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CHURCH

Turin shroud back on display after five years

The Turin Shroud goes on display for the first time in five years on Sunday with more than a million people already booked in to view one of Christianity's most celebrated relics.

Turin shroud back on display after five years
Pilgrims watch the Shroud on April 19th at the duomo in Turin. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Devotees believe the shroud, which is imprinted with the image of a man who appears to have been crucified, to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

Sceptics are just as adamant that it is nothing more than a Medieval forgery which scientists have carbon-dated to around 1300 years after Christ supposedly died on the cross.

Despite their certainty about the likely age of the most-talked-about length of linen in history, researchers have not been able to explain how the remarkable image was created, leaving space for theories of some sort of miraculous process to flourish.

The Church does not officially maintain that Christ's body was wrapped in the shroud or that the image was the product of a miracle.

But it does accord the cloth a special status which has helped to sustain its popularity as an object of veneration.

"What counts the most is that this shroud, as you have seen, reflects in a clear and precise manner how the gospels describe the passion and death of Jesus," said Cesare Nosiglia, the archbishop of Turin.

"It is not a profession of faith because it is not an object of faith, nor of devotion, but it can help faith."

Piero Fassino, the mayor of the city best-known as the home of carmaker FIAT and Juventus football club, said the shroud was woven into the city's identity.

"Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will come to our city over the course of 67 days," he said. "We will welcome them with open arms."

The shroud's enduring appeal is set to be underlined by the huge numbers of pilgrims and other visitors expected in the northern Italian city between Sunday afternoon and June 24th, when it will be exhibited for 12 hours a day (0730-1930) in the Cathedral of St John the Baptist.

Slots to view the shroud are free but have to be reserved via the website www.sindone.org or a special call centre. As of Saturday more than one million had been booked with several days already blocked out.

Viewers will be afforded only a few minutes each in front of the original although they will be able to linger longer in front of a specially-made model and a related exhibition.

When the shroud was last presented to the public, in 2010, more than two million people filed past it.

Pope Francis decreed the latest exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of St John Bosco, a 19th Century monk who devoted his life to the education of poor children in newly-industrialized Turin. Francis, who has family roots in the region, is due to visit the city and the exhibition on June 20th-21st.

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HISTORY

Italian archaeologists uncover slave room at Pompeii in ‘rare’ find

Pompeii archaeologists said Saturday they have unearthed the remains of a "slave room" in an exceptionally rare find at a Roman villa destroyed by Mount Vesuvius' eruption nearly 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologists in Pompeii who discovered a room which likely housed slaves. 
Archaeologists said the newly-discovered room in Pompeii likely housed slaves charged with maintaining chariots.  Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The little room with three beds, a ceramic pot and a wooden chest was discovered during a dig at the Villa of Civita Giuliana, a suburban villa just a few hundred metres from the rest of the ancient city.

An almost intact ornate Roman chariot was discovered here at the start of this year, and archaeologists said Saturday that the room likely housed slaves charged with maintaining and prepping the chariot.

READ ALSO: 8 things you probably didn’t know about the Romans

“This is a window into the precarious reality of people who rarely appear in historical sources, written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite,” said Pompeii’s director general Gabriel Zuchtriegel.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The “unique testimony” into how “the weakest in the ancient society lived… is certainly one of the most exciting discoveries in my life as an archaeologist,” he said in a press release.

Pompeii was buried in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, killing those who hadn’t managed to leave the city in time. They were either crushed by collapsing buildings or killed by thermal shock.

The 16-square metre (170-square feet) room was a cross between a bedroom and a storeroom: as well as three beds – one of which was child sized – there were eight amphorae, stashed in a corner.

Photo: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

The wooden chest held metal and fabric objects that seem to be part of the harnesses of the chariot horses, and a chariot shaft was found resting on one of the beds.

The remains of three horses were found in a stable in a dig earlier this year.

“The room grants us a rare insight into the daily reality of slaves, thanks to the exceptional state of preservation of the room,” the Pompeii archaeological park said.

READ ALSO: Four civilizations in Italy that pre-date the Roman Empire

Image: Archaeological Park of Pompeii press office.

Experts had been able to make plaster casts of the beds and other objects in perishable materials which left their imprint in the cinerite — the rock made of volcanic ash — that covered them, it said.

The beds were made of several roughly worked wooden planks, which could be adjusted according to the height of the person who used them.

The webbed bases of the beds were made of ropes, covered by blankets.

While two were around 1.7 metres long, one measured just 1.4 metres, and may therefore have belonged to a child.

The archaeological park said the three slaves may have been a family.

Archaeologists found several personal objects under the beds, including amphorae for private things, ceramic jugs and what might be a chamber pot.

The room was lit by a small upper window, and there are no traces or wall decorations, just a mark believed to have been left by a lantern hung on a wall.

“This incredible new discovery at Pompeii demonstrates that today the archaeological site has become not only one of the most desirable visitor destinations in the world, but also a place where research is carried out and new and experimental technologies are employed,” said Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.

“Thanks to this important new discovery, our knowledge of the daily life of ancient Pompeians has been enriched, particularly of that element of society about which little is known even today. Pompeii is a model of study that is unique in the world.”

READ ALSO: Why is Italy called Italy?

The excavation is part of a programme launched in 2017 aimed at fighting illegal activity in the area, including tunnel digging to reach artefacts that can be sold on illicit markets.

The Villa of Civita Giuliana had been the target of systematic looting for years. There was evidence some of the “archaeological heritage” in this so-called Slave Room had also been lost to looters, the park said.

Damage by grave robbers in the villa had been estimated so far at almost two million euros ($2.3 million), it added.

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