The Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is one of Christianity's most famous and controversial relics. It is believed to be the cloth that wrapped the body of Jesus at his burial, and what was left behind with his image imprinted on it upon his resurrection. 

Issue 7 of Medieval World: Culture & Conflict includes an article on this mysterious object from the Middle Ages.  

“This fourteen-foot sheet has been kept at the cathedral of Turin, Italy since 1578. It is most recognized for the ghostly images of the front and back of a gaunt, supine body, riven with deposits of blood. Believers maintain that these grisly markings transferred to the surface of the cloth when Christ’s bloodied corpse was laid against it, thereby making it both an icon preserving his true likeness and a relic containing traces of his physical body. Parallel rows of scorch marks from a fire the cloth narrowly escaped in 1532 show, for believers, the divine favor and protection that it attracted.”

You can read more about this important object, as well as its history and controversies, in the article "The Shroud of Turin: Christianity's Most Famous Relic" (pp. 26-33) authored by Dr. Andrew R. Casper, the article - titled - details the afterlives.

In this illustration by Marek Szyszko, which also serves as the centerfold for MWCC.7, we see a public display of the Shroud of Turin. Such public exhibitions in Turin's Piazza Castello became regular features of the city's calendar of religious festivities. Drawing pilgrims numbering in the tens of thousands, these took place nearly annually, often on the Shroud's designated feast day of May 4th, but also to mark important events for members of the Savoy family who owned the relic.

Dr. Casper also authored an award-winning book on this topic!

An Artful Relic is the first art historical exploration of the Shroud of Turin during its rise to fame as the preeminent Christian relic in the late 1500s and 1600s. In this groundbreaking book, Casper explains how early-modern viewers regarded the cloth's bloodstained images of a crucified corpse an artful relic—a divine painting attributed to God’s artistry that contains traces of Christ’s body. Through probing analyses of materials created to perpetuate the Shroud’s cult following—including devotional, historical, and theological treatises as well as printed and painted reproductions—Casper uncovers historicized connections to late Renaissance and Baroque artistic cultures that frame an understanding of the Shroud’s bloodied corporeal impressions as an alloy of material authenticity and divine artifice.

The book is the winner of the 2022 Roland H. Bainton Book Prize from the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference.

Dr. Andrew R. Casper is a specialist of Renaissance and Baroque art of southern Europe, and particularly religious imagery in Italy in the late 1500s and 1600s. His recent research has examined the artistic conception of the Shroud of Turin, looking at how early-modern devotional manuals draw from contemporary art theory to portray the Shroud’s imprint of Christ’s body as a divine work of art.

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