Secondo Pia

Image by/from WikiMedia Commons

Secondo Pia (9 September 1855 – 7 September 1941) was an Italian lawyer and amateur photographer. He is best known for taking the first photographs of the Shroud of Turin on May 28, 1898 and, when he was developing them, noticing that the photographic negatives showed a clearer rendition of the image. The image he obtained from the shroud has been approved by the Roman Catholic Church as part of the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

Pia was born in Asti, Piedmont, and although he was an attorney, he was interested in both art and science and as of the early 1870s began to explore the new technology of photography. In the 1890s he was a city councillor and a member of Turin’s Amateur Photographers’ Club. He was a well known photographer in Turin and examples of his other photographs are now part of the historical collection at the Turin Cinema Museum. He can also be considered a pioneer in the field of photography for using electric lightbulbs in the 1890s, given that lightbulbs were a novelty in the late nineteenth century, with Thomas Edison’s reliable incandescent light bulb having been invented only in 1879.

It was by accident that Secondo Pia unwittingly took the first step in the field of modern sindonology (the formal study of the shroud of Turin). In 1898 the city of Turin was celebrating the 400th anniversary of Turin Cathedral along with the 50th anniversary of Italy’s Statuto Albertino constitution of 1848 in favor of the House of Savoy. As part of the celebration, a sacred art exhibition was planned. Since a public display of the shroud would have required permission from King Umberto I of Italy, who owned it, plans were made for two artists to paint realistic replicas of the shroud to be used instead. These paintings were made, but they were never used as part of the exhibition.

The head of the Shroud Commission, Baron Manno, petitioned the king for a public display and also asked for the right to photograph the shroud – with the help of Secondo Pia – to promote the exhibition. The king approved the public display of the shroud for the exhibition and later also allowed for it to be photographed. At that time the House of Savoy was based in Turin, and the shroud was already in Turin since it belonged to the king. No one knew yet that the clearer reverse image existed on the shroud, for the faint face image on the shroud cannot be clearly observed or recognized with the naked eye.

Secondo Pia was named the official photographer for the exhibition at a late date. The eight-day exhibition was just about to start, and it was too late for his proposed photograph to be part of the promotional campaign. Yet he took the opportunity to take the first photograph of the shroud.

On May 25, 1898, after the opening ceremony and during the noon closure of the exhibition, Pia set up equipment in Turin Cathedral. Two other people, Father Sanno Salaro and the head of cathedral security, Lieutenant Felice Fino, were also present and took part in the photography. It was one of the first times an electric light bulb was used to take a photograph.

The logistics of organizing the photographic session and the required equipment were a challenge to Pia, but he managed to set up two electric lamps of about 1000 candelas each. Since there was no electricity in the cathedral, Pia set up a portable generator. He managed to make a few exposures in the resulting heat before the session was interrupted by the opening of the cathedral doors after the noon closure. The results of this session were not successful once the plates were developed.

On the evening of May 28, Pia returned for a second session at about 9:30pm and took a few more exposures. Based on his experience of May 25, he varied the exposure times and the lighting. At around midnight, the three men went back to develop the plates. Pia later said that he almost dropped and broke the photographic plate in the darkroom from the shock of what appeared on it: the reverse plate showed the image of a man and a face that could not be seen with the naked eye.

On June 2, 1898, the exhibition ended and the shroud was returned to its casket in the royal chapel. Genoa’s Il Cittadino newspaper reported Pia’s photograph on June 13, and a day later the story appeared in the national newspaper Corriere Nazionale. On June 15 the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano covered the story.

The next few years witnessed a number of debates about Pia’s photograph, with various suggestions of supernatural origin versus accusations of errors in his work, his doctoring of the photographs, etc. In the meantime, King Umberto I of Italy, whose permission was instrumental for the Pia photograph, was assassinated in July 1900 and did not see the full story unfold.

Some definite support for Secondo Pia eventually arrived in 1931 when a professional photographer, Giuseppe Enrie, also photographed the shroud and his findings supported Pia. When Enrie’s photograph was first exhibited, Secondo Pia, then in his seventies, was among those present for viewing. Pia reportedly breathed a deep sigh of relief when he saw Enrie’s photograph.

The scientific and religious discussions and debates about the origins of the image that Pia photographed continued. On the religious front, in 1939 Pia’s negative image was used by Sister Maria Pierina De Micheli, a nun in Milan, to coin the Holy Face medal, as part of the Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. Pope Pius XII approved the devotion and the medal and in 1958 declared the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus as Shrove Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) for all Roman Catholics. On the occasion of the 100th year of Secondo Pia’s first photograph, on May 24, 1998, Pope John Paul II visited Turin Cathedral. In his address on that day, he said, “the Shroud is an image of God’s love as well as of human sin”, and he called the shroud “an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age”.

On the scientific front, in 2004 the optical journal of the Institute of Physics in London published a reviewed article on new imaging techniques applied to the shroud during its restoration in 2002. Scientific debate about the image and the shroud continues with international conferences.


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Image by/from Anonymous Byzantine artist 9th century

Shroud usually refers to an item, such as a cloth, that covers or protects some other object. The term is most often used in reference to burial sheets, mound shroud, grave clothes, winding-cloths or winding-sheets, such as the famous Shroud of Turin or Tachrichim (burial shrouds) that Jews are dressed in for burial. Traditionally, mound shrouds are made of white cotton, wool or linen, though any material can be used so long as it is made of natural fibre. Intermixture of two or more such fibres is forbidden, a proscription that ultimately derives from the Torah, viz., Deut. 22:11.

A traditional Orthodox Jewish shroud consists of a tunic; a hood; pants that are extra-long and sewn shut at the bottom, so that separate foot coverings are not required; and a belt, which is tied in a knot shaped like the Hebrew letter shin, mnemonic of one of God’s names, Shaddai. Early shrouds incorporated a cloth, the sudarium, that covered the face, as depicted in traditional artistic representations of the entombed Jesus or His friend, Lazarus (John 11, q.v.). An especially pious man may next be enwrapped in either his kittel or his tallit, one tassel of which is defaced to render the garment ritually unfit, symbolizing the fact that the decedent is free from the stringent requirements of the 613 mitzvot (commandments). The shrouded body is wrapped in a winding sheet, termed a sovev in Hebrew (a cognate of svivon, the spinning Hanukkah toy that is familiar under its Yiddish name, dreidel), before being placed either in a plain coffin of soft wood (where required by governing health codes) or directly in the earth. Croesus-rich or dirt-poor, every Orthodox Jew is dressed to face the Almighty on the same terms.

The Early Christian Church also strongly encouraged the use of winding-sheets, except for monarchs and bishops. The rich were wrapped in cerecloths, which are fine fabrics soaked or painted in wax to hold the fabric close to the flesh. An account of the opening of the coffin of Edward I says that the “innermost covering seems to have been a very fine linen cerecloth, dressed close to every part of the body”. Their use was general until at least the Renaissance – clothes were very expensive, and they had the advantage that a good set of clothes was not lost to the family.
In Europe in the Middle Ages, coarse linen shrouds were used to bury most poor without a coffin. In poetry shrouds have been described as of sable, and they were later embroidered in black, becoming more elaborate and cut like shirts or shifts.

Orthodox Christians still use a burial shroud, usually decorated with a cross and the Trisagion. The special shroud that is used during the Orthodox Holy Week services is called an Epitaphios. Some Catholics also use the burial shroud particularly the Eastern Catholics and traditionalist Roman Catholics.


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Shroud of Turin Research Project

Image by/from Giuseppe Enrie, 1931

The Shroud of Turin Research Project (often abbreviated as STURP) refers to a team of scientists which performed a set of experiments and analyses on the Shroud of Turin during the late 1970s and early 1980s. STURP issued its final report in 1981.

Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has pointed out that “STURP’s leaders served on the executive council of the Holy Shroud Guild, which is devoted to the “cause” of the reputed relic.”

The origins of the group go back to the experiments of physicist John P. Jackson, thermodynamicist Eric Jumper and photographer William Mottern in 1976. Using the ideas invented in aerospace science for building three dimensional models from images of Mars, Eric Jumper built initial devices to test the photographs of the Shroud of Turin. These were the first experiments relating to the shroud performed by scientists.

In March 1977, Jackson, Jumper and Mottern invited a few other scientists to join them to form a team for the analysis of the Shroud. The first meeting took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The group had no official sponsorship and the scientists funded their own activities. They also managed to arrange gifts and loans of technical equipment whose value was estimated at over $2 million.

Nuclear physicist Tom D’Muhala headed STURP. Apart from Jackson, Jumper, and Motten the team included thermal chemist Raymond N. Rogers, and Ron London, and Roger Morris, all from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Other team members included Don Lynn of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, biophysicist John Heller, photographers Vern Miller and Barrie Schwortz, optical physicist Sam Pellicori, and electric power experts John D. German and Rudy Dichtl, as well as forensic pathologist Robert Bucklin. STURP included no experts on medieval art, archaeology, or textiles.

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the shroud in Turin, it was displayed to the public in Turin from 27 August to 8 October 1978, with about 3 million visitors attending the exposition under bullet-proof glass. For the next 5 days after the exposition the STURP team analyzed the shroud around the clock at the royal palace adjoining Turin Cathedral, some scientists sleeping while others worked. A team of European scientists headed by Luigi Gonella supervised the activities. The team gathered sticky tape samples of material from several points on the surface of the shroud.

STURP team members continued their research after access to the shroud and published many of theirs results in scientific journals and proceedings. In 1981, in its final report, STURP wrote:

“We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”

It is to be noted that in the Catholic liturgy, there is the phrase “the mystery of faith”. The resurrection is a mystery to which there is no precendent. However, all other attempts to explain it away fail.

1. There is agreement that Jesus was crucified.
2. There are those who said that Jesus was not really, fully dead when
he was buried.
In that case, the Roman soldiers lives’ would have been at risk in
two regards.
a. for not making sure Jesus was dead and
b. for letting a live Jesus escape a tomb they were supposed to
guard to make sure he did not escape
3. If Jesus was not fully dead, and only “swooned” or “fainted”, how
did he have the strength to roll a multi-ton stone away from the
the mouth of the tomb? Plus, a few hours earlier, he did not have
the strength to carry his cross. How was he stronger after a
crucifixion than before it?
4. Why did Jesus’ followers all testify to a risen Christ? They did
not testify of a Christ who appeared them beaten and bloody.
5. Many of the Apostles and disciples were martyred and died for their
faith. People sometimes do pranks and jokes. No one is will to
take a prank or joke so far that they die for it.

Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus Christ is alive today. Truly, it is a mystery of faith, but if individuals believe in their heart that Jesus rose from the dead, and confess Him as Lord, they will be saved, born again, and realize the reality of Jesus’ resurrection for themselves.


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Sudarium of Oviedo

The Sudarium of Oviedo, or Shroud of Oviedo, is a bloodstained piece of cloth measuring c. 84 x 53 cm (33 x 21 inches) kept in the Camara Santa of the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo, Spain. The Sudarium (Latin for sweat cloth) is thought to be the cloth that was wrapped around the head of Jesus Christ after he died as described in John 20:6-7.

The cloth has been dated to around 700 AD by radiocarbon dating. However, at the same conference at which this information was presented, it was noted that in actuality the cloth has a definite history extending back to approximately 570 AD. The laboratory noted that later oil contamination could have resulted in the late dating.

The small chapel housing it was built specifically for the cloth by King Alfonso II of Asturias in AD 840; the Arca Santa is an elaborate reliquary chest with a Romanesque metal frontal for the storage of the Sudarium and other relics. The Sudarium is displayed to the public three times a year: Good Friday, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross on 14 September, and its octave on 21 September.

The Sudarium shows signs of advanced deterioration, with dark flecks that are symmetrically arranged but form no image, unlike the markings on the Shroud of Turin. The face cloth is mentioned as having been present in the empty tomb in John 20:6-7. Outside of the Bible the Sudarium is first mentioned in 570 AD by Antoninus of Piacenza, who writes that the Sudarium was being cared for in the vicinity of Jerusalem in a cave near the monastery of Saint Mark.

The Sudarium is presumed to have been taken from Palestine in 614 AD, after the invasion of the Byzantine provinces by the Sassanid Persian King Khosrau II. In order to avoid destruction in the invasion, it was taken away first to Alexandria by the presbyter Philip, then carried through northern Africa when Khosrau II conquered Alexandria in 616 AD and arrived in Spain shortly thereafter. The Sudarium entered Spain at Cartagena, along with people who were fleeing from the Persians. Fulgentius, bishop of Ecija, welcomed the refugees and the relics, and gave the chest containing the Sudarium to Leandro, bishop of Seville. He took it to Seville, where it spent some years.

In 657 it was moved to Toledo, then in 718 on to northern Spain to escape the advancing Moors. The Sudarium was hidden in the mountains of Asturias in a cave known as Montesacro until king Alfonso II, having battled back the Moors, built a chapel in Oviedo to house it in 840 AD.

On 14 March 1075, King Alfonso VI, his sister and Rodrigo Diaz Vivar (El Cid) opened the chest after days of fasting. The event was recorded on a document preserved in the Capitular Archives at the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo. The king had the oak chest covered in silver with an inscription which reads, “The Sacred Sudarium of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”


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Telovani church of the Holy Cross







The Telovani church of the Holy Cross (Georgian: telovnis jvarpatiosnis eklesia, translit.: telovnis jvarp’at’iosnis ek’lesia) is an 8th-9th-century Georgian Orthodox church in the Mtskheta Municipality in Georgia’s eastern region of Mtskheta-Mtianeti. It is a domed triconch design, with the pastophoria on both sides of the sanctuary. The interior contains now heavily damaged murals, including one of the earliest Georgian depictions of the Mandylion. The church is inscribed on the list of Georgia’s Immovable Cultural Monuments of National Significance.

The church of the Holy Cross (Jvarpatiosani) is located in the Mtskheta Municipality, about 3 km east of the village of Ksovrisi, on the territory of the now-extinct settlement of Telovani.

The building, measuring 9.7 × 10.5 m, is set in a triconch plan, with the transverse arms much narrower and lower than the sanctuary and the western arm. This makes the edifice somewhat elongated on the east-west axis. The church is built mostly of cobblestone; dressed limestone and travertine blocks are used in important structural elements and decoration. The building can be accessed through three doorways, all in the rectangular western arm. The projecting apse of the sanctuary is flanked by two apsed pastophoria. The transition from the rectangular bay to the dome circle is effected through squinches. The drum of the dome is octagonal, pierced with four windows and adorned with decorative arches. Both outer and inner walls were plastered. The church was substantially repaired and a belfry was annexed to the west wall in the 18th century. Systematic restoration took place between 1952 and 1954 and again in 2007.

The interior of the church bears fragments of the 9th-10th-century frescoes. They are heavily damaged, including an image of the Mandylion, labelled as “the Holy Face of God” and surrounded by the Apostles, above the apse window. The image may have been influenced by the Abgar Legend and have influenced Georgian depictions of the Mandylion in the following centuries.


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