TURIN, Italy — At a late September press conference, Cardinal Severino Poletto, archbishop of Turin and the shroud's official custodian, announced that the cloth had spent five weeks in June and July undergoing a secret restoration while remaining in the Cathedral of San Giovanni's sacristy.

The work, which Cardinal Poletto said was undertaken in secrecy because of security concerns that the shroud might become a terrorist target, was headed up by Swiss expert Mechtild FluryLemberg, former director of the Abegg Museum in Berne, Switzerland, and an authority on ancient textiles.

Cardinal Poletto said 30 triangular patches, sewn onto the shroud by the nuns of Chambery, France in 1534 after a fire had damaged the relic, were removed. As well, the “Holland cloth” that had served as a supportive backing for some 450 years had been replaced.

The restoration served to preserve the material and the image, while at the same time enhancing its display qualities. Eliminating the patches, Cardinal Poletto explained, enabled restorers to remove dust and debris that had accumulated beneath them and begun to cause deterioration of the surrounding cloth.

The cardinal stressed that the cleansing process had been entirely mechanical. Each grain of dirt was removed with tweezers and no chemical agents were involved.

Photographs of the restored shroud may be viewed on the Internet at www.sindone.org and www.shroud.com. Between viewings, it will be stored in a climate-controlled urn. The next official viewing for the public is scheduled for 2025.

Alan Whanger, professor emeritus of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and director of the Council for Study of the Shroud of Turin, attended a pre-press conference viewing held exclusively for shroud researchers on Sept. 20.

“I think Mechtild is an extraordinary technician,” Whanger said after viewing the restoration work. “Like most of the other scientists invited to Turin, I was relieved to see that she had done such a good job.”

Shafer Parker