Shroud with­out a shred of sil­ver lin­ing

Leonardo: The Man Be­hind the Shroud 10pm, ABC

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Stephen Matchett

WAS Je­sus Christ in­terred in the Turin shroud or is it a clever con cre­ated by Leonardo da Vinci? If you don’t care, give this faux doc­u­men­tary a miss.

But even if you are ob­sessed with the sub­ject there are many things you could more use­fully be do­ing than spend­ing 50 min­utes watch­ing this pro­gram. Be­cause call­ing this show a waste of time is an in­sult to the in­tel­lec­tu­ally more de­mand­ing task of star­ing into space.

Cer­tainly it in­cludes ev­i­dence of sorts, with ex­perts ex­er­cis­ing their hob­by­horses. Some sug­gest the shroud is ex­actly what it is said to be and that no sci­en­tific ex­pla­na­tion ex­plains how an out­line of a man’s face came to be on the cloth. Some seem sen­si­ble, al­though the Amer­i­can medico whose hobby is study­ing cru­ci­fix­ions ap­pears a lit­tle ob­sessed.

But oth­ers ar­gue the shroud is a fake, rigged in the Re­nais­sance to im­prove the po­si­tion of the pa­pacy and the House of Savoy, which pre­sum­ably thought the plebs would be more in­clined to do as they were told if they be­lieved their masters had Christ’s burial cloth in a cup­board.

So, the show sug­gests, one or both could have se­cretly com­mis­sioned Leonardo to run up the mys­te­ri­ous cloth. As the nar­ra­tor puts it: ‘‘ Leonardo was uniquely tal­ented; if any one had the skills to cre­ate the shroud, he had.’’

For cyn­ics who want to know what was in it for him, the show has a so­lu­tion. Per­haps as a non- be­liever Leonardo might have made the shroud as a joke. The ev­i­dence for this is the way the im­age on it looks just like him!

And for any­body who is not al­ready over­whelmed by this inane ar­gu­ment, con­sider the con­clu­sion; ‘‘ Leonardo was a lover of rid­dles. The shroud is the ul­ti­mate rid­dle.’’

So there you go; sur­mise piled on sup­po­si­tion with a su­per­struc­ture of un­sup­ported sug­ges­tion.

‘‘ Is it pos­si­ble,’’ the nar­ra­tor asks, ‘‘ that the face in the shroud is an even greater da Vinci enigma than the fa­mous Mona Lisa smile?’’

But per­haps this re­mark re­veals the real rid­dle. A doc­u­men­tary team des­per­ate to jus­tify a point­less pro­gram clam­bers clum­sily on board the da Vinci code band­wagon with con­spir­acy the­ory of their own.

Fans of the His­tory Chan­nel know how much time is eas­ily oc­cu­pied with archival footage, pon­der­ous talk­ing heads and a script that spec­u­lates and gen­er­alises when there is not enough ev­i­dence to fill up 50 min­utes of TV. And this pro­gram meets in­dus­try stan­dards for con­tent- light spec­u­la­tion. It is amaz­ing that the pro­duc­ers could not work in any se­cret codes or sin­is­ter monks, but per­haps there is an­other pro­gram in the pipe­line about the hid­den prac­tices of doc­u­men­tary mak­ers.


Da Vinci con­spir­acy: Did Leonardo fab­ri­cate the Turin shroud?

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