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Turin Shroud Chapel reopens after 21 years

Restoration after fire cost 30 mn euros

27 September, 15:51

    Turin - The Chapel of the Turin Shroud, venerated by Catholics as Christ's winding sheet, was officially reopened in Turin Cathedral Thursday after 21 years of restoration work after it was almost completely destroyed by fire.

    Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli cut the ribbon on the entrance to the famed chapel.

    He was accompanied by Piedmont Governor Sergio Chiamparino, Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino, the director of the Royal Museums Enrica Pagella and the president of the Compagnia di San Paolo, Francesco Profumo.

    Bonisoli said the restoration of the chapel could be a model for other cities.

    The restoration cost a total of 30 million euros.

    The Turin Shroud was moved to another part of the city cathedral during the restoration, and will now be moved back.

    The Shroud is normally heavily guarded in a bullet-proof, climate-controlled glass case.

    Some sceptics maintain the Shroud is nothing more than an elaborate fake dating from the Middle Ages, triggering centuries of debate over whether the image is truly that of Christ, or a very good forgery.

    Radiocarbon-dating tests conducted on the cloth in 1988 suggested it dated from between 1260 and 1390; however, other scientists have since claimed those results could have been distorted by centuries of contamination.

    That has led to calls for more testing, which the Vatican has consistently refused.

    A masterpiece of Baroque architecture, designed by the mathematician priest Guarino Guarini, the chapel was commissioned in 1668 by the Savoy ducal family to house the linen cloth believed to have wrapped the body of the dead Christ. The chapel is raised up behind the high altar of Turin Cathedral and opens into the state rooms of the royal palace, emphasising the importance of the Holy Shroud to the history and aspirations of the house of Savoy. The origin of the fire that raged throughout the night of 11 April 1997 remains a mystery. It burned especially fiercely because the chapel, which had just been restored, was still full of wooden scaffolding. A dinner for the then secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, was being held next door in the palace while firemen struggled to break into the bulletproof case containing the relic, which was rescued undamaged. The long delay in restoring the chapel began with a lengthy judicial seizure of the site while fruitless attempts were made to find out whom to blame for the fire.

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