Ever since I ever had any recollection of Turin or Torino (as is known in Italian, Turin is the local Piemontese dialect name, pronounce Tour- reen) I've always associated it with the Shroud. Over the years I have read the differing opinions on why it is or is not authentic. All quite plausible, but the fact of the matter is that whether it is medieval or prior to that it, is fairly difficult to be definitive about, but it is indeed old and quite a fascinating relic, at least to me. To have a simple stained piece of cloth survive hundreds of years is in deed quite astounding. Wikipedia claims "The Shroud of Turin is one of, if not the, most studied artifacts in human history." This site makes the case for the Shroud's authenticity. A compelling mystery indeed.The House of Savoy, Italy's former royal family whose kingdom stretched from France through Piedmont and Valle d''Aosta, acquired the shroud in the 15th century, and brought it to eventually reside in Torino since that time. In 1983, upon the death of Umberto II, owner of the shroud, bequeathed it to the Pope and his successors, with the proviso that it stay in Turin.
Living in the province of Torino I have been quite fascinated by this relic and naturally wanted to see the real one as I have seen the copy numerous times when friends and relatives have come to visit. The Duomo (or cathedral) is rather modest by Italian standards, even overshadowed by the many grand cathedrals scattered though out the core of downtown Torino. I am always struck by the somewhat casual atmoshpere of this particular church, whenever I have visited. There is a permanent display on one of the side chapels although it is still in the main part of the church and they have people stationed there to help you with information and to help you to remember to keep a respectful silence when you are visiting the shroud, although I have also visited when there has been weddings taking place along side all of the visitors milling about. It's just not so reverential as one might expect.
Next, 300 hundred of us at a time were given a brief slide show pointing out the markings on the shroud, accompanied by titles in 8 languages with sacred background music. It definitely helped you absorb what you were actually seeing when you finally arrived at your brief moment of contemplation in front of the Shroud. After the slide show you were asked to proceed in silence. What was before a quiet murmur, now became a reverential silence. The hundred or so, 10 year old children in front of me were completely quiet. Everyone was. It was quite amazing, only broken a little later by a few of the volunteers chatting about going to lunch and seeing each other tomorrow. I think they were a little hard of hearing. Then when we finally entered the hushed atmosphere of the Duomo I was surprised to see women covering their heads, like I remembered from so many years ago, but had forgotten that it was ever done, as it is seldom the case anymore. Then we were grouped into three lines that made their way in front of the Shroud on three levels so there is excellent viewing on each level. If you make sure you are on the far left, you will find yourself closest to the shroud.
Once you are there, there is someone softly telling you all of the points of the cloth. the face, the shoulders, the hands, the nail wound, the chest wound and so on. I don't know if it is all the preparation, the atmosphere, the energy of the people, or the face and the obvious imprint of a person, but I did feel tears roll down my face. Because for me, no matter what the truth may be about this ancient cloth, there is a distinct human imprint on the cloth and it does look like that person suffered and in that moment I felt an empathy for all of our human suffering focused there looking for release. It was a touching moment that I appreciate having had the opportunity to experience. Perhaps you would find it different, one can never know, as we make our individual journeys together.
I would say, if you are going to be in the Torino area before the 23 May, you might want to consider booking in to see the Shroud. It took about an hour and a bit more to get through the whole line and viewing, before enjoying the rest of what Torino has on offer.
This exhibition runs from 10 April-23 May 2010 . 7 am -22:15 daily
It is a free event and open to everyone.
You can find the Shroud official site here and the online ticket booking site here.
Here is a short clip about the Shroud going on display