The Shroud of Turin: Cathedral to Host Nationally Known Shroud Speaker, Replica Display & Shroud of Turin Podcast Series


by Jessica Rinaudo

The Shroud of Turin has long been a source of fascination. The burial shroud of a man who many believe was Jesus Christ has both inspired the faithful around the globe and drawn its fair share of skeptics.

The Shroud remains a historical anomaly, a revered relic of the Christian faith, and two scholars on the subject reside in Shreveport. Fr. Peter Mangum, Rector of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport, and Dr. Cheryl White, history professor at LSU-Shreveport, are both members of the American Confraternity of the Holy Shroud. Their interest and knowledge on the subject has inspired them to host a unique program at the Cathedral.

Fr. Mangum and Dr. White have launched a podcast on the topic. Entitled “Who is the Man in the Shroud?” Available for download or streaming through, or in the Apple podcast store. Every Friday a new episode is posted with Fr. Mangum and Dr. White discussing Shroud related topics such as, “Bloodstains: What Do They Say About the Man of the Shroud?” and “Miraculous Fires: The Shroud Survives 1532 and 1997.” With this podcast, the two plan to share their knowledge and prepare both parishioners of the Cathedral and members of the community for a very special event.

On Saturday, March 17, Barrie Schwortz, the Official Documenting Photographer for the Shroud of Turin Research Project and now Shroud expert, will be at the Cathedral to give a presentation on his story and experience with the Shroud of Turin.

In 1978, a team of American scientists was granted five days with the Shroud of Turin to photograph it, analyze it and make an attempt to prove or disprove its authenticity. Their work and findings captured the attention of the world. One of the members of that team was Barrie Schwortz, a Jewish photographer from California. Schwortz, though very skeptical and hesitant to be part of the project, did eventually sign on as its documenting photographer.

Don Devan, who had previously worked with Schwortz on another project, was his link in to the Shroud of Turin project. During one of their phone conversations, Devan offered some advice to the skeptical Schwortz.

Schwortz relayed, “I told him, I’m a Jewish guy. Don said to me, ‘Well apparently you’ve forgotten that the man in question was a Jew.’ I said, ‘I don’t know a lot about Jesus, but I certainly knew he was a Jew. He said to me, ‘So you don’t think God would want one of His chosen people on our team?’”

“He then gave me some advice which, now I understand, was probably the best advice I’ve ever been given,” said Schwortz. “He said, ‘Stop complaining. Go to Turin. Do the very best work you can do. God doesn’t tell us in advance what the plan is, but one day you‘ll know.’ And on those words I stayed on the team and – that was 42 years ago. In retrospect looking back at that, I now know that was God speaking to me through his voice, Don’s voice, because I was destined to be on that team.”

But in 1978, Schwortz remained a skeptic. After 17 months of preparations, the team had five days to collect as much information on the Shroud of Turin as they could. When Schwortz at last stood before the Shroud, with nothing between him and the cloth, he pulled out his photographer’s 10x loop and immediately began to examine it.

“I started looking for paint pigment binders, any indication of any artwork,” said Schwortz. “Now I’m not an authority on that subject, but I have good eyes and I had total access to the Shroud, no glass or anything in between. My nose was an inch from that cloth and I was looking at it and looking down in between the fibers because paint pigment binders are going to be visible. They’re not going to disappear and just leave an image.”

He continued, “And so I knew probably within 10 or 15 minutes of the Shroud being unveiled that whatever it was, wasn’t a painting.”

Schwortz photographed the Shroud of Turin over those five days, and his now famous photographs have been published in national publications across the globe.

But even that experience didn’t convince Schwortz of the Shroud’s authenticity. Indeed it was wasn’t until he had a phone conversation with Alan Adler 17 years later, that Schwortz was finally, unflinchingly convinced. Adler was the world-renowned blood chemist on the team in 1978, and like Schwortz, he is also Jewish.

“Al said he had pretty much come to believe this had to be the real thing,” said Schwortz. “And remember, he’s like me. He had no horse in the race, no emotional attachment to it. And I said, ‘Well, I’m still not convinced. He asked what was keeping me from being convinced and it happened to be right up his alley. The blood is still red on the cloth… I know that old blood turns black or brown sometimes in less than an hour. He got made at me and said, ‘Didn’t you read my paper 17 years ago?”

Schwortz continued, “Al said when he did the chemical analysis on the blood samples from the Shroud, he consistently found a very high content of bilirubin…. It’s a compound made in the liver and when somebody is beaten, scourged, tortured and not given any water, they go into hypovolemic shock, the liver starts pumping extra bilirubin into the bloodstream… and he said it turns out that bilirubin is a hemolytic agent and breaks down the red blood cells’ cell walls, releasing hemoglobin that will remain red forever.

“Well when he told me that, coming from a man, who like me had no reason to do anything but be honest, that pretty much gave me the final piece of the puzzle,” said Schwortz.

It was also in 1995 that Schwortz realized the true purpose of his involvement with photographing the Shroud of Turin.

“It began to come clear to me that of all the men on that team, I was the only one with the skill set that could build a website and collect this information without putting any personal spin on it.”

And today remains a go to point for enthusiasts and the curious alike, boasting more than a million visitors a year.

Schwortz relays all of this and much more during his presentations, including the science behind why he believes the Shroud of Turin is authentic.

In addition to Schwortz’s presentation, the Cathedral will have on display a series of of items associated with the crucifixion of Jesus.

“There are a number of replicas of what would have been used on Jesus, like the flagrum, the whip that would have had those little steel balls on the end. One that I find really interesting is a model of Jesus as he would be laying there, and an actual piece of cloth, so right there you can see how the Shroud would have laid upon him,” said Fr. Mangum.

Additionally the Cathedral has a life-sized replica of the Shroud of Turin, printed on cloth and hanging on the wall of the parish hall.  “It’s a duplicate of the image taken by the photographer who will be here in March.”

Fr. Mangum says that there are a few churches who have an exhibit on the Shroud. “They really want to do their best to use the Shroud as an evangelization tool,” said Fr. Mangum. “So we’re not just teaching people about the Shroud – we’re going to have all these different items present. I want to teach people ahead of time about it so that when people arrive they’re not being reminded of what the Shroud is.”

Fr. Mangum continued, “We’re foreseeing that the Shroud replica is going to stay up there after Barrie’s visit.” This will allow people to visit the Cathedral, view the replica and learn more about it. To schedule a visit, call the church office at 318-221-5296.

The Cathedral of St. John Berchmans invites the community to join them on March 17, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. to hear Barrie Schwortz’s story – one that took him on a road from disinterest, to disbelief and finally to being well convinced that the Shroud of Turin is indeed the burial shroud of Jesus Christ.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>