Bridgewater professor researches Shroud of Turin

Posted: April 10, 2012

The ventral image on the Shroud of Turin, as it appears on a photographic negative. Accordingly, the image has been flipped left to right. (Photo by ©1978 Barrie M. Schwortz Collection, STERA, Inc.)
Professor Raymond Schneider has conducted research into the Shroud of Turin for many years. Schneider sometimes offers courses to Bridgewater College students that focus on image processing of the shroud. (Photo by courtesy photo)

“And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.”

John 20:6-7
New American Standard Bible

BRIDGEWATER — Is a bloodstained piece of linen locked away in an Italian cathedral the burial cloth of Jesus Christ? Known as the Shroud of Turin, the 14-foot long cloth shows a faint front and back image of a man in burial pose with wounds consistent of a person who was scourged and crucified.

First discovered in France in the mid-1300s, the shroud’s authenticity continues to be debated by theologians, scientists, historians and researchers.

Ray Schneider, associate professor of mathematics and computer science at Bridgewater College, has been passionate about researching the Shroud of Turin since he was a Jesuit school student in the early 1960s. That’s when he first heard of the shroud and saw slides of 1931 photographs made by Giuseppe Enrie.

“I was blown away by the talk and the sheer detail in the images,” Schneider said. “It’s a bizarre thing because it’s so unique. No one has a clue why it exists.”

And if it’s a fake, he said, no one can figure out how a fourteenth-century artist could have created it.

Schneider’s interest in the shroud is more scientific than religious, he said. “The challenge is to try to explain it.”

For decades, he’s conducted independent research, keeping abreast of the latest scientific discoveries and attending numerous conferences. In 1991, Schneider met and became friends with Barrie M. Schwortz, the documenting photographer of the prestigious Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) in 1978. Schwortz’s photographs documented the American scientists’ research and examination of the shroud at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

According to Schwortz’s website, a final 1981 STURP report concluded, “No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found on the fibrils. X-ray, fluorescence and microchemistry on the [shroud’s] fibrils preclude the possibility of paint being used as a method for creating the image.” However, how the image was produced continues to remain “a mystery.”

“I frankly lean towards authenticity,” Schneider said. “Whether it’s authentic or not, it’s mysterious and fun to research.”

However, if scientifically proven to be Christ’s burial cloth, “it would make it the holiest relic in Christendom.”

What’s so mystifying about a piece of cloth?
Longtime researcher Raymond Schneider weighs in...

In 1898, Secundo Pia took the first photograph of the Shroud of Turin and discovered the remarkable fact that the shroud image acts like a photographic negative. Pia was even accused of faking the picture. This was the first of a series of mysterious and mystifying properties of the shroud.

There are four properties, which I call the STAR properties, that are also mystifying. These properties deal with how the image was created. The STAR properties have to be satisfied collectively by any image process and that’s a very, very tall order.


The shroud image is ephemeral. It only penetrates into a miniscule portion of the fibers, called fibrils. Microscopic examination of these fibrils shows that the image only penetrates the first 200-300 nanometers of the fibers. One nanometer measures one billionth of a meter.

Three Dimensional

Using a VP-8 image analyzer as well as linear scans, the image has been shown to render a convincing three-dimensional representation of the human body.

Areal Density

Another mystifying property is that the image is similar to those produced by half tone printing. Those qualities are variations in image lightness and darkness and the same color density.


Most processes in nature are isotropic, that is they spread out pretty evenly in all directions. Natural processes tend to produce fuzzy images that are blurred. The fact that the shroud image is not blurred, and is relatively high resolution means that the image is not isotropic, but parallel in a direction that is likely vertical.


Ray Schneider is available for public presentations. Email him at For more information on the Shroud of Turin, visit Barrie M. Schwortz’s website 




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