TODAY   |  April 09, 2010

Shroud of Turin back on display

The Catholic relic, claimed for centuries to be the burial cloth of Jesus, will be put back on display in Turin, Italy, after 10 years out of the public eye. NBC’s Keith Miller reports.

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MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: We are back now at 7:44 with a controversial relic going on display for the first time in years, the Shroud of Turin . So is it real or is it a fake? NBC 's Keith Miller is in Torino , Italy . Keith , good morning to you.

KEITH MILLER reporting: Good morning, Meredith . Well, it has been 10 years since the shroud went on public display here at the cathedral in Turin . And so far, the Vatican says it has issued 1.3 million tickets for people to view it. The shroud is a mystery that has lasted for centuries. To the faithful, it is a miracle. Venerated as the burial cloth of Jesus , a divine sign showing the image of Christ himself. The shroud first appeared in the Middle Ages in France , but the eerily faint imprint only became visible as the image we know today when a photographer produced the first negative more than 100 years ago . It shows a bearded man who appears to have been tortured and crucified. The image has inspired artist impressions of Christ through the ages. Today, graphic artist Ray Dowling , using modern technology, says this is the genuine 3-D image of the face on the shroud , created for the History Channel 's "The Real Face of Jesus ." Is it the face of Christ or is the shroud a clever hoax? A carbon dating test in 1988 puts the age of the cloth in medieval times , but the sample used for testing has been contested by some scientists. Others say it is an image that can be replicated using basic chemicals or using heat to achieve the faint imprint similar to the shroud . Or could knowledge of lenses have been used to create a primitive photograph on cloth? A computer scientist at Stanford University insists the image on the shroud was not made by man.

Dr. MARIO LATENDRESSE (Computer Scientist, AI Center California): They never get the same chemical and physical characteristic as the shroud . This is actually very coherent with a blood stain with a plasma around it. It's extremely unlikely that it was done by human hands.

MILLER: Scientific tests of dirt and plant imprints discovered on the shroud place it in the Holy Land .

Professor AVINOAM DANIN (Botanist): And the only place on Earth where people could put these plants fresh on the body covered by the shroud , the only place on Earth have been the area of Jerusalem .

MILLER: What continues to baffle scientists is how the imprint on the shroud doesn't penetrate the fibers, but creates a perfect 3-D image of what some believe could be the moment of resurrection. The Vatican has never claimed that the shroud is genuine and is reportedly willing to submit the cloth to further scientific testing. As the shroud goes on public display this Friday, the truth is a matter of faith. Meredith :