In Turin, Italy, pilgrims are catching a glimpse of the controversial Shroud of Turin, supposedly the burial cloth of Christ, before the exhibit closes on October 23. Meanwhile, forensic specialists have gathered in Oviedo, Spain, to examine an obscure relic that many claim validates the Shroud of Turin in Italy.

The Sudarium of Oviedo is reportedly the linen cloth found in the tomb of Christ, as described in the gospel of John, which says, ?…he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths were there and cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place? (John 20:5-8).Jewish burial customs included covering the face of the dead. The dramatic history of this relic, which has been in Spain since the seventh century, involves the Templars, the Moors, El Cid and numerous saints and bishops. Sudarium means ?face cloth? in Latin.

The Sudarium doesn?t contain the image of a man as the Shroud does; instead, it is impregnated with blood and shows a pattern of stains from deep puncture wounds on the back of the head. The blood matches the AB blood type found on the Shroud and the pattern and measurements are consistent with the placement of the cloth over the face.

A separate set of stains, on top of the blood stains, was made when the body was laid horizontally and lymph flowed from the nostrils. This indicates that the man died of asphyxiation, the cause of death in crucifixion.

This cloth has become important as evidence disputing the recent carbon-14 dating of the Shroud to the 13th century. The scientific community is divided about the carbon dating evidence, because it contradicts other evidence proving that the Shroud is authentic. Also, bacteria from centuries of handling the Shroud, as well as changes in the material due to smoke damage after a fire, may have altered the carbon dating results.

Microscopic testing was done on a sample of dirt from the Shroud in 1978 at Hercules Aerospace Laboratory in Salt Lake City, where experts found crystals of travertine argonite, a rare material found near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. The researchers felt that a medieval forger would not have taken the trouble to deposit dirt on the cloth taken from the place where Christ died.

Dr. Alan Whanger of Duke University studied correlations between the Sudarium and the Shroud and discovered 70 points of correlation on the front and 50 on the back. Max Frei of Switzerland discovered specific pollens that are common to both relics and come from Palestine. The Sudarium also has pollen from Egypt and Spain that is not on the Shroud, while the Shroud contains pollen from Turkey that is not on the Sudarium. This supports the theory that the relics were taken to different places from Jerusalem. The history of the Shroud is mysterious, but the Sudarium is known to have been taken to Spain by Christians fleeing the Persian invasion of Palestine in 616 AD. It was hidden in a cave until King Alfonso II built a chapel for it in 840 AD, after defeating the Moorish invasion.

Juan Ignacio Moreno, a Spanish magistrate based in Burgos, Spain, says, ?The scientific and medical studies on the Sudarium prove that it was the covering for the same man whose image in [on] the Shroud of Turin. We know that the Sudarium has been in Spain since the 600s. How, then, can the radio carbon dating claiming the Shroud is only from the 13th century be accurate??

We hope that eventually carbon dating will be done on the Sudarium. One problem with carbon dating relics such as these is that a portion of the material must be removed and destroyed for the testing to be done.

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