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John Nicholas Joseph Lupia, T.O.C.



This research is not related to any previous epigraphic claims.

                  This brief article concerns new observations and investigations that reveal much about reverse order in viewing the image, image production, image location, and how we see, think, and theorize about the Shroud.             

                For some the new discovery of the image formation process will propel the Turin Shroud further into deeper mystery. For the scientific minded, on the other hand, it is a refreshing and new fascinating physical-chemical puzzle to muse the mind.

                  The bloodstains on the Turin Shroud and the figurative imagery it produces are what make the Shroud significant to the general public. The image of a crucified male corpse is unmistakable. An archaeologist naturally looks at this image to see what correspondence it has to prisoners condemned to crucifixion in Judea in the first half of the first century and to details recorded in the New Testament. If the Shroud is indeed that of Jesus of Nazareth then the imagery should be consistent with what we should expect to find from the original sources. I shall not be redundant repeating what has been written innumerable times previous about the remarkable correspondences of the Shroud image to Jesus of Nazareth depicted by the Evangelists in the New Testament during his passion and crucifixion. Rather what is reported is something that has been never before addressed from an archaeological perspective.

Romans did not hesitate to torture condemned prisoners prior to execution with a severe beating with fists, kicks, and rods, flogged, stabbed with pins, reed pens or stylus, branded on their forehead, putting out their eyes, scalded with hot wax or oil, singed or burned with a torch, ripping out the tongue, knocking out their teeth, or cutting off ears and genitals.[1]



Greek letter Xi was used as a branding mark on condemned prisoners. The first century orthographic style as shown on the forehead on the image of Christ on the Shroud is a further attestation to its antiquity and veracity since it was formed similar to the letters epsilon and sigma except its distinguishing characteristic niqqud like tail under-mark completing the letter's form that made it distinctive and clear as the Xi. 

Detail. Enlargement of the Xi brand mark on the forehead as it appears on the Turin Shroud. It is very clearly and evidently neither a continuous drip of blood shaped like a reverse 3 by furrows of Christ's brow wincing in pain as many assume, nor a single continuous brushstroke of a painter as would be natural in either case. Rather we see a wound made by several strokes of a sharp object that cut into flesh, muscle, and veins, which was apparently red hot to scar, mar, and cauterize the venal puncture. Looking carefully it seems to have been formed in three segments. The first two forming the main body of the reversed 3 overlap at the middle with the upper part stroked as an S and below it a C like shape. Below the large form is the final dash mark slightly separated from the body of the letter. The space between the main body of the letter and the under dash mark appears to resemble the discharge or oozing of plasma from the cauterized wound. The photograph below of the face shows the effect is dramatic and clearly a Xi, the Greek letter for the Cross or Gallows for a condemned prisoner to be crucified.

Detail of the head. Photograph of the Turin Shroud, Basilica Cathedral St. John the Baptist, Archdiocese of Turin.

The Shroud has the glaring branded forehead Xi as a condemned prisoner, which many writers on the Shroud in describing the negative prints usually attest to as the number 3. However, this is the reverse image. The 3 is actually a Greek letter Xi signifying the word xylon = literally “wood” and culturally the symbol of the “Cross” and the “Gallows” [2] for all condemned prisoners executed by crucifixion under Roman law. Slaves were also branded on the forehead for various reasons. Branding prisoners on the forehead is where we get the phrase "He is a marked man" meaning a man condemned to die.

The graffiti on the face of Christ was both prophesied and alluded to in the Tenach and New Testament.

"Since the Lord of all helps me, I shall never be disgraced. Therefore, I have kept my face like flint, knowing I will not be put to shame." Isaiah 50:7

"I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. So neither be afraid of them nor terrified by them, since they are a rebellious people." Ezekiel 3:9

Christ  "emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" Philippians 2:7


Enrie's negative print of the face of the crucified man on the Turin Shroud horizontally flipped.


The presence of the Xi brand on the forehead is irrefutable evidence of its antiquity and authenticity since medieval and Renaissance scholars could not have known this.

A confirmation of this reading orientation as correct is the additional reading of the stain on the left side upper lip with the glaring sgraffito REX probably scratched into the flesh with a fibula pin from a Roman soldier's sagum or cloak when Jesus was mocked by the Roman guards as a king. The remarkable feature to these two inscriptions is that they support one another verifying and confirming themselves as self evident. This is no "I think I see" phenomenon - a well known cautionary advisement of the late Dr. Ray Rogers, but rather, as plain as the face of Christ whom every eye beholds looking at the linen and the negatives.

These two inscriptions leave no doubt that the Shroud is a genuine first century textile as my book The Ancient Jewish Shroud At Turin (2010) had shown. This latest research now makes it beyond doubt even for the most severe critic and doubter whose image it bears.

One of the consequences of this new discovery impacts the image formation mechanism since it necessitates the so-called underside having been the actual side in direct contact with the body and the side with the complete distinctive stronger image as the outer side. Since the Shroud had been shown to have the image on both sides by Fanti and Maggiolo in 2004 [3] this is not only tenable but obviously the case. This image transfer is an astonishing fact that opens the eyes of those who understand its depth of significance. 

The difficulty has always been explaining the mechanism that produced the image. We are now confronted with understanding the physical and chemical laws that took stains of blood and other substances on the body and the linen textile transferring them to the opposite side of the fabric's outer surface. One would naturally be inclined to think that the so-called underside had been treated with either a waxy like substance or some other propellant like substance to facilitate such a transfer probably applied as a sizing after laundry.

Heretofore, not only the negative image of the Shroud has been viewed in reverse but also all theories on how the image was produced as if it were the product of either the imprint, printing, stamping, or coining industry. It is not the opposite of that sort of process but rather something altogether different; something more akin to a sweating and condensation or liquid beading transport process. This is the good news since it liberates the Shroud image completely from any theory of painting or other mechanical means a forger would have undertaken.

Since the Shroud is now safely placed outside of doubt regarding its authenticity we are left to contemplate the truth of what it represents. The image produced by the bloodstains and the presence of the blood itself makes it the most magnificent and splendiferous Eucharistic miracle of all time. With his own blood Jesus left us his portrait at death; a portrait showing how he was mutilated, defaced, desecrated and horribly tortured in unspeakable and indescribable pain beyond our imagination for our salvation. Who can look upon him without their heart being moved regardless of their religious affiliation and upbringing? It is Christ still among us visible for the entire world to come to him and seek his healing power of body, mind and spirit. Come, let us adore him.


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This paper reports conclusions I have reached this 50th year of personal Shroud research from 1969-2019. My book referenced above was only printed with 100 copies for the benefit of the Pope, his custos, the cardinal archbishop of Turin, and the curator, curatorial staff and his affiliates, especially Mechtild Flury-Lemberg, the conservator. The remaining copies were sold out to satisfy any curious reader while supplies lasted. There was never any intention to profit financial gain on our Lord's agony since we only intended to serve Christ and his Church for His greater glory. As a Carmelite friar I can only beg financial support of our Order, whose Prior General is Míceál O'Neill, O.Carm.

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[1] cf. Galen, On Passions and Errors of the Soul, translated by  Paul W. Harkins, 38-39

[2] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. V. (Eerdmans, 1967) : 37-41. See also Liddell, Scott, Jones, McKenzie, Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, 1996) : 1192, xylon, 3.d. This is the term used for the "Cross" in Acts 5:30; 10:39.

[3] Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo, “The double superficiality of the frontal image of the Turin Shroud,” Journal of Optics, 6 (2004) : 491-503