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The Shroud of Turin

According to Dr. Walter McCrone and his colleagues, the 3’ by 14’ foot cloth depicting Christ’s crucified body is an inspired painting produced by a Medieval artist just before its first appearance in recorded history in 1356.

Read Dr. McCrone’s article, ‘‘The Shroud of Turin: Blood or Artist’s Pigment?,’‘ Acc. Chem. Res., Vol. 23, 1990.

The faint sepia image is made up of billions of submicron pigment particles (red ochre and vermilion) in a collagen tempera medium. The pigments red ochre and vermilion with the collagen tempera medium was a common paint composition during the 14th century; before which, no one had ever heard of the Shroud.

Initial Examination — 1979

Dr. McCrone determined this by polarized light microscopy (PLM) in 1979. This included careful inspection of thousands of linen fibers from 32 different areas (Shroud and Sample Points), characterization of the only colored image-forming particles by color, refractive indices, polarized light microscopy, size, shape, and microchemical tests for iron, mercury, and body fluids. The red ochre is present on 20 of both body- and blood-image tapes; the vermilion only on 11 blood-image tapes. Both pigments are absent on the 12 non-image tape fibers. The paint pigments were dispersed in a collagen tempera (produced in medieval times, perhaps, from parchment). It is chemically distinctly different in composition from blood but readily detected and identified microscopically by microchemical staining reactions. Forensic tests for blood were uniformly negative on fibers from the blood-image tapes. Based on these findings, McCrone postulated that the Shroud was painted in 1355.

Further Research in 1980

In 1980, using electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction, McCrone found red ochre (iron oxide, hematite) and vermilion (mercuric sulfide); the electron microprobe analyzer found iron, mercury, and sulfur on a dozen of the blood-image area samples. The results fully confirmed Dr. McCrone’s results and further proved the image was painted twice — once with red ochre, followed by vermilion to enhance the blood-image areas.

In 1987, carbon dating at three prestigious laboratories agreed well with his date: 1355 by microscopy and 1325 by C-14 dating. The suggestion that the 1532 Chambery fire changed the date of the cloth is ludicrous. Samples for C-dating are routinely and completely burned to CO 2 as part of a well-tested purification procedure. The suggestions that modern biological contaminants were sufficient to modernize the date are also ridiculous. A weight of 20th century carbon equaling nearly two times the weight of the Shroud carbon itself would be required to change a 1st century date to the 14th century (see Amount of Modern Biological Contaminant Required to Raise the Date of a 36 A.D. Shroud). Besides this, the linen cloth samples were very carefully cleaned before analysis at each of the C-dating laboratories.

Experimental details on the tests carried out by McCrone are available in five papers published in three different peer-reviewed journal articles: The Microscope 28, p. 105, 115 (1980); The Microscope 29, p. 19 (1981); Wiener Berichte uber Naturwissenschaft in der Kunst 1987/1988, 4/5, 50 and Acc. Chem. Res. 1990, 23, 77-83.


The “Shroud” is a beautiful painting created about 1355 for a new church in need of a pilgrim-attracting relic.

The reaction of the world: quotes on Dr. McCrone’s work on the Shroud

Now you can read the Judgement Day for the Turin Shroud book and hear Dr. McCrone’s account of the microanalytical research on the Shroud.

An excerpt from the book is included here:

“This book makes three major contributions. Firstly, it provides a clear, easily understood description of the analytical methods that have been used on the Shroud. Secondly, it reviews the scientific debates surrounding these methods, the analytical results obtained, and the interpretations made by the scientists. Thirdly, it serves as an excellent example of the scientific, personal and social issues that come into play when emotions, prejudices and perceptions of science interact with classical scientific methods and ethics.

“As one who has spent his entire professional life as a consulting analytical chemist and microscopist, Dr. McCrone has regularly seen differences in opinions arise among scientists, and, more importantly, seen objective scientists resolve these differences, professionally and honestly.” Judgement Day for the Turin Shroud, Foreward, p. xviii

Read Dr. McCrone’s Latest Shroud Update.