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New book re-opens Turin Shroud debate

The Turin Shroud is not a medieval forgery, as has long been claimed, but could in fact date from the time of Christ’s death, a new book claims

Experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy have dated the shroud to ancient times, a few centuries before and after the life of Christ.

Many Catholics believe that the 14ft-long linen cloth, which bears the imprint of the face and body of a bearded man, was used to bury Christ’s body when he was lifted down from the cross after being crucified 2,000 years ago.

The analysis is published in a new book, “Il Mistero della Sindone” or The Mystery of the Shroud, by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist.

The tests will revive the debate about the true origins of one of Christianity’s most prized but mysterious relics and are likely to be hotly contested by sceptics.

Scientists, including Prof Fanti, used infra-red light and spectroscopy – the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths – to analyse fibres from the shroud, which is kept in a special climate-controlled case in Turin.

The tests dated the age of the shroud to between 300 BC and 400AD.

The experiments were carried out on fibres taken from the Shroud during a previous study, in 1988, when they were subjected to carbon-14 dating.

Those tests, conducted by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona, appeared to back up the theory that the shroud was a clever medieval fake, suggesting that it dated from 1260 to 1390.

But those results were in turn disputed on the basis that they may have been skewed by contamination by fibres from cloth that was used to repair the relic when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.

Mr Fanti, a Catholic, said his results were the fruit of 15 years of research.

He said the carbon-14 dating tests carried out in 1988 were “false” because of laboratory contamination.

The mystery of the shroud has baffled people for centuries and has spawned not only religious devotion but also books, documentaries and conspiracy theories.

The linen cloth appears to show the imprint of a man with long hair and a beard whose body bears wounds consistent with having been crucified.

Each year it lures hundreds of thousands of faithful to Turin Cathedral, where it is kept in a specially designed, climate-controlled case.

Scientists have never been able to explain how the image of a man’s body, complete with nail wounds to his wrists and feet, pinpricks from thorns around his forehead and a spear wound to his chest, could have formed on the cloth. Mr Fanti said the imprint was caused by a blast of “exceptional radiation”, although he stopped short of describing it as a miracle.

He said his tests backed up earlier results which claimed to have found on the shroud traces of dust and pollen which could only have come from the Holy Land.

Mr Gaeta is also a committed Catholic – he worked for L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, and now works for Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic weekly.

The Vatican has never said whether it believes the shroud to be authentic or not, although Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said that the enigmatic image imprinted on the cloth “reminds us always” of Christ’s suffering.

His newly-elected successor, Pope Francis, will provide an introduction when images of the shroud appear on television on Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection.

The Pope has recorded a voice-over introduction for the broadcast on RAI, the state television channel.

“It will be a message of intense spiritual scope, charged with positivity, which will help (people) never to lose hope,” said Cesare Nosiglia, the Archbishop of Turin, who also has the title “pontifical custodian of the shroud”.

“The display of the shroud on a day as special as Holy Saturday means that it represents a very important testimony to the Passion and the resurrection of the Lord,” he said.

For the first time, an app has been created to enable people to explore the holy relic in detail on their smart phones and tablets.

The app, sanctioned by the Catholic Church and called “Shroud 2.0”, features high definition photographs of the cloth and enables users to see details that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.

“For the first time in history the most detailed image of the shroud ever achieved becomes available to the whole world, thanks to a streaming system which allows a close-up view of the cloth. Each detail of the cloth can be magnified and visualised in a way which would otherwise not be possible,” Haltadefinizione, the makers of the app, said.

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Spirituality

Taj Mahal – An Amazing Love Story

The construction of the Taj Mahal (literally translated from the Persian language as “Crown of the Mughals”) was associated with the name of the beautiful woman – Arjumand Bano Begum, or Mumtaz – “Queen of the Soul”.

At 200 kilometers from the capital of India, Delhi, on the high bank of the Ganges tributary – the Jamna – is the five-domed Taj Mahal mausoleum. The white-stone structure surprises and delights with its perfect proportions, an elegant mosaic of colored precious and semiprecious stones, and skillful carving.

The Taj Mahal is a whole complex of buildings. Taj – white, and around the fortress and minarets of red sandstone. The mausoleum has absolute proportions: on the base and height – an exact square, each side of which is 75 meters. Several paths stretch to the Taj Mahal, between them there is water in the pools, first the entire mausoleum is reflected in it, and as it approaches, its individual details.

Local architects worked together with artists from Damascus, gardeners from Constantinople and Samarkand to create the Indian pearl. When creating the interior, interior decoration of the mausoleum, the craftsmen used the best varieties of white, occasionally yellow and black marble, mother of pearl, jasper, agate, emeralds, aquamarines, pearls and hundreds of other stones.

QUEEN OF THE SOUL

Arjumand Bano Begum was only 19 years old when she became the second wife of Prince Guram (future Shah-Jahan). And although the prince had several more wives and many concubines, Mumtaz won the heart of her husband and undividedly owned him until the end of his days. It was an unusually romantic and poetic love. Mumtaz was not only his most beloved wife, but his most faithful companion since the turbulent times when Prince Guram wandered around the world, pursued by his father Jahangir, when he obtained his throne in a fierce struggle with his brothers. In 1627, Guram, having gained a final victory over them and seized his father’s throne, assumed the title of emperor, Shah-Jahan – “ruler of the world”. Mumtaz finally became the queen of India.

Shah Jahan adored his wife and each time he honored her, held lavish receptions and grandiose celebrations in her honor, without her any important ceremony would begin, and not a single state act would be adopted. Mumtaz was present at the meetings of the State Council; her opinion was almost never disputed by anyone.

The portrait of the queen, painted by her contemporary, has been preserved. Violating one of the strictest prohibitions of Islam – to draw portraits of animals and people, an unknown artist skillfully conveyed the beauty of Mumtaz, a white-faced Persian, a pearl of the East.

A happy life together ended abruptly. In the spring of 1636, Mumtaz suddenly fell ill: before dying, she turned to her husband with a request to take care of their eldest daughter, Jahanara Begum, and took an oath from him – to build a tomb worthy of their love, their joint nineteen-year-old married life. Mumtaz’s death shocked Jahan.

WHITE AND BLACK PALACES

Widowed, he commanded the construction of an unprecedentedly beautiful mausoleum. Shah was presented with many different projects, the authors of which were the best of the best architects of the East. Of these, he chose a project created by Indian architect Ystad Khan Effendi. Following this, a twenty-thousand army of builders was driven into Agra: masons, marble cutters, jewelers and handymen. Marble was brought from Makran near Jaipur, sandstone from Sikri, gems from India, Afghanistan, Persia and Central Asia.

The entire complex of the mausoleum was created over twenty two years. Having fulfilled the mandate of “the queen of her soul”, Jahan proceeded to a new, no less grandiose construction – exactly the same mausoleum, but only of black marble, for himself – on the other (left) bank of the Jamna River. According to the Shah’s plan, both mausoleums, like marital chambers, were to be connected by a high lace bridge of black and white marble. Preparatory work has already begun, but this plan, unfortunately, was not destined to come true.

While Shah Jahan was building a new tomb, his sons fought among themselves. Having defeated the brothers, one of them – Aurangzeb – seized power in 1658, killed the brothers, arrested his father and imprisoned him in the Red Fort under reliable guard along with his beloved daughter Jahanara Begum. Shah Jahan spent the last years of his life in the marble palace that he had once built for Mumtaz, from where he could constantly see the Taj Mahal. Here he died on January 23, 1666. Fulfilling the last will of his father, Aurangzeb the next day ordered his body to be transported to the Taj Mahal and to be buried next to Mumtaz without any ceremony or honor.

UNSOLVED SECRET

The Taj Mahal mausoleum stands alone in its inexpressible beauty on the banks of the blue Jamna, reflecting its clean, proud appearance. He appears as a vision from another, better, cleaner world. “The Taj Mahal has a secret that everyone feels, but no one can interpret.”

“The Taj Mahal attracts you like a magnet. You can stand for hours and all look and look at this marvel, at this fabulous ghost, ascending into a bottomless azure sky. The illumination of the Taj Mahal changes like a mirage. It glows from the inside, changing hues depending on the position of the sun: it suddenly turns light pink, then bluish, then pale orange. At night, under the moon, against a black sky, it looks dazzling white. Just coming very close, you notice that he is covered in the finest patterns woven over white marble, the marble blocks are encrusted with gems and seem to shine through, emitting a flickering light.”

The dazzling white walls of the mausoleum are covered with mosaics – garlands of flowers made of precious stones. Branches of white jasmine from mother-of-pearl shimmer with red pomegranate flower from carnelian and delicate tendrils of grapevine and honeysuckle, and delicate oleanders peek out from the lush green foliage. Each leaf, each petal is a separate emerald, yacht, pearl or topaz; sometimes there are up to one hundred of such stones for one branch of flowers, and there are hundreds of similar ones on the panels and grids of the Taj Mahal!

DEATH NOT SHARED

In the central hall of the mausoleum are two sarcophagi sculpted from white-pink rocks of marble, decorated with floral ornaments. These are the cenotaphs of the dead, symbolic projections of those who are in the lowest part of the mausoleum. There, in the underground vaulted room, dusk reigns. Both tombs with the remains of the royal spouses, Mumtaz and Jahan, like a screen, are surrounded by a white marble carved fence about two meters high, decorated with fabulous flowers – red, yellow, blue, along with green garlands, interlacing of marble leaves and flowers.

What is the power of the impression made by the Taj Mahal? Where does the insurmountable impact on everyone who sees it come from?

“Neither marble lace, nor the thin carving covering its walls, nor mosaic flowers, nor the fate of the beautiful queen — none of this alone could make such an impression. There must be a reason for something else. However, something in the Taj Mahal fascinated me and thrilled me. … It seemed to me that the mystery of the Taj Mahal is connected with the secret of death, i.e. with that secret, regarding which, in the words of one of the Upanishads, “even the gods were at first in doubt.” Above the tomb, where the queen’s body lies, a light burns. I felt that this is where the beginning of the clue lies. For the light shimmering over the tomb, where its dust lies, this light … is a small transient earthly life. And the Taj Mahal is a future eternal life.”

PLACE OF PILGRIMAGE

The creation of the Taj Mahal dates back to the time of the conquest of India by Muslims. The grandson of padishah Akbar Jahan was one of those conquerors who changed the face of a vast country. A warrior and statesman, Jahan was at the same time a fine connoisseur of art and philosophy; his courtyard in Agra attracted the most prominent scientists and artists of Persia, which at that time was the center of culture throughout West Asia.

The son of Jahan Aurangzeb (“the beauty of the throne,” 1665-1706) was nothing like his father. He was a stern, withdrawn and ascetic-religious monarch. While still a prince, he disapproved of the useless and devastating, as he believed, activities of his father. Aurangzeb spent his entire long and hectic life in military campaigns aimed at maintaining power over the empire.

Aurangzeb raised a rebellion against his father, accusing him of spending all the state revenue on the mausoleum. He imprisoned the former lord in an underground mosque in one of the inner palaces of the Agra fortress. Shah Jahan lived in this underground mosque for seven years; sensing the approach of death, he asked him to be transferred to the so-called Jasmine pavilion in the fortress wall, to the tower of lace marble, where was the favorite room of Queen Arjumand Bano. There, on the balcony of the Jasmine Pavilion overlooking the Jamna, from where the Taj Mahal was visible at a distance, Shah Jahan died.

This is the brief history of the Taj Mahal. Since then, the mausoleum of Queen Mumtaz has gone through many vicissitudes. During the wars that continued in India in the 17th and 18th centuries, Agra repeatedly passed from hand to hand and was often plundered. The conquerors removed the large silver doors from the Taj Mahal, carried out precious lamps and candlesticks, and tore ornaments from precious stones from the walls. However, the building itself and most of the decoration remained intact. The Taj Mahal is now restored and carefully guarded.

But today, the Taj Mahal is partially dressed in scaffolding due to the fact that cracks appeared on the walls. The marble Taj Mahal weighs many hundreds of thousands of tons. A huge mass presses on the soil, and it gradually settles. Over the past centuries, as a result of soil displacement, the mausoleum leaned toward the river, although it is invisible with a simple eye. Once the high-water Jamna came close to the building, but then the river became shallow and receded. This last circumstance changed the structure of the soil and also affected the stability of the mausoleum. Now it is decided to plant trees on the banks of the Jamna in order to stop soil erosion.

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Spirituality

Image of the Antichrist on a 14th-century fresco – who painted it and why?

The Antichrist, unlike Christ, the Son of God, is not the son of Satan, but a simple man. In Christian ideology, the Antichrist will appear shortly before the end of the world. Antichrist will be descended from Dan. This is one of the so-called 12 Tribes of Israel – the descendants of the sons of Jacob, who formed the Israeli people.

Antichrist will become an authoritative ruler of people, will arrange persecution of the righteous. This period in the Revelation of John the Theologian is called the Great Tribulation.

There was no specifics in the Bible about the Antichrist, so all further assumptions are futurism based on treatises of symbols and various interpretations. In particular, Calvinist Anthony Hoekema in his book “The Bible and the Future” believes that up to 75% of people will die during the Great Tribulation and this period will last for seven years.

And then, all Christians are united in this, there will be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the Last Judgment. When all sinners – both living and dead – will get what they deserve, the righteous will receive eternal paradise.

Christians were afraid of the Antichrist, so he was like Voldemort in Harry Potter – the one whose name cannot be called. Well, to portray him was generally forbidden.

The first image of the Antichrist appeared already in the XIV century. And its bold author – Vitale da Bologna – lived a transitional period from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It was during this period that it became possible to show freedom of creativity.

In northern Italy there is the Pomposa Monastery, which in the 9th century was founded by Benedictine monks. Over time, the monastery turned into a party place for people of art. The walls in the cathedral of this monastery were painted by Vitale da Bologna.


Even closer to the wall … Look at the bottom right … Take a closer look.


Here is the image of the Antichrist on the wall from an old Italian mural of the 14th century. 


Frescoes in the Cathedral of Pomposa, the image of the Antichrist is highlighted in red

Here lived the famous medieval musician Guido d’Arezzo. He reformed musical notation, prescribed a new scheme for the designation of keys and intervals. It’s d’Arezzo that we owe modern letter designations in music, for example C sharp major.

The famous Petr Damiani, a poet, philosopher and theologian, worked a lot in the monastery. Despite the fact that all art was saturated with Christianity (the culture of scholasticism of the Middle Ages!), creativity found its way. People tried to realize bold ideas for their time.

As often happens, where there is art and creativity, freedom of morals arises there. After all, art must be true. Art must find paradoxes in our reality, notice inconsistencies and vividly declare them! But art in the service of the state, in the strict framework of those in power, is already PR propaganda.

But back to our hero. He really wanted to add brightness to his religious canvases and he was drawn to ominous plots. After all, there you can truly imagine the whole storm of emotions!

The monks ordered the painting “The Last Judgment” from him. And Vitale da Bologna painted the walls of the cathedral at the request of the customer, and on the pretext of realism added the Antichrist there. And so this first image of the chief man who was in the service of Satan appeared.

However, customers demanded to depict it as disgusting as possible. The image of the Antichrist turned out to be some kind of fictional, phantasmagoric – more reminiscent of the devil from fairy tales. But the antichrist, as we recall, is a man!

Attempts to portray the Antichrist were made in the future, but these were more episodes. So, for example, the Antichrist was seen by another Renaissance artist Luca Signorelli.

Luca Signorelli. Fragment of the painting “The Sermon and Works of the Antichrist”, 1500

Here, the Antichrist looks like Christ, only with an ominous expression. And Satan whispers his thoughts, who looks like an ordinary petty demon.

And it is this picture of Signorelli, in our opinion, which better illustrates the real image of the Antichrist. He is an ordinary person. Which, most likely, will consider that it is doing the right thing and for the good of mankind. After all, logic is a double-edged weapon, it is always ready to justify any crime with great reasonable goals.

14th century fresco called “The Funeral of Satan”

In the Middle Ages, striped clothing was treated extremely negatively, there was even a case when a shoemaker was sentenced to death for wearing striped clothing. It happened in 1310 in the French city of Rouen. In those days, striped clothing was considered devilish.

Among the many excellent medieval frescoes in the Verona Cathedral, there is one especially curious. It is called “The Funeral of Satan” and depicts an enemy of the human race lying under a striped veil on his deathbed. Actually, it is the color of the veil and the appearance of Satan that attracts attention.

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A yogi who has lived for more than 70 years without food and water has passed away in India

In the Indian state of Gujarat, the yogi Prahlad Jani died at the age of 90, claiming to have discovered the “elixir of life,” which allows him not to eat food and water for at least 76 years, reports NDTV.

According to the assurances of the followers, and there was plenty of them at the holy hermit, Prahlad Jani died on May 26 in his native village of Charada, where he was brought at his personal request a few days ago. For two days, his body will be in the ashram so that followers can say goodbye to the mentor.

Prahlad Jani was known for statements that he has not eaten and has not drunk since childhood – according to some sources, from 8-9 years old, according to others, from 14. Doctors twice, in 2003 and 2010, conducted a comprehensive examination of Chunrival Mataji, as they called a yogi, and the second time he was two weeks under the supervision of employees of the Defense Institute of Physiology and Related Sciences of India. During this time, he did not eat a crumb, did not drink a drop, did not meet his natural needs, while his bladder was filled with a small amount of urine, but then it was absorbed into the walls.

“We still do not know how he survives,” said neurologist Sudhir Shah from a recent examination.

Jani himself assured that in childhood he was blessed by a goddess, after which he left his native home and refused food and water.

A number of foreign researchers questioned the findings of Indian colleagues, pointing to the imperfection of control systems.

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