The First Shroud Photo

By Remi Van Haelst, Belgium
Copyright 1997
All Rights Reserved
Reprinted by Permission

Note :
A great part of this paper, is based on the private notes of the late Don Coero Borga, former secretary of the "Centro Internazionale di Sindonologia" of Turin. This paper is in some way, a tribute to my tutor in Sindonologia. Recently, Guiseppe and Chiara Pia, have donated the archive of Secondo Pia to the Turin Centre. It contains a large number of press articles about Pia and his correspondence with Paul Vignon, Arthur Loth, Baron Manno and several others. Much of this material, not yet studied, will be shown during the forthcoming Shroud exhibition in Turin, 1998.

In 1842, to celebrate the wedding of crown prince Victor-Emmanuel with arch-duchess Mary-Adelaide of Austria, the Shroud of Turin was publicly exhibited in Turin. By this occasion, the first proposal to "daguerrograph" (first photographic method) the Shroud was rejected. During this showing, a 27 year old Salesian priest did see the Shroud. He became a lifetime "Shroudy." That priest we all know as the famous Don Bosco. With some of his pupils, Don Bosco, was present again at the four days exhibition of the Shroud in 1862.

Nogier de Malijai, was born November 11, 1861, a scion of the noble family de Malijai, living in their castle, at the quiet village of Malijai. A name derived from the Latin "Male Jacer" which means "Badly situated." The village of Malijai, is situated in the Baume-mountains, between Digne and Chateau Arnoux, at the road N 85, now world famous as the "Napoleon Route." Following a commemorative plate, at the castle wall, Napoleon slept there, in a chair, during his return from the isle of Elbe, the night of March 4, 1815. Young Nogier attracted to the sea, was not allowed to start training, because of his poor eyesight. There, the young man met the nearly 80 year old, Don Bosco, who ordained him a priest on November 18, 1887. Of course, Don Bosco told his pupil about the Shroud of Turin. Don Nogier became a teacher in physics-chemistry at the Vaisalice Lyceum of Turin.

Photography was a hobby of Don Nogier, a member of a Turin club of amateur photographers, where he met other amateurs like don Solano, Fina and the lawyer Secundo Pia, already a famous photographer. Today, the collection of the "Cinema Museum" of Turin, contains about 4400 exceptional plates of Secundo Pia!

The city of Turin decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the "Statuto Albertino". Mgr Riccardi, archbishop of Turin had the same idea about the 400th anniversary of the inauguration of the Cathedral of St. John. City and church authorities decided to cooperate and Prof. Giovanni Battista Ghirlandi received the mission to set up a series of great exhibitions and cultural events. Among other festivities, one of the most important exhibitions was the "Arte Sacra", under the direction of baron Manno. The opening date was set at May 11, 1898. To remember the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the " Fraternity of the H.Shroud", Mgr. Rossi, bishop of Pinerolo, spoke in his Lenten pastoral, about the Holy Shroud of Turin. (Document Section 2 N°. 60 Archives Seminary of Turin. Rivoli). Some church authorities believed this to be an opportune time to reactivate the bolstered veneration of the Holy Shroud of Turin. Baron Manno accepted the idea, to show the Shroud in the "Arte Sacra." Because obtaining the King's permission, was not guaranteed, it was decided to prepare a "replica." Because civil and church authorities were not able to dedicate the task to one single artist, they chose TWO artists : Prof. Carlo Cusseti and Don Enrico Reffo.

Both of them would work separately. Probably the rumors about the "Arte Sacra" exhibition and the showing of Shroud did ring a bell in the head of Don Nogier. At the photo-club, he made the suggestion to photograph the Shroud. Don Nogier did not like to lose time and directly contacted king Umberto I of Italy, the legal owner of the Shroud. To his bitter surprise, his idea was rejected, as being too "dangerous" for the Shroud. Don Nogier also contacted Baron Manno, a good friend of king Umberto. The proposition of Don Nogier was examined by a commission installed on April 18, directed by Baron Manno, Pucci and Cattano. In cooperation with Secundo Pia, Baron Manno proposed, to photograph the Shroud, and to use the photos to promote the "Arte Sacra." Finally, king Umberto, gave his permission to show the Shroud in its full length, during the "Arte Sacra" in the Cathedral of St. John.

The dimensions for the unusual framework and protecting glass, were taken from the official report of measurements, made in 1868, by Mgr. Gastaldi, bishop of Aluzzo, who later became archbishop of Turin. When the frame was delivered, one was surprised by the dimensions, 410 x 140 cm !!!! After verification, one must agree, that the carpenter and the glazier had worked following the measurements noted in 1868. Probably, these measurements, taken in 1862, using "local" standards, were not correctly converted into the recently introduced "official" metric system. To solve the problem, the Shroud was folded about 13 cm on both sides.

Summary of Shroud measurements.
Noted by
Ratio L/W
de Lalaing
Testa *
Cusano °
Guettus *
Balliani *
de Chifflet
Feet §

* = Estimated in meters from three reference points given by the authors.
° = Real value unknown to me.
§ = L = Feet "liprandi " L = 8 "liprandi" 2 oncie and 6 linee; W = 2.5 "liprandi" and 9 linee
In Italy, the metric systems was officially introduced in 1850.
(Source : Don L; Fossati CpS November 1993).

About SEVEN years later, Prof. Arthur Loth, published some strange information, regarding photos of the Shroud taken WITHOUT a frame. The smallest photo was taken with electrical lighting, using a Dalmeyer wide angle objective, diaphragm 4 mm, exposure times 5 and 15 minutes and ortho-chromatic Lumiere-plates, with a screen at 50 cm from the lens. The largest photo was taken UNDER daylight, with the same lens setting but with an exposure time of 15 minutes. The whereabouts of these pictures are unknown.

The proposal of Secundo Pia, to use a Shroud photo in the promotional campaign for the "Arte Sacra" was forgotten..... A representation of the Shroud, would be used on the official commemorative medal of the "Arte Sacra". But despite the efforts of Baron Manno, King Umberto delayed his answer. The municipal authorities of Turin, were not very happy with the repercussions of the unexpected announcement of the Shroud exhibition.

From all over Italy, countless pilgrimages were announced.... On May 9, only TWO days before the official opening, the civil authorities proposed to open the "Arte Sacra" exhibition, but to postpone the Shroud exhibition to June 30 1898, during a music festival. King Umberto agreed to postpone the Shroud-exhibition. Baron Manno agreed to restrict the organization of new pilgrimages


On May 18, the king ordered Baron Manno to start the exhibition of the Shroud from May 25 to June 2, 1898. The same day, the royal court sent a letter to baron Manno, with the official permission to make photographs of the Shroud, by Secondo Pia. The gesture of the king, became a disillusionment for the artists Ruffo and Cussetti, who had both worked around the clock to finish their Shroud copies....Never to be used!

Both realistic replicas are excellent works of arts. The copy by Cusseti was placed in the vestry of the Cathedral. The other, dated (1898) copy of Ruffo, was placed in the "Istituto Artigianelli" of Turin. Today, both copies are still in place.

Secundo Pia was surprised to hear the unexpected news, that he was finally appointed "official photographer of the Shroud". Secundo Pia, planned his first trials on May 25, 1898, AFTER the closing of the opening day of the exhibition. Unofficially, Pia was assisted by Don Nogier de Malijai, Don Solano and Lt. Felice Fino, responsible for the public order during the Shroud exhibition in the Cathedral. The practical organization of the photo-sessions was a problem. A scaffold, with a height of 3.35 meters, was erected at distance of 8-9 meters from the Shroud. It was probably the FIRST time that electric lightbulbs would be used for a photographic exposure.

Pia installed TWO lamps of 1000 and 950 candela. In fact a large source of heat. With the help of his friends, Pia decided to run a trial session, during the noon-closure of May 25. Pia installed a "Dalmeyer" lens on his huge bellows-camera, using "Edward" glass-plates of 21x27 cm. The lamps were lit, but the light was unstable and also reflected in the protecting glass. Pia then placed two polished glass plates for the lamps. But the heat was so intense, that both plates cracked after only 5 minutes.....Against time, Pia shot TWO photos, with a "penultino" (one stop less than full open) diaphragm and an exposure time of 1 and 2 minutes . The opening of the cathedral doors ended this session.

Pia's colleagues Fino, Nogier and Solano did not lose time. We do not know, how and when, but all THREE installed their own hand-cameras and took several pictures of the Shroud. One of them took an "anonymous" photo, format 13/18, showing the chapel. We do not know, if Pia was aware of the "conspiracy". One may assume, that Pia knew about the intentions of his colleagues, because all of the photos were taken with electrical lighting, and from a tripod (or a fixed point).

Don Solano used a VERASCOPE KICHARD camera, a full open Zeiss 1/6.3 lens, and 4x4 cm Lumiere plates. Don Solano took two photos from a higher point, probably the balcony. Exposure time was 9 and 50 seconds. His first photo was a total failure. The second, although heavily underexposed, showed an indefinite, but tantalizing mixture of a POSITIVE and NEGATIVE image. But Don Solano did not pay much attention to this strange phenomemon. The Solano photos were probably made during the first Pia trials. Following a later note by Arthur Loth, this "anonymous" photo was placed in the "Printing Cabinet" of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Today, the picture seems to be lost in the archives...

Loth, who received this photo probably from Don Nogier de Malijai, believed that it was printed from an original Pia plate. Nogier de Malijai and Fina also took each TWO photos. (We have no technical details). For Fino, present all day in the cathedral, it was not difficult to take photos while Pia was busy. The Fina photos were taken from the ground and from a certain distance. These photos show the complete altar and the whole Shroud. From the estimated exposure time, 5 minutes, one may assume, that these photos were taken during the second trails by Pia. In 1922, Don Nogier de Malijai notes in his book : "Le St. Suaire de Turin", that one of his own TWO photos was quite good. Alas, the negatives and photos were lost.

After the session, Pia, Fina and Don Nogier ran to a darkroom to develop the first TWO Pia plates. Probably some of them developed their own plates. The Pia results were NOT a general fiasco. Both plates, were heavily underexposed and practically unusable. They did show a indefinite but tantalizing mixture of : POSITIVE and NEGATIVE images. The three men agreed NOT to mention these strange results. Pia decided to postpone the evening session, to May 28, after the closing of the exhibition. By order of princess Clothide of Savoy, a CRYSTAL screen was placed before the Shroud, to project the linen from the heat and to assure a better distribution of the light. On May 28, BEFORE closing time, a photo format 21/27, showing the crowd before the Duomo was made. At 21.00 hours, Pia and his friends entered the Duomo. Pia placed TWO, newly polished glass screens, between the lamps and the Shroud, at about 1.5 meters from both lamps. At 21.30 hours, the lights were lit again and Pia, Fino and Don Nogier started the second session. Working on the scaffold, with such a large camera and plates was not easy. This time, the two protecting glass plates did not crack.First Pia made TWO photos with his Dalmeyer lens, set at the same "penulito" diaphragm, with exposure times of 3 and 5 minutes. Probably, because of his prior results, Pia already KNEW that the image on the Shroud was a NEGATIVE. He photographed not only the Shroud, but also the POSITIVE altar and two angels. A precaution to SHOW that his plates are AUTHENTIC !

This shows, that Pia, KNEW that it is indeed possible to fake a POSITIVE NEGATIVE, by using "special effects", like coloring the model. We do not know, if Pia developed these photos, before taking the FINAL pictures. Pia worked quietly, trying to avoid errors. He then placed a "Voiglender" [Voigtlander] lens with a diameter of 2 mm, diaphragm 6, focus 70 cm, and a yellow filter, on his clumsy bellows-camera. Because he used ortho-chromatic Edward-plates 50x60 cm, one may assume, that he moved the camera somewhat closer, to about 8 meters. In Pia's book "Memoria sulla riproductione fotografica della Santissima, Sindone di Torino" one reads :

Turin. Photographing of the S.Sindone.
Exhibition in the Duomo.
Electrical lighting : 1950 candele, two separate lamps.
Dimension of the S.Sindone. Length 4.10 meter. Width 1.40 meter.
Reproduction at 1/7 of the Shroud.
Camera (Macchina) with plates of 50x60, placed upon a scaffold 3.35 meter high, distance 9 meter.
Dimensions of the photo : 0.58x0.20 meter.
Lens Voiglender, focal length 70 centimeter. diaphragm 6.
Two taken; A = 14 minutes B = 12 minutes.
28 May 1898.

Note : In a later letter to A. Loth, Pia will mention only TWO exposures of 14 and 20 minutes.

Anyone who knows a little bit about photography, can verify, that the data given by Pia, does NOT conform with the normal relationships between Object/ photo and Focus/ Distance.

The focus for a plate of 60 x 50 cm = (602 + 502)0.5 = 78 cm.
27 x 21 cm = (272 + 212)0.5 = 34 cm.

The relationship between the ratio Object/Photo and the Distance/Focus is :

Object/Photo = Distance/Focus - 1.
Here Object = 410 cm, Photo = 58 cm and Focus = 78 cm and 70 cm.

Focus 78 cm
Focus 70 cm
410/58 = Distance/78 - 1 410/58 = Distance/70 - 1
7.069 + 1 = Distance/78 7.069 + 1 = Distance/70
8.069 x 78 = 629 cm. 8.069 x 70 = 565 cm.

A focus of 70 cm, as given by Pia corresponds with a distance of only 565 cm. For the smaller plates of 27 x 21 cm. the estimated focus = + 34 cm. Here the ratio Object/photo = 410/27 = 15.2. The distance will be 16.2 x 34 = 516 cm.

Pia decided to take TWO extra photos, with exposure times of 10 and 8 minutes. Together with Fino and Don Nogier de Malijai he moved to the dark room. All the plates were developed in a normal solution of iron-oxalate, without any addition of other chemical compounds. The fixation was done in a normal solution of soda-iposulphate. By coincidence, it is Don Nogier who developed the plate, with the exposure time of 14 minutes. To the general surprise of the three men, a POSITIVE image slowly developed on a NEGATIVE plate. They became the FIRST human beings, who did see the TRUE likeness of Christ.

Secundo Pia described this in a letter, dated June 29, 1907, to Prof. A. Loth in another way : "Alone, locked up in my dark room, totally lost in my work, I witnessed a very strong sensation, when I saw, for the first time, during the development of my plates, the Holy Face. I was astonished and happy at the same time, because at that very moment I became certain that my work would be successfull..." The THREE other plates were of course underexposed. THREE of the original plates are still in good shape. Only recently, the FOURTH plate, (with an exposure time of 8 minutes), believed to be lost, was found, broken in two pieces, in the Pia archives.

The Italian paper "L'Italia Reale Corriere Nazionale" was the first to comment on June 1, about the success of l'avv. Secondo Pia. On June 2, the same paper published a photo, taken with a camera from the floor. Probably one of the photo's taken by Lt. Fino


On June 15, the work of Pia was questioned in an article, published in the paper "Italia Corriere". The foolish accusations, were wrongly founded on the use of a yellow filter! Another accusation was that the photos were made with STRONG lamps placed BEHIND the Shroud. Pia replied, that this was IMPOSSIBLE, because of the presence of a red protecting cloth.

Note :
In 1978, Barrie Schwortz used this method, to photograph the Shroud in transmitted light! To see through the Shroud, the RED silk protecting cloth was tucked away and strong lights were placed behind the Shroud. On these photos, one sees through the Shroud. The image is barely visible, but the bloodstains and watermarks are clearly visible. The holes, caused by a fire BEFORE 1532 are showing WHITE. (This photograph appears near the end of The Red Stains on the Lier and Other Shroud Copies, another Remi Van Haelst paper available on this website).

Another remark was, that a "superposition", was caused by some unknown phenememon. Others believed in the use of a special development method. In 1902, the photos by Pia are used by the French scientists Vignon and Delage. The "Sorbonne" refused to accept their conclusions.....Among the most fervent opponents of Vignon and Delage, were the canon Ylusses de Chevalier and his friend de Mely. They also attacked Secondo Pia. Following them, an unnamed high prelate in Turin, declared that he had a POSITIVE photo of the Shroud! On February 3, 1905, before the "Academie des Inscriptions and Belle Lettres", de Mely, showed EXPERIMENTALLY, how Pia created his famous photos by playing with colors.

Example :
The two WHITE angels will appear BLACK on the negative. Paint one angel BLACK, and the TWO angels will show WHITE and BLACK on the negative. Today, the possibilities of modern special effects are endless.... On February 6, 1905, Canon de Chevalier repeated this declaration in an article, published in the paper "Semaine Religeuse du diocese de Valence" (No 16. 06-02-1905). Following de Chevalier, the Shroud is a POSITIVE painting. The French scientist Arthur Loth took up the challenge and asked de Mely for some explications. But de Mely does not react.... Loth forwarded the paper by de Mely to Baron Manno, asking to investigate for the anonymous prelate. One of the suspects was Don Solano ! Finally, Loth asked Manno to bring the matter before the Academie. Manno agreed and asked the Academie, to examine the matter.

The dossier contained :

1. A notarial deed, dated March 2, 1901.
2. A large, NOT retouched photo by Pia.
    All details are POSITIVE, the Shroud is NEGATIVE.
3. A smaller photo by Pia.
4. A photo by Fino, showing the Shroud and the entire altar.
    All details are POSITIVE, the Shroud is NEGATIVE.
5. A small "moment" photo, never published, made by an amateur.
    (Don Nogier de Malijai or Don Solano ?)

The documents were certified by the public notary Cav. Guiseppe Cantu. The answer of L.Delisle, president of the Academie, dated February 27 was a complete surprise to baron Manno and Secundo Pia! The Academie declared that de Mely did NOT make any communication. Therefore the Academie refused to examine the dossier by Baron Manno. The dossier will be deposed in the "Printing Cabinet" at the National Library in Paris.

A century ago, Secundo Pia, an honest man, became the first modern-time Shroud-herald. Despite many malicious attacks and insinuations, the work of Pia became the start of modern sindonology.....In 1931, Enrie made new photographs of the Shroud. He worked step by step, controlled by a public notary. His exceptional photos are the absolute proof, that Pia did not use special effects. I do not know, if de Chevalier and de Mely and other critics witnessed the work of Enrie. Secundo Pia died in 1941. His work will remain the cornerstone of modern sindonology.

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