If the impression on the Shroud was, as we believe, spontaneously produced, and if this impression shows, as we think it does, so many remarkable and concordant characteristics, surely we have every right to conclude that the body was none other than that of Jesus Christ our Lord.
This conclusion cannot be considered as a mere hypothesis. We arrived at it inevitably by a series of direct observations. But in order to still further prove our argument, let us now ask, Would it have been conceivably possible to produce such wound-marks fraudulently upon the impression left by some other dead body ? Or, even if the impressions are altogether spontaneous, do the distinctive marks which we have pointed out prove necessarily that the body is that of Christ ?
EXAMINATION OF THE WOUND-MARKS ON THE SHROUD
We have only to look at the wound-marks to be able to say that they are not the work of a forger.
Let us suppose, for instance, that some man in the Middle Ages, an inhabitant, we will say, of Byzantium, or even the self-avowed forger himself, whose confession was published by the Bishop of Troyes, has before him a large piece of linen cloth, on which are already two impressions of a human body. He does not know how the impressions were made, but he sets himself to paint in the wound-marks ; he may even use blood instead of paint; the impressions may now pass for those of Jesus Christ, no matter whose they were originally.
Is not this a perfectly natural hypothesis ?
No, because where could he have procured the linen cloth bearing such impressions ? But, granted that he had procured it, we say that he would not have known how to paint in the wound-marks, and that if he had known he would not have wished to represent them as they are in fact represented.
In the first place, the wounds are too real, too natural in all their details to be fraudulent. (We hope to show later on how forgers did set about their work.) For example, let us look carefully at the wound in the breast; it has the aspect of a clot, formed by the blood which flowed from the wound, when it was inflicted—the flow of blood indeed is represented with perfect exactness. It would have been difficult for any painter to give so perfectly the curves and windings of a liquid, adapting itself to the inequalities of the surface which it encounters. Indeed, to give adequately the true appearance of a similar wound, the highest skill would have been necessary : it could not have been done by allowing blood, human or other, to trickle over the linen cloth, for, as we shall show, the linen has not here been in contact with flowing blood enough to wet it. When we pour blood upon a dry cloth, or upon a cloth which has been soaked in oil, the fibre of the stuff absorbs the liquid by capillary action, so that it spreads unevenly along the threads, thus making stains with jagged edges. On the Shroud, the clot on the breast shows itself clearly outlined, not with jagged edges. We must therefore suppose that the forger used some method of painting. Now, as the stuff is lissome and pliable, it could not have retained any thick paint requiring body-colour; consequently our painter must have applied some sort of stain, with enormous skill, to give the required effect. This supposition we consider to be, if not absurd, at least unlikely.
Let us turn now to another wound, the reproduction of which would have required even greater ingenuity and skill. We allude to the large drop of blood visible on the forehead above the left eyebrow.
This drop springs from a definite point, indicated by its darker colour (see Plate n.). This dark point corresponds to one of the wounds made by the crown of thorns. The blood which has flowed there-from has met in its course the two wrinkles of the forehead, and has, by this slight opposition, been forced to spread itself out, forming two small horizontal pools; thence it continued to flow, until it ended in a tear of blood close to the eyebrow, and having thus flowed, it dried upon the skin.
Now any drop of blood, drying thus, upon a substance into which it does not penetrate, takes, when coagulated, a sort of basin-like shape, a section of which we give here (Fig. i). The border or brim of the basin is formed by the fibrine of the blood, containing the red corpuscles in its coagulum ; the centre is composed of section through a drop of blood which has the serum, which in drying takes a Fig. i.
dull brown tint. Here, as the liquid part of the serum evaporates, the convexity of the centre is depressed. The contour of the drop of blood preserves, however, the same shape as it had when it was fresh.
Now this description applies exactly to the blood-drop on the forehead. In the parts where the blood has flowed, and where it has accumulated in sufficient quantity, it is bordered by a dark edge. The centre of the little stream, and the centre also of the terminal tear, are of a lighter tint. This drop of bloodis reproduced not only with the greatest minuteness and delicacy, but with entire faithfulness to scientific detail.
No painter, in his most elaborate work, has ever risen to such exactitude, as a glance at any of the numerous representations of Christ, Crowned with Thorns, will show us.
In most of such paintings, the artists have been quite neglectful of the wrinkles, or other obstacles, which a flow of blood would meet with in its course, and they have also painted such blood-streams, too narrow at their start, and too wide as they continue to flow: very often giving them symmetrical shapes, as in the Holy Face of Zeitblom, dating from the fifteenth century, which is in the Berlin Gallery.
Not only must we remark how, upon the Holy Shroud, the exact natural conditions of the coagulation of blood are reproduced, but also it is necessary to observe that if the figure on the Holy Shroud is indeed that of Christ, the blood which had flowed from the wounds made by the crown of thorns, would have been long dry when the entombment took place, at least ten hours later. It cannot have taken much longer than an hour for the blood on the face to coagulate. If, then, it had been found that the blood from the forehead had left its impression on the linen while still wet, it would have been possible to suspect a fraud but as we have found that the marks have been spontaneously produced from blood which was already dried, we can only conclude that Nature has set the seal of truth upon the Shroud.
By what laws, then, physical or chemical, have the clots of blood reproduced themselves upon the linen cloth ?
First of all, from a physical point of view, it would seem that the blood-marks make a direct positive impression upon the Shroud, exactly contrary to what we had observed regarding the other marks ; and this can be explained. The blood has acted very powerfully, and, as might have been expected, the edges of the clots, thick and prominent, have acted more strongly than the depressions in their centres. Moreover the linen is actually stained the same colour as the clots by contact with them, and is therefore also darker at the edges and less dark in the middle. That is why these marks are positive. The other brown marks on the Shroud correspond, as we know, to the light parts of the body itself. We shall touch on this subject again when we point out that the impressions on the Holy Shroud afford us no data from which to determine the true colour of the hair and beard.
From a chemical point of view the blood has re-acted on the cloth by the carbonate of soda and the urea which are found in the serum as well as in the sweat. M. Ganthier remarks in his Chimie appliqude a la physio-logie (vol. i., p. 447) : " La reaction alcaline constante du sang provient du bi-carbonate de sonde et du phosphate tribasique de sonde dissous dans son plasma. Cette alcaliniU augmente dans le strum aprcs la formation du caillot " ; and in the same work (vol. ii. p. 315) : " Vurde augmente souvent dans le sang pathologique 9 spdcialement dans les fievres inflammatories. De ces observations Picard conclut que dans le sang Vurte y augmente pendant les affections ftfbriles."
Our experimental researches, as to the production of impressions upon linen by blood, have not yet been concluded ; but we may say here, that we have clearly proved that liquid blood in its normal condition acts strongly upon linen which has been impregnated with aloes, as we shall describe in our final chapter. The spots stand out at first bright-coloured, but almost immediately the edges turn brown, and finally, when the blood is dry, become uniformly dull and dark in tone.
We could, of course, go on to examine in detail other individual blood-marks on the Shroud, perhaps not quite so remarkable as those with which we have already dealt. Thus the spots on the sides of the forehead, among the locks of hair, or on the back of the head, are all positive in appearance. The same may be said of the blood-marks on the left wrist.
With regard to the streams of blood visible on the forearms, we must make a remark the importance of which will be apparent. These bloodstreams do not seem to have any connexion with the wounds in the wrists, to which nevertheless they owe their source. It would at first sight seem strange that this should be so, but our inability to understand is no proof of fraud in the impressions. Painters, as a rule, make their representations as clear as possible, and paint things as they see them. To appeal to the general public, an artist's ideas must be simple and easy of comprehension if he wishes his work to be appreciated. The Christ, he would say, had His hands pierced by nails, and from the wounds made by these nails the blood poured forth. The position of the hands would be higher than the elbows, by reason of the weight of the suspended body, and the blood would therefore flow over the forearms. Some painters have represented this blood like rivers with parallel banks, having their sources in the wounds themselves. Others have represented Christ upon the Cross with His arms extended, horizontally, in which case the blood is shown dropping from the hollows of the hands. In no case, however, do we know of an artist who has intentionally represented blood flowing in streams but having no apparent connexion with the wounds which caused its flow.
Now let this be well noted : every time that we find in the Holy Shroud some strangeness, some departure from tradition, we may feel assured that such strangeness, such departure, can never have been knowingly done by a forger, whose direct intention would have been to appeal forcibly to the imagination of his public. Sometimes, as we shall see, such an apparent error is found in reality to be an absolute truth.
Having said this much, we will return to the observations which we have to make as to the marks of blood on the forearms.