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About the Project

Since the twentieth century, the Turin Shroud—that is, the linen on which there is a front and back view of a man’s body, with traces of torture similar to those inflicted on Jesus and described in the Gospels of the New Testament—has also attracted the interest of world science. This interest was intensified after the words of Pope John Paul II spoken in 1998 in Turin Cathedral, where the Shroud is kept. Faced with the dilemma of whether the cloth known as the Turin Shroud is the burial shroud of Jesus or a medieval forgery, so ingenious that 21st century science is unable to either reject or confirm the thesis, the Pope acknowledged that it was not within the Church’s specific competence to decide the question. Since this is not a matter of faith, it can be dealt with by scientists, with the proviso that they should approach the object of study without pre-established positions that take for granted results that are not such; she invites them to act with interior freedom and attentive respect for both scientific methodology and the sensibilities of believers.

The Pope’s challenge is part of the syndonological research that has been going on for more than a century and which, while focusing mainly on the Shroud of Turin, also deals with the Sudarium of Oviedo, the Veil of Manoppello, the Tunic of Argenteuil and the Tilma of Guadalupe. There are many research centres in the world that deal with this issue. Without doubt, the International Centre of Sindonology in Turin plays a leading role in this field. In 2017, the American, Spanish and Italian centres were joined by the Polish Syndonological Centre based in Kraków, which is a branch of the Turin Centre. In it, the idea of compiling a Syndonological Lexicon, which would summarise more than a century of research achievements on the Turin Shroud and other artifacts associated with it, matured. To a large extent, this decision was influenced by the experience gained during 2017–2020 (four semesters), when an inter-university syndonological seminar was conducted, organised with the collaboration of the Jagiellonian University, the AGH University of Science and Technology and the Pontifical University of John Paul II (the three Krakow universities) and the University of Gdansk, in which all members of the editorial board of the future lexicon participated. The Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome also joined as a substantive partner.

One year after the end of the seminar series (2021), work on the Digital Syndonological Lexicon was launched in the form of an electronic publication created as a web application at the Ksiegarnia Akademicka Publishing in Kraków. The modern hypertext formula, reminiscent of living book scientific publications (cf. Adema 2021), containing multimedia elements and equipped with various search tools, is intended to make reading more accessible and attractive, as well as combining traditional publishing principles with the use of new technologies. The systematically updated entries will be made available in an open access mode in Polish and English.

The lexicon contains overview and specific entries, a calendar of events, biographical entries, geographical names and a Polish syndonological bibliography from 1900–2020. The selection of entries, which is otherwise universal and gives insight into the history of development of sindonology, also takes into account the Polish specificity of this field, showing our contribution to the study of the Shroud. The entries are accompanied by photographs and maps as well as a thematic, worldwide (including Polish) bibliography. It was our goal that the entries would be compiled by a team of (mainly Polish) specialists in particular topics, as the lexicon has an interdisciplinary character. The core of the team consists of co-workers of the Polish Syndonological Centre. The team cooperates with the International Centre of Sindonology in Turin, benefiting from its substantial and institutional support (consultations, library and archive) and with other institutions undertaking syndonological research.

The functionalities and interactive elements, including advanced options for searching, filtering and browsing the material that makes up the lexicon, will be made available gradually. Until then, it is possible to carry out full-text searches in the provided collection of entries. It is hoped that the lexicon will become an interactive online handbook on syndonological studies and that it will allow those interested to familiarise themselves with the reliably compiled results of research and that it will serve as a standard reference work for further research projects of a monographic nature.

The entries, which represent the current state of research, can provide a basis for deepening and broadening the study of related topics and be used for interdisciplinary research. The project provides sustained scholarly support for academic and non-academic discourses and for various pastoral initiatives. The international composition of the research team involved in the preparation of the lexicon also contributes to the integration of different research communities and to the popularisation of Polish achievements in the field of sindonology.

This work is the result of a research project entitled “Syndonological lexicon”, carried out by a team of scientists affiliated to the following universities: the Jagiellonian University, the AGH University of Science and Technology, the Pontifical University of John Paul II, the University of Gdansk and the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome. The editorial board of the Lexicon includes members of the Polish Syndonological Centre, while Krzysztof Pilarczyk is the coordinator of the entire project and editor of the electronic version of the lexicon.

The project is co-financed by the Jagiellonian University within the framework of the POB Heritage Mini-Grant (special edition: Digital Humanities, title: Cyfrowy leksykon syndonologiczny [Digital Syndonological Lexicon], document no: H.5.7.2021).

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