There are no cheesy special effects at this endearing little museum, which is refreshing, considering the Turin Shroud’s status as one of the world’s most famous religious relics, said to be the cloth in which Christ was wrapped when taken from the Cross. (The shroud itself is kept in the royal chapel of the Duomo di San Govanni Battista, usually out of public view.) A visit starts with a 15-minute film (offered in five languages) about the shroud, its provenance, and the various theories and mysteries surrounding it. Carbon dating results are confusing; some suggest that the shroud was manufactured around the 13th or 14th centuries, while other tests imply that those results were affected by a fire that all but destroyed the shroud in December 1532. But the mystery remains, at least in part because no one can explain how the haunting Christ-like image appeared on the linen cloth. Debunkers have attempted to create replicas using lemon juice and the sun, mineral pigments, even aloe and myrrh (the last because of funerary traditions of the time). A 2015 study of DNA in the shroud’s dust particles further confused the picture: it was shown to contain genetic material from plants across the globe.
Visitors then wander through a series of rooms chronicling the shroud’s history, from its first mention in 1204, to the 1532 fire in Chambéry, to its arrival in Turin with the House of Savoy in 1578, to modern-day carbon-testing efforts. The last stop is the richly ornamented chapel of Santo Sudario—a private place of worship for the Savoy dukes—where a copy of the shroud is displayed over the gleaming, gilded altar.