John Nicholas Joseph Lupia

This research is not related to any previous epigraphic claims.

First published January 2, 2020


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.


Original 1898 print of Secondo Pia's photograph of the Holy Face printed the image reversed, flipped or backwards setting off the classic error of the 3 on the forehead since researchers and the public have been viewing and thinking about the image in reverse. These images prove themselves reversed since they show the pierced heart on the right side rather than the left and have unwittingly produced generations of researchers looking at, studying, thinking about, experimenting, writing and publishing in all media incorrect information based on their analysis of the backwards image rather than looking at it correctly as shown below.


This articles presents for the first time a four point diagnostic test to verify which side is right and which is left of Jesus on the Turin Shroud. There has been some controversy regarding the side wound being on the left rather than the right. That shall be our starting point as a given. However there are three other points to determine which is the right from left. We shall see a brand mark on the forehead, the Latin word REX carved into his upper left lip, and the right hand covering the left in the corpse's supine position that will provide sufficient evidence to convince anyone which way the image is supposed to be correctly viewed.

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 naked crucified male corpse is unmistakable and echoes Job 1:21 "Naked I came forth from my mother's womb and naked I shall return." 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 Hellenistic orthographic style as shown on the forehead on the image of Christ on the Shroud [below] is a further attestation to its antiquity and veracity since it was formed during this transitional phase of letter formation from Uncial or majuscule to that which developed into the more florid lower case [above]. The Greek Xi is shaped similar to the letters epsilon and sigma except now with the Hellenistic distinguishing characteristic niqqud like tail under-mark completing the letter's form that made it distinctive and clear as the Xi. This smallest part of a letter is the phenomenon that grew out of the late or square Hebrew script and was referred to in Matthew 5:18 when Jesus taught about the law. During the first century they are not connected in a smooth continuous line as illustrated above but separated as seen on the Turin Shroud.

Detail of the Holy Shroud of Turin in correct viewing position. 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. In the photo above the C looks as if the curve has a sharp point at 9 o'clock an optical distortion of the stain from the herringbone weave in contrastive light photography easily corrected looking at the Haltadefinizione scan of 2008 below which you can see is a smooth rounded curve. 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.

The Haltadefinizione® scanned image of the brand mark site on the forehead available on their free Shroud 2.0 app.

Drawn lines to match the supposed furrows of the forehead demonstrate that they are arguably not anatomically consistent with what would be expected since they are too few, too wide, and the folds normally form a V towards the center.

Holy Shroud of Turin in correct viewing position. 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

"O God, behold our shield, and look upon the face of your anointed." Psalm 84:9

Holy Shroud of Turin in correct viewing position. 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.

Detail of the mouth of Christ on the Turin Shroud showing the Latin word REX meaning "king" carved into his upper left lip.

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.

Certainly, the position of the pierced heart on the left side is the anatomical orientating evidence beyond the epigraphy confirming the correct reading.

Earliest known Crucifix with the heart wound on the left side sculpted circa 420 A.D. Courtesy British Museum, inv. 1856.0623.5.

[Left] : Anatomical drawing showing the location of the heart extending to the left of the sternum. [Right] : The wound in the heart on the Turin Shroud is on the left side. Science points to matching the heart wound on the left side. Private revelations also point to the wound on the left side. Stigmatists like St. Catherine of Siena and Padre Pio received from Christ his wounded heart and each received the stigmata on the left side. However, the greatest evidence is derived from Jewish burial practice that stipulates among the general rules the right side takes precedence over the left. Consequently, the Jews that buried Jesus placed the right hand over the left on the supine corpse, which is exactly what we see on the Turin Shroud proving which side is right and which is left.

"Most fatal stab wounds are located in the left chest region. Among a number of explanations is that most people are right handed and, when facing a victim, will tend to stab to the left chest. In addition, if the intention is to kill someone, one would stab in the left chest where the heart is thought to be." Dominic Di Maio, M.D., and Vincent DiMaio, M.D., Forensic Patholgy. 2nd ed. (CRC Press, 2001) : 206

Crucifixes based on reverse photographic negative prints of the Turin Shroud show the nails in the wrists and lance wound on the right instead of the left side. Mistakes like this are common not only in art using the reverse negative prints as guides but also cloud and distort the majority of the proliferation of Shroud studies. Yet, centuries before the age of photographic negative prints many interpreted the bloodstains as an imprint or print left by the corpse and consequently reversed what the Turin Shroud exhibited. The first known instance of this occurred in 586 A.D. in the Rabula Gospels which I included in my book showing the heart wound on the right. More recently in 1986 Pierre Barbet, a pharmacist and science fiction author also made the same assumption giving greater impetus to this error to this day. This is one side of the coin so to speak. The other side is far more serious and grave since it involves the viewing side of the Turin Shroud which the majority mistakenly believe or think was the contact side with the corpse of Christ when in fact it is the opposite side of the cloth. This opens a whole new door to understanding the image formation process since the image went from the contact side to the opposite side of the fabric. Photos courtesy of the author. [Right] : Crucifix, Perpetual Adoration Chapel, St. Joseph the Carpenter Catholic Church, Toms River, Diocese of Trenton, Ocean County, New Jersey. [Left] : Crucifix, Rear Chapel, St. Luke's Catholic Church, Toms River, Diocese of Trenton, Ocean County, New Jersey.

The profound consequence 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 the iron, calcium, and stronthium absorbed retting in lake water and similar chemical agents probably applied as a sizing after laundry. The thermo-electromagnetic conduction of iron appears to explain the thin carbohydrate coating the outermost fibrils of the outermost side, i.e., the outside opposite where the body lay.The heat transfer took the vapors to condense beading on top the linen and aided in the image production simply by its cubic atomic structure acting as pixels.

As explained in my book The Ancient Jewish Shroud At Turin (2010) the Turin Shroud was loomed by the Blessed Virgin Mary while they lived in Alexandria, Egypt as Jewish mothers made these tallitot for their sons when they reached 12 years of age they became "Sons of the Torah" and wore them as their daily four cornered garment prescribed by Mosaic Law. However, at death the garment was used as their burial shroud. When the tallit was sent to its final laundering the sizing used must have been to preserve the linen fabric as a body bag for the bones after the body decayed. To survive this decomposition the linen cloth required treatment. Whatever they used was a key ingredient in facilitating the transfer of blood from one side of the thread to the other a distance somewhere in the neighborhood of + or - 1/16" was all it took to shift the pattern of the body from one side of the cloth onto the other.

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.

The Eucharistic relic of the Turin Shroud speaks through its very image teaching us the depth of meaning of Sacred Scriptures since He is the living Word of God and is one in unity with His written Word revealing to us, His Church, its innermost nature and meaning "that we may learn the gentle kindness of God" (Dei Verbum, 13.10).

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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. https://www.ocarm.org/

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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