Fresh evidence could date Turin shroud to Christ

John Follain

Rome, Apr 18 (Historical review)

A SWISS scientist claims to have found new evidence suggesting that the Turin shroud, the venerated relic dismissed a decade ago as a medieval fake, might be genuine after all.

Carbon dating tests carried out in 1988 indicated that the shroud, revered by many Christians as the winding-sheet in which the body of Christ was wrapped for burial, had been made between 1260 and 1390.

However, Mechthild Flury Lemberg, a leading authority on the history of textiles who helped to restore the relic, said last week that she had found a strong similarity between the shroud and fragments of cloth produced in the Middle East about 2,000 years ago. Her claim prompted demands for the Vatican to order new tests.

In a report presented to a conference organised by the Catholic church, Lemberg likened stitching on both hems of the shroud and on a lengthy seam down one side to that on cloth found in the ruins of Masada, a mountain stronghold overlooking the Dead Sea and Jordan. These have been dated at between 40BC and AD73.

�The seam is very well done, in such a way that you can only see it on the reverse side of the cloth,� said Lemberg, a former curator of the Abegg Foundation textile museum in Switzerland.

�In my opinion, the shroud is not a medieval fake. The parallels I have found indicate that it could have existed at the same time as Jesus Christ and in what is now Israel.�

Believers and non-believers alike have long been fascinated by the origins of the cloth, which bears the ghostly imprint of a bearded, long-haired man with markings that correspond to the stigmata.

Pressure for a new carbon-14 dating test has grown since Israeli scientists claimed last year that the most common pollen found on it comes from a plant that could have been used to weave the crown of thorns placed on Christ's head. The plant, described in the Bible as tumbleweed, grows only in the Middle East.

�Scientists have been divided on the value of carbon-testing ever since the first test was carried out,� said Ian Wilson, author of several books on the shroud and one of the experts summoned by the church. �But the Masada and pollen studies have helped build a new consensus in favour of a fresh test.�

It is up to the Vatican to decide whether to go ahead. Although it has yet to respond officially to Lemberg's analysis, church organisers made her paper the first to be heard at the conference in Turin, where the shroud is kept.

The first documented display of a burial shroud bearing the features of Christ dates back to 1389 after Geoffroi de Charnay, a French knight, wrote to Clement VII, the Avignon anti-pope, to tell him of the cloth he had inherited from his father.

The shroud will go on public display in a bullet-proof case from August to October as part of the church's celebrations of the 2,000th birthday of Christ. It is expected to attract more than 3m people.

A Final Note on Symbolism, Theme, and the Legacy of Kubrick


Now that we're near the end, let's review some of the symbols and motifs that I picked up on in this film, and see what they tell us.

MASKS: the first time we see a mask, it's in Domino's apartment, during Bill's first real attempt at revenge or self-establishment. He straps one on really well here, changing from Dr. Meek to Dr. Hyde, almost, a slobbering pervert looking for some action. But we know that's not the real Bill, don't we? Of course the �orgy� scene is frought with masks and it becomes an oblique vision of the real world � an entire society built on masks. Is this Kubrick's view of the Hollywood he so despises? Who knows? Whatever he means by it, it's a beautiful and elaborate image. By the end, the film's references to masks have become so powerful that this seems to be a very controlling image and idea. The most important, I think. Sort of Oedipal, even, but I'm avoiding that as much as possible (ditto for Freud.) Anyway, if masks weren't the primary image, Kubrick wouldn't have named the movie after them. Masks have eyes that are always wide open � but they never see anything.

RED: the traditional color for the Devil (though some would say black, and I believe there's plenty of that, too) and it is very prevalent throughout the film. It's especially present in those places that lead to Bill's downfall � the Sonata, Somerton, Rainbow � and it is embodied in the Leader, or Ringmaster, or whatever. Masque of the Red Death?

BLUE: There's lots of blue here, too. Blue seems to be the precursor to red, as in you always see blue before something nasty happens. As Alice ruins Bill, the bathroom glows an eerie blue behind her. The gates of Somerton are blue. It sort of dances around with red, almost its yang. (Of course the real contrast of red on the color wheel is green.) I've also heard that blue in dreams simply stands for �emotion.� Note that Alice owns a blue nightgown � perhaps Kubrick equates her to emotion and Bill to sensuality. I found another reference about symbols at the library, and it said that blue is often used to stand for the female. Which makes sense in this film, up until we see Milich wearing a blue suit. *shrug*

CIRCLES: The whole circle thing, well, I think I need to see the movie once more. I spent so much time looking for red that I probably missed a few circles. The circle plays a big part in the orgy scene, and we see it again in the toy store at the end, but otherwise I saw none. Revolving doors at the hospital, too.

BALD MEN: It took me a while to get this one, but a good netizen out there pointed it out � remember the first scene of FMJ? The boys were getting their heads shaved, losing their indentities. The same thing goes here. Milich complains that his hair is disappearing and all of the men at Somerton seem to be cueballs. Ergo, Bill is persued and helped along by men with depleting personalities, who will soon be little more than masks themselves. I'm not sure what this says about Patrick Stewart or Me'shell Ndege-Ocello, but it works. Freud (though I'm saving that for another essay) said that dreams about hairloss were actually dreams about castration. . .

DEATH and CORPSES: This seems to be another controlling image, but the whole thing is very mysterious. In both cases we know little about the corpses Bill comes into contact with, but for some reason they both push Bill's swing and get him moving in some way. What is the fascination? What does Kubrick equate death to? Prostitution? Infidelity? Perhaps these corpses were the ultimate victims of their masks. . .Anyway, it all seems to follow Kubrick's idea that reality is fake and that dreams are real. Perhaps Bill's fears of death and truth are the same. . .

TRUTH v. LIES, ETC: there's a lot of dialectics that go on in this film. Good versus evil should exist, but no one is truly good here, except for Helena, but only because she doesn't know about the evils of the world. Even the heroes are hookers. But it goes beyond that. Kubrick puts forth a meditation on the nature of the truth � everything's subjective, apparently, as Alice thinks that dreams don't really mean anything and Bill thinks they do � but it's actually sort of vague as to who believes what. There's simply, like in Hamlet, a theme of seeming versus being that runs throughout. There are plenty of examples and they sort of run side-by-side with the death images and the masks and costumes. It's another very complex idea.

CHRISTMAS TREES: Since so many people asked about this, I decided to note the symbolism of all the Christmas trees in the film. Christmas itself sort of symbolizes perverted beliefs and fantasy here, and the trees are another manifestation of it. They sit in corners everywhere, glowing away menacingly, dazzling red, and we watch our man Bill get destroyed while in their presence. And yet, before Bill finally breaks down, we see him do something new: he turns his own Christmas tree off. Has Bill finally decided that it's time to confess his sins, or to throw his mask to the ground? Perhaps he has. It could be chalked up to realism, but we all know the Kubrick cocktail � realism mixed with symbolism. It's a beautiful thing.

THE BRITISH: Eh. You go with who's around. If Kubrick had something against the Britons, I doubt he'd have holed himself up there for the past forty years.

EWS refers back to many of the classic dramatic devices that have been lost from the cinema - those of hubris, of the climactic pattern, of Aristotlean poetics. Bill, in another way, is an Oedipus character (pre-Freudian sense) who pokes out his own eyes when he sees what he's done. . .like Tiresias, the blind prophet says, �your eyes are open and you see not a thing.�

So what in God's name is Eyes Wide Shut about? I'll leave that up to you, just like Kubrick would have wanted. All this was was a little exploration, hardly enough. I just wanted to lay some things out for myself this time. Personally I feel that Eyes Wide Shut is an enormous and powerful statement about Kubrick's disdain for both marriage and sensuality, for hate and love, for anger and passivity, for men and women. It's about the nature of reality and artifice � in the final scene Bill and Alice agree that reality is not real and that dreams are not always just dreams. �We're awake now,� Alice says, but the concept of being awake forever frightens her. There's way too much in this movie to condense into one paragraph, and I think that's probably the most important thing about this film. Any way it falls, Kubrick has left us with a wondrous and imaginative piece of artwork that serves as a fine finish line. Of course we would have all liked to see Kubrick live forever, but to imagine what he could have done with film is only kidding ourselves.

AI would have been beautiful. It would have brought the world together. Yet, I feel that whoever decides to put it into production is doing the wrong thing. Especially if it's Mr. Spielberg.

Stanley Kubrick was a genius. He was the greatest director who ever lived, and perhaps who ever shall live. He was more than a director - he was the last Renaissance man, a true devotee to art. He was a philosopher with tremendous insight. I had dreams not of meeting Stanley, or working with Stanley, but instead of impressing a man of his intellectual enormity. I can only hope that this site and the many other sites out there can help make Stanley's legend even greater, and perhaps we can perpetuate his brilliance on into eternity, but I believe that the questions that he lets run rampant in our mind - and the beautiful images he created - are enough to keep him alive and well, tinkering away at the boundaries of imagination.

Thank you, Stanley. You are sorely missed.

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