According to biblical tradition, only Joseph of Arimathea and a few women saw Jesus’ tortured, broken, wounded, naked body after his death on the cross. At least, that was the case before “The Mystery Man,” an exhibition presenting the first hyper-realistic, science-based sculpted reconstruction of the Man of the Holy Shroud, which closed last week after being on display for five months in the new cathedral of Salamanca in Spain. It will now start touring the globe, and will be taken to international events such as the World Youth Day in Lisbon (2023) and the coming Rome Jubilee (2025).
The Mystery Man opened last October. Centered around a hyper-realistic reconstruction of the body of the Man in the Holy Shroud, the traveling exhibition is the result of 15 years of research into the Holy Shroud of Turin, the relic believed to have been used to wrap Jesus’ body after his death.
A scientific matter
The day of the opening, curator Álvaro Santos explained to Aleteia how the exhibition is rigorously grounded in scientific, historical, and archaeological data. And still, some facts around the Shroud remain somehow unexplained. For example, Santos acknowledges that some experiments show that “an unexplained kind of radiation imprinted the body in the cloth, preserving all the information (blood, shape, DNA) regarding the human body that was covered with it” and, thus, there is need for further studies.
The hyper-realistic sculpture is 179 centimeters (almost 5 ft 9 in) tall. It weighs 75 kilos (165 lbs) and is made from a latex and silicone alloy, with real human hair. Some of its details can be only seen up close. During the opening, the bishop of Salamanca, José Luis Retana, told Aleteia that after seeing the image he experienced “a profound shock […] and a great desire to pray.”
Now, during its closure, the prelate highlighted “the courage of the Cathedral in carrying out this exhibition,” as read in an article published by COPE.
Andrea Tornielli, the editorial director of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, presented his book at the closure. Called The Life of Jesus, it has a prologue from Pope Francis.
Tornielli spoke of The Mystery Man as a way to “see images that help us understand years of scientific, historic, and archeological study of the Shroud, and of Jesus, with the result and the surprise that the hyper realistic body shows us, above all, how much suffering he endured. The exposition ends with the body, but this body in reality is no longer [like this] because Jesus has risen and is alive.”
During these five months, more than 70,000 people have visited The Mystery Man. “I believe that the exhibition has been fully accepted and has done a lot of good for the faith,” the bishop insisted.