The Curious Tale of the “Chronovisor”
It had to be true. After all, it was there in black and white in La Domenica del Corriere (“Courier Sunday”), a long-established weekly news magazine: “Invented: a machine that photographs the past.” Not only was there a diagram of the machine but a photograph of an ancient event — the face of Jesus Christ during his crucifixion. Moreover, the story came from an Italian Benedictine monk who said he was part of a Vatican-funded team that invented the “Chronovisor.”
Father Pellegrino Ernetti was a noted musicologist who also studied physics. Ernetti worked on an audio project involving Gregorian chants at the Catholic University of Milan. Listening to one of the tapes in September 1952, the school’s founder, Father Agostino Gemelli, was convinced he heard his dead father’s voice. Ernetti wondered if sound somehow continued to exist in some way. Gemelli was president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and obtained funding for a team led by Ernetti to explore the question.
Ernetti said a team of 12 people worked for years on the project. French priest Francois Brune, a friend of Ernetti’s, would later report that Ernetti only identified two: Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi and rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. In his May 2, 1972, interview with La Domenica del Corriere, Ernetti said the group discovered that sounds and light disintegrate into different energy forms. Using a series of antennas made of three mysterious metals, the Chronovisor reconstructed residual electromagnetic radiation left over by numerous processes. A sensor could select a specific location, date, and even a particular person, and the reconstruction appeared on a cathode ray tube.
The device was more television than a time machine. It didn’t take someone physically into the past, only allowed past events to be viewed and recorded. Hence, the name Chronovisor. Ernetti told the magazine that the scientific team viewed the crucifixion of Christ and other events, but he believed the device was dangerous because it could pick up thoughts. Notably, Ernetti did not provide a photo of Christ’s face. The Milan-based magazine said it received it from an anonymous man.