An Italian art expert claims the Shroud of Turin is a fake, created by the medieval artist Giotto in 1315. But Giotta wasn't trying to fool anyone -- the expert said there are clues in the Shroud.
The 14-foot long Shroud is said to be the burial cloth of Jesus, bearing an image of his face and stained with his blood. For centuries skeptics have expressed doubt, and in the 1980s carbon dating tests showed the Shroud was likely produced between 1260 and 1390.
Now Italian art expert Luciano Buso has his own theory, according to a report in the Daily Mail. He claims there was indeed an original cloth, but it deteriorated, and the Catholic Church asked Giotto, the most famous artist of his day, to make a copy.
Buso said he has examined photographs of the Shroud, and he said that there are several veiled appearances of the number 15 hidden in the fabric by the artist. He said that was Giotto was indicating that he created the Shroud in 1315.
"I have examined extremely clear photos of the Shroud and spotted a number of occurrences of the number 15, in the face, the hands, and in one case even shaped to look like a long cross," Buso said. "He wasn't trying to fake anything, which is clear from the fact that he signed it 'Giotto 15', to authenticate it as his own work from 1315. This was not a fake he was asked to make a copy of the original one."
Buso said it was common practice for artists to insert partial dates into their works so as to guarantee their authenticity and to avoid forgeries.
The Church has shrugged off his claims, which doesn't surprise Buso.
"For obvious reasons it was not widely publicized that it was a copy as that would have had repercussions for the Church - who I understand have been dismissive of my theory but I am confident that I am correct."
However the director of the Shroud Museum is not so sure.
"I think the theory is ridiculous," said Professor Bruno Barberis. "His claim that Giotto made the Shroud are not very convincing to me and as far as we are concerned it was not made by an artistic method. Many people claim to have seen Greek and Hebrew writing in the Shroud but it's never been proven.
"'We believe that the image on the Shroud was made by the body of a man who was tortured and then crucified - however there are still many tests that need to be carried out to prove one way or another what its origins are."
The Shroud is hidden away in a Cathedral in Turin and is rarely on public display. It was shown last year -- just the fifth time in the past 100 years.