Public awaits 2010 viewing of Shroud of Turin

"Essere o non essere, questo è il problema". La Sindone di Torino, nota anche come Sacra Sindone, è un lenzuolo di lino conservato nel Duomo di Torino e sulla cui autenticità ci sono fortissime controversie. Sul lenzuolo è visibile l'immagine di un uomo che porta segni di torture, maltrattamenti e crocefissione. La tradizione identifica l'uomo con Gesù e il lenzuolo con quello usato per avvolgerne il corpo nel sepolcro.

Questa primavera, la Sacra Sindone - considerata da molti un oggetto di venerazione religiosa - sarà esposta al pubblico di nuovo, per la prima volta, dopo il Giubileo del 2000.

"To be, or not to be?" The question posed in the Act III monologue in Shakespeare's Hamlet remains also the question surrounding the most famous and skeptical holy relic of all-time, the Shroud of Turin. The 14-foot by 4-foot linen cloth bears the imprint of a full-length figure with seeping blood from wounds of hands and feet and bruises from what may have been a crown of thorns consistent with the reckoning of the torture Jesus suffered in his passion and death.

This spring, the burial cloth revered by many as that of Jesus will be on public display for the first time since the jubilee year 2000. The church has never officially ruled on the shroud's authenticity but it lies in a silver casket protected behind bullet-proof glass in a special chapel of Turin's Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (duomo). The protective chamber is water and fire proof and sealed oxygen free and removed only for very special spiritual occasions and only with the approval of the pope, which he gave last summer.

Scientists have debated the cloth's possible origin for many years and studies and carbon testing have led to different and conflicting explanations. A carbon dating test in 1988 concluded the shroud dated no farther back than the twelfth century. Skeptics brand it a medieval forgery. While the history is subject to debate, it was in the possession of the House of Savoy around 1430.

On the other hand, Barbara Frale, a Vatican historian claims in her book, La Sindone di Gesu Nazareno (The Shroud of Jesus Nazarene) that the faint writings on the cloth prove it was the burial cloth of Jesus.

Using computer enhancing images, Frale claims to decipher Greek, Latin and Aramaic writings on the cloth that include the name of Jesu Nazarene. She proffers they were the words of a death certificate glued to the shroud over the face for identification purposes. She claims 11 words were scattered on the image's head and cloth and a bit of text "removed at the ninth hour" accounts for Christ's time of death consistent with his time of death as reported in holy scriptures. Frale believes the certificate read: "Jesus Nazarene, found guilty of inciting people to revolt. Put to death in the year 16 of Tiberius (Emperor Tiberius during Jesus' death). Taken down at the ninth hour." Middle East experts reportedly told Frale the writing was typical of first century style.

Whether "to be or not to be," the shroud remains an object of religious veneration.