In 1532, there was a fire in the church in Chambery, France, where the Shroud was being kept.
Part of the metal storage case melted and fell on the cloth, leaving burns, and efforts to extinguish the fire left water stains. In 1534, nuns sewed patches over the fire-damaged areas and attached a full-size support cloth to the back of the Shroud. The Shroud was moved to Turin in 1578, where it remains to this day.
Independent scientists also said the cleaned cloth would have needed to stay heavily impregnated with modern carbon for the results to be so skewed that a 2,000-year-old shroud was dated to the 13th or 14th Century.
It may or may not be of additional significance that successive popes have tended to use their words carefully when it comes to the Turin shroud.
In 2002, a team of experts did restoration work, such as removing the patches from 1534 and replacing the backing cloth.
One of the specialists was Swiss textile historian Mechthild Flury-Lemberg.
Pope Francis has described it as an “icon of a man scourged and crucified” – all very reverential, but significantly short of calling the shroud a “relic”, which would imply a belief that it really was Christ’s burial shroud.
Even so Turin’s Museo della Sindone, (the Most Holy Shroud Museum) continues to attract healthy visitor numbers, and when the shroud itself was briefly put on public display in 2015, more than a million people went to see it.
Unfortunately for shroud believers, however, the forearm blood stains would require the dead body to have been wrapped in the shroud with their arms in a different position – held almost vertically above their head, rather than at an angle of 45 degrees.
But since some have refused to believe the bishop’s findings, or the 1988 carbon dating showing the shroud was from the medieval, not the Biblical era, or the subsequent debunking of claims disputing the carbon dating, scientists today are still studying the Turin Shroud.
In the latest, but almost certainly not final instalment, they have used modern forensic techniques to show that apparent blood spatters on the shroud could only have been produced by someone moving to adopt different poses – rather than lying still, in the manner of a dead and yet to be resurrected Messiah.
, seemed to leave little room for doubt by stating: “The results provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is medieval [not Biblical]”.
Counter-arguments, however, were marshalled - In 1998 it was reported that the office of Anastasio Alberto Ballestrero, the former Cardinal Archbishop of Turin, had issued a statement suggesting the carbon dating had somehow been interfered as a result of an "overseas Masonic plot" There were more science-based objections to the carbon dating results, but they tended to be met with what looked like further rounds of scientific debunking.