More than one million people are expected to head for
The chance to shuffle past the holy shroud, a 14ft sheet said to be the burial cloth in which the crucified body of Christ was lain, is rare. The cloth, which is usually kept in a sealed container in a dark chapel, has been put on display five times since 1933, but was only shown a few times every century before then.
Now, for the first time since 2010, when it was displayed to draw tourists to the city of Turin, believers have yet another chance to see the cloth, whose true origin is still hotly debated.
The display this year commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Saint John Bosco, whose work in
A group of French teenagers sang and chanted joyfully in front of the cathedral. “It’s like seeing Jesus as a real man who existed. It makes our religion true and touchable,” said Orane Conan, 17, who had travelled to
Nearby, Katay, a native of
The shroud has been subject to more scientific scrutiny than perhaps any other Christian relic. Believers see in it a faint image that resembles a dead man. But like many such artefacts, it pits faith against science.
Scientists weighed in on the debate in 1988, after carbon-14 tests showed the relic originated around the 13th century, and was therefore not authentic. But since then, other theories have materialised – including a suggestion that the fibres that were tested in 1988 were essentially from a patch in the shroud and not part of the original cloth.
British scholar Charles Freeman put forward another theory after studying early descriptions of the shroud, when it was first acquired by the House of Savoy –
“Yes, I believe in it. I believe in it with my heart,” says Marco Mazzoni, who is Italian and has a reservation to see the shroud in May. “It signifies the suffering of Christ, and the sacrifice he made for everyone.”
The Catholic Church has not formally taken a position on whether the shroud is authentic, but Pope Francis is due to visit and pray in front of the relic on 21 June, in a private viewing he will attend with his Italian relatives.
The exhibition is an important tourist attraction in this northern Italian city, which hosted the 2006 Olympic games and was also the home of
Vendors sell trinkets – including postcards and magnets with the image of the shroud. Maria and Constantino Lazzaro from