|Henri Bellechose, an artist of the International Gothic school.|
In Chapter IV we mention other shrouds whereon Christ is represented nude, such as those of Besancon and Xabregas ; but were not these copies of the Holy Shroud of Turin ? The absolute solution of this problem, however, can only be arrived at by an examination of the Shroud itself. There may be a small cloth under the hands, but there is certainly no covering on the back.
A recent author, P. Solaro, has thought that in the photographs there could be found traces of some covering, but he was mistaken. The markings to which he alludes are merely the borders of one of the spots which had been burnt.
Mgr. Colomiatti, in a paper written by him in the Revue des Sciences Ecclesiastiques, " Sur L'Authenticite du Saint Suaire de Turin," mentions clearly the absence of any loin-cloth in the original image, and alludes further to the fact that in many of the copies the omission has been rectified. Thus we may conclude that the very nudity of the image on the Holy Shroud goes to prove its authenticity, all the more from the fact that the supposititious' forger must be considered to have intentionally laid stress on the circumstance of nudity, inasmuch as he has shown some fifteen scourge-marks on those parts of the body which the loin-cloth would have veiled.
To sum up, the wound-marks visible on the Holy Shroud are not such as the supposititious forger of Lirey would have represented them. Their extreme naturalness and exactness are beyond the conception of human skill. We have the right to deny that the stigmata of Christ are produced fraudulently, just as we have the right to deny that the impressions of the body itself are a fraud.
We approach the conclusion to which all our arguments have been trending. Soon we shall be able to say with certainty, " Yes, the body which the Holy Shroud covered was indeed the body of Jesus Christ."
We must, however, before going further, consider the somewhat singular hypothesis, according to which some man of the Middle Ages, some inhabitant of Byzantium, obtained somewhere and somehow a cloth bearing on it the chemical imprint of a human body, on which he had only to paint the wounds designating Christ in order to produce a most valuable relic. This supposition is only to be equalled by another hardly less singular. The body, it is suggested, by some extraordinary coincidence, perchance already bore the marks of the wounds of Christ, so that there was no need to counterfeit them. Now this presupposes either that the body itself had been marked and prepared fraudulently, or else the body was indeed that of some poor criminal who had died upon the cross, after having been crowned with thorns, scourged, and pierced in the side by a lance.
There is no limit to hypothetical ingenuity. We need only say this. The impressions on the Shroud are such that neither intentionally nor by chance could men living in the Middle Ages, or before the Middle Ages, have procured such a winding-sheet. We declare that not only could no such cloth have been found in any tomb, but also that not even the happiest combination of circumstances could have led them to discover any method by which such impressions could have been produced from a dead body.
The simple fact remains. No such impression on a winding-sheet has ever been found in any tomb, and we may add that it is materially impossible that such a thing should be found. Whatever may be the exact nature of the chemical process by which the impressions were produced, what concerns us now is the organic action exercised between a naked body and a prepared cloth. All such action is restricted by one essential condition, namely, that the body should have remained in contact with the cloth for too short a time to allow of putrefaction. If corruption set in, any impression previously made would be ipso facto destroyed. What indeed is found in a violated sepulchre ? A mummy or a skeleton. In either case the tomb could not have furnished a winding-sheet like the Holy Shroud. On the other hand, it is not possible for any one to have arrived at a method of producing such impressions, and this because of their altogether exceptional character.
It may be asked, Can these impressions be due to some chemical process other than that which is caused by the action of febrile sweat and aloes ? We know of none such. Can they have been produced by the precise chemical change which we shall describe in our final chapter ? Then it would have been necessary to have had assembled by fortuitous chance all the circumstances which we have detailed ; there must have been a body bathed in urenic perspiration and covered with the sweat of feverish agony ; this same body, while still unwashed, must have been covered with a shroud heavily imbued with a mixture of oil and aloes ; and, finally, this same body must have been removed from the tomb without any symptom of putrefaction having been manifest. It is unbelievable.
One by one each argument hostile to authenticity has been met and combated. Have our critics been able to prove that the impressions were painted—wound-marks, modelling and all ? They think not; and we have now we consider the right to affirm that we are in possession of the actual impression of Christ.