Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Shroud Of Christ By Paul Vignon D.Sc (Fr) Part 5.

On the upper part of the left wrist some pale thread-like marks are perceptible which join the wound to the stronger brown streams.

The right wrist, as we see, is lying crossed under the left wrist ; the cloth does not touch the wrist, nor indeed the forearm, for some little distance from the wound, from which the blood is flowing. The interruption, then, to which we have alluded is quite natural.

Under the feet we perceive certain brown markings of which the importance is considerable. These are the 4 marks which lead us to conclude that the body, which was wrapped in the Holy Shroud, had the feet pierced with nails in the same manner as the hands. Some of these spots have the edges clearly defined, and not jagged. We conclude therefore that they are produced by dried blood—but they are not all the same. Thus, beside the right foot, that is to say the left in the impression, we see, vaguely, a trifoliate stain or mark, shaped something like a crescent; careful examination of M. Pia's photographs, reveals that the edges of this spot have a jagged appearance, such as is produced upon a cloth when it is wetted with an albuminous liquid. The mark is not brown enough in colour to represent blood ; it would seem to have more probably been produced by some kind of serum, but it does correspond exactly with the level of the foot.

Under the right heel a dark brown spot corresponds, in part at any rate, with the stains which would be left by a liquid having wetted the cloth; indeed towards the upper part we can see as it were brown filaments which run out horizontally in the stuff.

To us, then, these details are of great interest. If the body which the Shroud enfolded was indeed that of Jesus Christ, the large nails with which the feet had been pierced would have been drawn out of the wounds, when the body was taken down from the cross. Although the sufferer must have been dead for about three hours, a small quantity of blood would have exuded from the wounds, and it is by these exudations that the cloth was tinged at the part where the feet rested; and besides these exudations there are other spots of a different character under the soles of the feet, showing the characteristics of blood which was already dry. One might almost suppose that the trilobed patch which we have just noticed had also been caused by the blood which slowly exuded from the wounds in the feet, before the feet were definitely placed in the position they were to occupy. But we must not linger too long over these minutiae ; what is really necessary is to show, as we trust we have done, how little the impressions on the Shroud, corresponding with the wounds in the feet, resemble the work of a painter.

Had a forger at that date desired to simulate the wounds made by the nails, he would, we think, have drawn them carefully, showing them in circular form; the essential thing in his eyes would have been that the wounds should have been easily recognized in the traditional positions. It is for this reason that all painters, even those who clearly had no intention to deceive, have always accentuated the holy wounds. Here we find nothing of the sort. In the right foot the principal clot of blood is manifestly shown under the heel itself, covering altogether the place where the nail had entered, while in the left foot it is also in the neighbourhood of the heel that the blood clots are found ; and the different spots and marks thus shown in no way indicate the classic stigmata. Here again we are forced to abandon the hypothesis of fraud, and to attribute the appearances on the Shroud to accidental and natural causes, in which the intention or imagination of an artist is nowhere discernible.

One word as to the wound on the right shoulder of the body above the shoulder blade, which we have previously attributed to the pressure of the Cross. Once more we find realism. The man would bear the shaft on His back, sustaining the cross-bar with His hands ; under the pressure of the heavy Cross His garment would get pushed into perpendicular folds at the apex of the shoulder. These folds would cut into the flesh and leave on the corpse the marks we see. If this also should be called the work of a painter-forger, how great must have been his ingenuity !

Thus far in our examination we have traced and dealt with, the wounds made by the crown of thorns, the stab from the lance, and the nail wounds in the hands and feet. There now only remain to be examined the somewhat singular markings perceptible on the back and on the fleshy parts of the thighs and calves, which there seems every reason to believe are the marks of violent blows inflicted by some short heavy instrument. If the body be that of Jesus Christ, these wounds or marks would be those of scourging. Had such marks been the work of a forger, he would assuredly have tried to indicate marks such as are usually produced by such punishment.

Let us first of all analyze the shape of one of these marks ; what is true of one may be said to be true of all.

On the back, underneath the right shoulder-blade, and in a comparatively clear space, two of these marks are to be found side by side. Each has the shape of a small piece of stick about three centimetres long, taking into account the scale of the body, and slightly thickened at the two ends. As regards the colour, we may call it of a middle tint, but towards the ends the markings grow darker. We are reminded by its appearance of a small dumb-bell which in striking the body lengthways had left the marks of the two ball-like ends more strongly impressed at the centre than on the borders. At the worst part the skin has been cut and blood has oozed forth, otherwise the spot is pale in colour ; it is certainly a mark produced by serum with which the linen has been wetted, for wounds by which the skin is abrased, dry with difficulty, and may exude serum for some time.

Although nearly all these singular marks on the Shroud can on examination be explained, as we have attempted to explain them, there are two at least which are not easily accounted for. With the aid of the original photographs, especially the positive on glass (i.e. photographic negative), which represents the Shroud in facsimile, we are able to examine very minutely the marks which are of necessity less sharply defined in our reproductions in photogravure. The originals clearly show that the brown centres of the enlarged extremities are not equally distinct, and that the skin has been cut to different depths. And here the precise form, even of that part of the wound which has drawn blood, varies considerably. Thus, on the right calf of the figure, there are three distinct marks which resemble each other only in their general outline. The topmost one has a regular dumb-bell shape, the upper part of which is darkly stained by blood, while in the lower part the tint remains fainter. Below this mark comes another which is irregular in shape and difficult to define. The one lower still is bent as if the metallic instrument by which it was made had been hook-shaped. These details are all perfectly visible on Plate iv. on the left calf of the figure shown in our reproduction.

On the back there are some markings which are not very clearly given in our photogravure. They look like the half of a dumb-bell, as if one end only had made its mark.

All these peculiarities are intensely realistic ; on the one hand it was natural that the metal buttons with which the wounds were inflicted should not be all exactly alike ; on the other hand, one and the same button could not have struck the body exactly in the same way each time.