Among the most well-known artifacts believed to be connected with Christ's Passion, the Shroud of Turin has been venerated for centuries by Christians as the burial shroud of Christ, and has long been subject to intense scientific study to ascertain its authenticity, and the origins of the image.
Appearing on the 14-foot long, three-and-a-half foot wide cloth a faintly stained postmortem image of a man – front and back – who has been brutally tortured. The image becomes clear in a haunting photo negative.
It has been venerated by thousands of pilgrims and numerous popes.
Borrini and Garlaschelli first presented their study at the 2014 meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
The study was then read by a panel of anonymous experts in the field, who commented on the research and offered suggestions. The two were then required to respond to the comments made as part of their formal article on the study, which was reviewed by the same anonymous panel before its publication last week.
As part of their research, Borrini and Garlaschelli conducted numerous experiments on both live human volunteers and mannequins using BPA methods, which use geometrical techniques to reconstruct the angle of the splatter from each drop of blood when it meets a surface.
This method "is only physical, and morphological," Borrini said, explaining that it focuses on "the study of the pattern, the shape, of the bloodstain and the distribution of the bloodstains; the physical, geometric distribution."
"We tried to recreate the flow of the blood and the dripping of the blood from a wound. In this case, the wound from the wrist created by the nails, or the blood from the wound on the side, the wound that was directly done by the spear that was used on the torso of Jesus Christ according to the Gospels. So we reproduced the blood flowing from these two different wounds," he said.
To track the blood flow, they used a device created to represent arteries and veins which had been damaged by a nail during a crucifixion, and analyzed what direction the liquid, which represented blood, would go and what pattern it would make.
While some might argue that the speed of blood flow or a person's health might impact the pattern of the stain, Borrini said that in this case, only the direction matters.
"If the blood were dripping slower or faster, this would not affect the direction," he said. "The direction of the blood flow is affected by the position of the body and of course by gravity, because of course, any liquids or solids move according to gravity, so they have to follow the law of gravity."
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This "is why we realized there was an inconsistency in some of the stains, because some of the stains apparently did not follow gravity." For example, Borrini said some of the results showed that the man whose image is imprinted on the shroud would have had to be standing vertical, rather than horizontal, for the blood flow patterns to make sense.
"For me the shroud is not authentic," he said, but stressed that he is a Catholic who has taught at several pontifical universities, "and I maintain that we do not need the shroud in order to be Christians, to be Catholic."
"I did this study, I reached this conclusion, and I feel absolutely in line with the thought of the Catholic Church, and I continue to be strong in my Catholic faith."
"If someone thinks that I did this work because I am an atheist, it is absolutely untrue," he said, explaining that the study was balanced, because while he is Catholic, Garlaschelli, his research partner, is an atheist.
However, despite Borrini's insistence on the validity of his scientific research, the results of his study were met with criticism.
Di Lazzaro noted that studies with live human volunteers usually take place on people who are healthy and clean, he said, noting that blood might flow differently on someone who is dirty and who has been sweating, or who has been dehydrated.