Was the Mark 1 TS image – a presumed heat scorch – relaunched at Lirey as a notional sweat imprint?


Postscript (correction: ‘prescript‘) added July 2019:

You have arrived at a 2014 posting. That was the year in which this investigator finally abandoned the notion of the body image being made by direct scorch off a heated metal template (despite many attractions, like negative image, 3D response etc. But hear later: orchestral DA DA!  Yup, still there with the revised technology! DA DA! ).

In its place came two stage image production.

Stage 1: sprinkle white wheaten flour or suchlike vertically onto human subject from head to foot, front and rear  (ideally with initial smear of oil to act as weak adhesive). Shake off excess flour, then cover the lightly coated subject with wet linen. Press down VERTICALLY and firmly (thus avoiding sides of subject). Then (and here’s the key step):

Stage 2: suspend the linen horizontally over glowing charcoal embers and roast gently until the desired degree of coloration, thus ‘developing’ the flour imprint, so as to simulate a sweat-generated body image that has become yellowed with centuries of ageing.

The novel two-stage “flour-imprinting’ technology was unveiled initially on my generalist “sciencebuzz” site. (Warning: one has to search assiduously to find it, and it still uses a metal template, albeit unheated,  as distinct from human anatomy):


sbuzz oct 24, 14 flour 1


So it’s still thermal development of sorts, but with a key difference. One can take imprints off human anatomy (dead or alive!).

A final wash of the roasted flour imprint with soap and water yields a straw-coloured nebulous image, i.e. with fuzzy, poorly defined edges. It’s still a negative (tone-reversed) image that responds to 3D-rendering software, notably the splendid freely-downloadable ImageJ.  (Ring any bells? Better still, orchestral accompaniment – see , correction HEAR earlier – DA DA!))

This 2014 “prescript” replaces the one used for my earlier 2012/2013 postings, deploying abandoned ‘direct scorch’ technology.

Thank you for your patience and forbearance. Here’s where the original posting started:

Original posting starts here:

Summary (a late addition):

Three or four otherwise peculiar facets of the TS story have been causally related and explained by supposing that the TS started as a thermal imprint , i.e. heat scorch, on linen,  probably of a roasted (not crucified) man, either a Templar, or the martyred St.Lawrence, or maybe a composite of the two.

 However the resemblance of that image to a crucified Jesus, supposedly  captured by some obscure means unknown to science post-crucifixion in the tomb, and the marketing opportunities it offered in a relic-fixated age (later augmented with addition of carefully applied blood) proved too strong a temptation for its Lirey custodians to resist,  given the prospects of rich financial rewards.

  All that was required was to lessen the intensity difference between image and background so as to be able to claim the image was an ancient (1300 year old)  sweat imprint, similar to that claimed for the then fabled Veil of Veronica. 

 The post-production changes needed to make the image less intense, and the background more aged-looking, might well account for the  early 16th century and somewhat bizarre account of the Shroud authenticity from one Count Antoine de Lalaing (1480-1640) having been  “tested” by extreme means, including “boiling in oil”.

 It also accounts for the addition of the inset image of Jesus and the word SUAIRE below it to the Machy mould, presumed to be the master for the Lirey Badge Mk2, “suaire”  meaning “sweat”, not “shroud” as often assumed on no good semantic or etymological grounds.

 It also accounts for the Church being forced to act against the Lirey exhibitions of the “true Shroud”, considering the Mk2 Lirey badge being a step too far.


1. Artificial ageing of the linen would also explain why the latter  seemed older than it really was, based on  Rogers’ “vanillin” test (more accurately described as an undegraded lignin test in my view), and in Fanti’s tests of fibre strength.

2. Artificical ageing might explain the discrepancy re uv fluorescence that is cited as evidence against the TS being a scorch (the edges of the 1532 burn marks fluoresce while the body image does not. The image was subjected to artificial ageing, the later 1532 burn marks were not. The ageing treatment, whatever it was, may have removed or otherwise destroyed the molecules responsible for fluorescence.

3. Luigi Garlaschelli’s “frottage” (powder rubbing) model for producing a Shroud-like image featured artificial ageing (hot oven).

Original start point:

Titles can be so tricky – like deciding which words to include, that adequately describe the “product” on offer – and which to leave out so as not to get bogged down with a surplus of detail.

This posting follows a trail established in the immediately preceding ones that began with the realization that “suaire”, as in Suaire de Turin, and that added “SUAIRE” lettering on the presumed Mark 2 Lirey badge (cast from the Machy Mould) did NOT mean “shroud”, as we are often led to believe, but “sweat” or “sweat/face cloth”, as in the “Suaire d’Oviedo”.

The larger scale 'selfie' came a little later

The gospel according to the Lirey Shroud custodians: contact print  photography, correction, chemography, 1st century style, with a full length version (front and back) to follow?

In other words, the Lirey custodians in the mid 14th century (Geoffroi de Charny and his soon-to-be widowed wife, Jeanne de Vergey, both of whose coats of arms appear on the Mark 1 and Mark 2 Lirey badges wanted visitors to think of the Shroud as a larger version of the Veil of Veronica (rather than the  bloodied Suaire d’Oviedo) the one that according to legend had been used by Veronica to wipe the face of Jesus while carrying his cross en route to Calvary (not to be confused with the Oviedo cloth that is conjectured to have been used to cover the face at or shortly after death on the cross). Yes. complicated isn’t it? I envy the ability of writers like Ian Wilson to explain the detail while holding the reader’s attention. But then, what do we biochemists know about writing, or even history for that matter? In my case, not a lot, but there are still these tangible artefacts like badges and moulds, and the Shroud itself, that carry curious details and anomalies too – the latter I suspect being too quickly explained away in some instances as part of preconceived narratives. My only narrative or agenda is to seek an explanation for the TS that fits with the radiocarbon dating,  and with such titbits of information that are available from the documentary or physical evidence.

So the title flags up the direction that today’s post will be taking. All that remains is to add some content. That will come spasmodically as  instalments throughout the day.  Hopefully, it will be easier to read than this turgid preamble.

Yup, I warned a few days ago that this blog is now being used essentially as a worksheet. That was the rationale of this blog at the outset, over 2 years ago – to write up a scientific investigation in real time, essentially as a stream of consciousness, warts an’ all. If I have the good fortune finally to arrive at a correct answer, then my new grandchildren, if so inclined, will be able to see how it was done, patiently and I hope, reasonably systematically, taking one small step at a time, and never straying far from the empirical evidence. Nope, it’s not the stuff of click-baiting newspaper headlines that are generated by pseudoscientists and the publicity machines that promote them.

Back later (after breakfast).

(Recent barrage of comments? Nope, I shan’t be returning to that Joel A. thread on the Washington Post.  I heartily disapprove of MSM forum cliquishness, the kind that subverts a site from discussing the journalist’s chosen topic to that of  24/7 chatroom).

Right, here we go:

  • The Lirey custodians described the Shroud as “SUAIRE” on the Machy mould for presumed Lirey badge Mk2,  directly beneath an image of Jesus’s face that resembles the supposed Veil of Veronica.  So had they attempted to convey that quite daring and some might think ambitious  message with the earlier Lirey badge Mk 1?
  • Answer – no. In fact there is nothing on the Lirey badge Mk1 to suggest that the double image of the man on the herringbone weave is that of Jesus. He did not look like Jesus, had cords or maybe chains around the waist and perhaps ankles too that have no obvious bearing  on crucifixion, but a lot more to do with burning at the stake.
  • The man on Lirey badge Mk1, as suggested previously. may well have been a slow-roasted Templar, dispatched in the same manner as St.Lawrence of Rome in AD 258. Indeed. the image of a naked man, with hands across groin region, can be seen in at least one painting of St.Lawrence on the internet (provenance so far unknown). For all we know, the Man on the the TS may be a composite of St.Lawrence, and roasted Templar. That ambiguity may have protected the artisan and/or the commissioner against charges of harbouring Templar sympathies at a time when the order had been all but liquidated on the orders of King Philip The Fair of France.
  • Let’s take as our working hypothesis the view that the Shroud image was intended  as a kind of thought experiment- imagining  a slow-roasted man being enveloped in a shroud at an intermediate stage before being completely incinerated – a way of making a a highly charged statement.
  • If intended as such initially, with no attempt to fake the burial shroud of Jesus, then there would have been no need to use artificially-aged linen. A brand new sheet of linen could and probably would have been used.
  • Any scorched-on image of a naked man could never have been passed off in the mid-14th century as that of Jesus. Some means would have to be found for ageing/yellowing the linen, without destroying the image.
  • Now let’s look at this entry on ‘Shroud history’, one that has always struck me as somewhat credulity-stretching:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     April 14, 1503 Good Friday:   Exposition of the Shroud at Bourg-en-Bresse for Archduke Philip the Handsome, grand-master of Flanders, on his return from a journey to Spain. The Shroud, which has been specially brought from Chambéry, with great ceremony, by Duke Philibert of Savoy and Duchess Marguerite, is exposed on an altar in one of the great halls of the Duke’s palace. Savoy courtier Antoine de Lalaing records of the events of that day: “The day of the great and holy Friday, the Passion was preached in Monsignor’s chapel by his confessor, the duke and duchess attending. Then they went with great devotion to the market halls of the town, where a great number of people heard the Passion preached by a Cordeilier. After that thre bishops showed to the public the Holy Shroud of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and after the service it was shown in Monsignor’s chapel.” Lalaing adds that the Shroud’s authenticity has been confirmed by its having been tried by fire, boiled in oil, laundered many times ‘but it was not possible to efface or remove the imprint and image.’
  • How credible is that – one has a shroud with a highly unusual image that many maintain with conviction  to be that of Jesus?  Why would a ‘successful’ attempt to destroy the image prove it was not Jesus?  After all, it would not have survived having the linen set on fire, so why should it be thought capable of surviving being boiled in oil.
  • Maybe the operations were as described. Maybe what the account gets wrong are the reasons for putting the Shroud (presumably without bloodstains at that point of time) through all those procedures.
  • Here’s my explanation for all those procedures (while keeping an open mind on whether all or even some were really carried out): there was an attempt to artificially age the linen, to make it less white, more yellow, but WITHOUT destroying the image, and that it was partly successful, maybe too successful, in that what we are now seeing is an exceedingly faint image that is difficult to make out against a yellowed background. (The image itself may have been lightened by these treatments, not necessarily as a result of chemical or heat bleaching type action, but more likely through detachment , i.e. fracture of the more heavily scorched fibres through handling and mechanical action, maybe assisted by deliberate light brushing).

    Fresh scorch on new linen left (schematic diagram) versus the same (right) after artificial ageing, e.g. "bboiling in oil" as per Lalaing quotation.

    Fresh scorch on new linen left (schematic diagram) versus the same (right) after artificial ageing, e.g. “boiling in oil” as per Lalaing quotation. Colours are not intended to match exactly those on the TS, needless to say, merely to convey a principle. Yes, I’ll try to replace this graphic with some more realistic colours, once I’ve mastered bucket- fill in non-standard colours  in MS Paint.

  • Indeed, some have claimed, somewhat unhelpfully in my view, that the Shroud image was formed by an acceleration of natural ageing and yellowing of linen. At least that acknowledges that the Shroud image is due to chemical modification of the linen itself via the kind of changes that require prolonged exposure to ordinary environmental factors – air, light etc- and needing no exogenous chemical additions like pigments, acids etc. STURP could find no evidence for the latter, concluding the image was due to chemical dehydration, conjugated double bond formation,  and crosslinking of flax carbohydrates, consistent with the ability to bleach with diimide.
  • Do we need to bother with the initial heat scorch( ignoring the earlier arguments)? Might the image not have been produced from the word go with the aim of faking the kind of coloration that perspiration (“sweat”) might leave if left in place an allowed to age gracefully?
  • The technology might conceivably have existed, e.g. by using the invisible ink writing technique, the subject of an earlier posting here with lemon juice and a hot iron. But liquid  juice soaking into the weave would not have produced the same superficiality as a contact heat scorch. To produce the ‘ultrasuperficial TS image’ it would have required steeping in lemon juice or some other substitute, drying to leave (hopefully) tiny surface crystals only that then interact with the most superficial fibres of the weave only. It seems improbable that medieval artisans would have gone to all that trouble, even assuming that it worked. Microscopes did not exist in the 14th century, nor sceptics probing authenticity by scientific means (as distinct from boiling in oil).
  • So we have an entirely different scenario to consider, one that I believe makes a lot more sense of that reference to boiling in oil. The Mark 1 TS could never have been passed off as the genuine burial shroud of Christ. It was too obviously an intense scorch imprint, and the linen looked too white and too new. But there was a dual incentive to make it look like a burial shroud that had acquired a sweat imprint. First, there was the need to rid it of any associations with the fate of the Templars, at a time when they were probably still being hunted down, tortured, divested of their assets and executed. Secondly, at a time when the Veil of Veronica, widely accepted as a sweat imprint, was attracting hordes of pilgrims and thus enriching its custodians, the benefits of morphing the Shroud scorch into a Shroud “suaire” were obvious. All that was needed was to make the image less intense, and the background colour more yellow. It was worth taking risks to effect those two changes. We have an explanation for Lalaing’s account.
  • We also now an explanation now for the differences between the two Lirey badges. The first, the lead/tin one housed in the Cluny museum, was ultra-cautious, making no attempt to identify the man as Jesus, instead using peripheral hints, like the shroud being held aloft by clerics, and the crucifixion paraphernalia in the border (which are ambiguous given that Jacques De Molay, last Grand Master of the Templars, was subject to a simulated (non-lethal) ‘crucifixion’ during his 7 years of imprisonment and torture prior to being slow-roasted in 1314. The custodians had to be cautious, for fear of being accused of making false claims or worse.
  • After a while they became a little more confident, so produced Lirey badge Mk2 with the inset face, clearly that of Christ, above the word SUAIRE. If challenged they could say, truthfully, that it was merely a reference to the Veil of Veronica. In reality they wanted to signal that the man on the TS had left a whole body imprint on his burial shroud , also in sweat, a day or two after the imprinting  of his facial features on the Veronica Veil.
  • That was probably when the local church decided enough was enough, and placed a ban on further public exhibitions of the Shroud (see Ian Wilson’s similar thinking re chronology and trigger for  church intervention at the time of the highly revisionist (and thus provocative) Machy mould badge in BSTS Newsletter No.78.
  • Have just added a summary at the top – no need to duplicate the points made there about how this “artificial ageing” scenario can account for other findings (fluorescence, or lack thereof etc). naturally, one expects to hear asides re Occams’ Razor. Yes, a qualifying assumption has  been built into the scorch model, acknowledging it cannot explain all the subtle characteristics of the TS image (as I’ve always acknowledged, especially re the fluoresence problem).  But the ‘artificial ageing’ (AA) possibility did not arise as a easy Get Out of Jail Free card. In fact, I had been thinking more about natural ageing to explain some effects, like the ultrasuperficiality phenomenon (the more heavily scorched fibres having broken off over the centuries). No, the AA idea came as a result of pondering that SUAIRE on the Machy Mould,  and putting oneself in the position of someone wanting to make a pre-existing image more  Veronica Veil/”sweat” like, while retaining the initial scorch as working hypothesis. So the ideas here represent an organic growth of existing ideas , attempting to explain more and more  of the data and historical accounts, patchy though they may be. One extra qualifying assumption does not seem excessively self-indulgent, given its potential predictive utility (might there be some signatures of AA one wonders, with improved chemical analysis, or even a tooth comb search of the STURP findings?)
  • more to follow

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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