1909 Seventh St.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 3-7pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 9am-7pm
Cost: Free; $2 donation requested for maintenance
To arrange tours: (916) 442-3211
To learn more, visit Shroud.com.