Was the blood on the Shroud applied with a monkish felt-tip pen (well, a somewhat primitive version thereof)?

Late addition (July 2019)

Please forgive this postscript, correction, “prescript”,  correction, intrusion, added many years later – based on some 350 and more postings here and elsewhere.

That’s including some 7 years of my hands-on investigation into image-forming techniques, chosen to be credible with simple, indeed crude, medieval (14th century) technology etc etc.

(Oh, and yes, I accept the radiocarbon dating, despite it being restricted to a single non-random corner sample, making all the oh-so-dismissive, oh-so-derogatory statistics-based sniping totally irrelevant – a ranging shot being just that me dears- a single ranging shot, albeit subdivided into three for Arizona, Oxford and Zurich).
Sindonology (i.e. the “science” , read pseudoscience – of the so-called “Shroud ” of Turin) can be simply summed up. It’s a re-branding exercise, one designed to pretend that the prized Turin possession is not just J of A’s “fine linen”, described in the biblical account as used to transport a crucified body from cross to tomb.

Oh no, it goes further, much further, way way beyond the biblical account. How? By making out that it was the SAME linen as that described in the Gospel of John, deployed as final “burial clothes”. Thus the description “Shroud” for the Turin Linen, usually with the addition “burial shroud”. Why the elision of two different linens, deployed for entirely different purposes (transport first, then final interment)? 
Go figure! Key words to consider are: authentic relic v manufactured medieval icon; mystique, peaceful death-repose, unlimited opportunity for proposing new and ever more improbable image-formation mechanisms etc. How much easier it is to attach the label “Holy” to Shroud if seen as final burial clothes, in final at-peace repose – prior to Resurrection- as distinct from a means of temporary swaying side-to-side transport in an improvised makeshift stretcher !
As I say, a rebranding exercise (transport to final burial shroud) and a very smart and subtle one at that . Not for nothing did that angry local Bishop of Troyes suddenly refer to a “sleight of hand” after allegedly accepting it when first displayed. Seems the script was altered, or as some might say, tampered with! It might also explain why there were two Lirey badges, not just one. Entire books could be written on which of the two came first… I think I know which, with its allusion (?) to the Veil of Veronica… yes, there are alternative views (the face above “SUAIRE” a visual link to the face-only display of the Linen as the “Image of Edessa” or as that on the then current “Shroud” per se.



Face shown  (left) on mid- 14th century Machy Mould (recently discovered variant of the Lirey Pilgrim Badge) above the word “SUAIRE” (allegedly meaning “shroud”). Inset image on the right: one version among many of the fabled “Veil of Veronica” image.  I say the two are related, and deliberately so, but this is not the time or place to go into detail.

No, NOT  a resurrectional selfie, but instead a full size version of, wait for it,  the legendary VEIL OF VERONICA , product of inital body contact – no air gaps- between body and fabric, but with one important difference. The Turin image was intended to look more realistic, less artistic.

How? By displaying a negative tone-reversed image implying IMPRINT (unless, that is, you’re a modern day sindonologist, in which case ‘resurrectional proto-photographic selfie” becomes the preferred, nay, vigorously proferred explanation assisted by unrestrained imagination, creation of endless pseudoscience etc etc, with resort to laser beams, corona discharges, nuclear physics, elementary particles, earthquakes etc etc – the list is seemingly endless! 
Welcome to modern day sindonology. 
Personally, I prefer no-nonsense feet-on-the-ground hypothesis-testing science, aided by lashings of, wait for it, plain down-to-earth common sense.

Start of original posting:


“Oh Lord, what can we use instead while waiting for felt-tip pens to be invented?”

So how was the medieval forerunner of your modern felt-tip marker pen fashioned? Simple. Make a little pouch out of felt* or other absorbent material. Place some freshly drawn blood inside – a plentiful commodity in medieval times given the cure-all resort to bloodletting. (Macerated  blood-fed leeches was a possible alternative to blood – don’t laugh, there is some serious science in that suggestion).

LATE ADDITION: I have just done a follow up post on that leech idea – methinks it has quite a lot going for it!!!!

If using plain blood, add a little soap, close off the pouch with a knot or draw string, and hey presto you have your medieval marker pen.  It was probably called an “applicator” to begin with – or something more techie-sounding  like “dabber thingy”.  It was probably used in conjunction with a stencil, cut from absorbent felt, cloth or similar to get a soft edge. You would have one stencil that was shaped like a reversed three – see main graphic – the bloodstained forehead of the Man in the Shroud – or what your monk with his rudiments of a classical education would no doubt have called an epsilon … and other stencils for other “bloodstains”.

Felt pouches still find uses to this day…

I believe this intentionally felt-filtered blood could account for some peculiarities that Adler and Heller observed – like the paucity of potassium (adsorbed/absorbed into my felt), the absence of blood cells (lysed/filtered out). Their own complex theory in fact also incorporated filtration, albeit accidental filtration, a process to which they alluded, but it was never really clear that the mechanism proposed, involving clotting, clot retraction,   exudation of serum, transfer of serum with haemolysed red blood cells to linen etc etc  would really deliver re-solubilised “blood” in a sufficiently controlled fashion to produce the too-good-to-be-true figures, flows and  patterns of blood we see on the Shroud.

My method also incorporates filtration, but it was controlled, technological filtration, probably monk-developed, monk-executed,  designed to get around the problems of blood clotting, That’s as distinct  from relying on clotting – which unenviably HAS to be part of the authenticist’s mechanism to explain how blood shed on the Cross was still available for imprinting hours later in liquid form.

“Haemography for Beginners” had a somewhat limited circulation. Sadly, there is no surviving copy…

I’ll be back to later to expand on the science bit. First I shall let The Other Site  pirate what I have written so far, as is its wont, allowing time for its blogmeister and regulars to toss it around among themselves, working in the inevitable putdowns, Matt being a welcome exception.  See most recent example.

I shall keep my own (seriously scientific) powder dry a little bit longer.

To be continued…

*Felt (from wiki)

Felt is a non-woven cloth that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing woollen fibres. …

Many cultures have legends as to the origins of feltmaking. Sumerian legend claims that the secret of feltmaking was discovered by Urnamman of Lagash. The story of  Saint Clement and Saint Christopher relates that while fleeing from persecution, the men packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters. At the end of their journey, the movement and sweat had turned the wool into felt socks.”

About Colin Berry

Retired science bod, previous research interests: phototherapy of neonatal jaundice, membrane influences on microsomal UDP-glucuronyltransferase, defective bilirubin and xenobiotic conjugation and hepatic excretion, dietary fibre and resistant starch.
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1 Response to Was the blood on the Shroud applied with a monkish felt-tip pen (well, a somewhat primitive version thereof)?

  1. Pingback: How good is the match up between the Sudarium and the Shroud? « Shroud of Turin Blog

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