Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Shroud Of Christ By Paul Vignon D.Sc (Fr) Part 7.

Evidently the wounds which we are studying could not have been produced by the flagellum. Let us see what is said of the flagrum ? " An instrument chiefly used for the punishment of slaves. ... It was composed of many chains, to each of which a metal button was attached, having a short wooden handle like a postillion's whip ; its blows were rather heavy than cutting.'' This description is said to be that of one discovered at Herculaneum. There was also the flagrum talis tessellatum, which was made of thongs to the ends of which were attached the knuckle-bones (tali) of sheep ; but of this we need not speak, as the wound-marks would not correspond with those under consideration.

Clearly then if we eliminate the thonged scourge and the knuckle-bone scourge, we may compare the marks on the Shroud to wounds inflicted by the metal buttons of the flagrum. The shape of these buttons was variable. The example given by us in figure 2 is reproduced from a drawing in Rich's Dictionary, and differs but slightly from the kind of button to which we have attributed the marks shown in our photographs, being enlarged at one extremity only, instead of being in the shape of a dumb-bell.

The flagrum reproduced by Rich is made not of thongs, but of chains, three chains only being fastened to the handle of the scourge, which leads us to think that the buttons were specially large and heavy. Those which we have in mind must have been lighter, for we know that in ordering Christ to be scourged Pilate desired to excite the people's compassion rather than to inflict severe punishment. It must be confessed that although the severity of a blow, the mark of which is only three centimetres long, is not in itself very great, yet, when we consider the number of blows inflicted, it is obvious that the pain endured must have been intense.

If then the wound-marks visible on the Shroud in such perfection of detail are the work of fraud, we must own that the forger was indeed gifted with consummate ability. But even if we admit (for the sake of argument) that he could have painted such wound-marks we assert that he would not have painted them as they appear upon the Shroud.

The hypothesis of fraud considered from this new aspect, becomes more unlikely than ever.

At the back of the head the clots from the crown of thorns are shown in the places traditionally assigned to them, but it is remarkable how few there are in front. Painters generally have depicted many more, but we will not insist on this point.

Let us glance at the wound in the side. It is shown on the left side in the imprint, because, as we have frequently said, it was on the right side of the actual body. As we know, this interversion was well understood by Giulio Clovio. The forger must have thought of it, too, but he also had to consider his public. It may have been out of deference to popular prejudice that he shows the wound on the right of the Shroud as he would have done in the case of an ordinary portrait, for we must admit that the public of the year 1353 cannot have been very exacting as to scientific accuracy.

Now we come to a more important point. The nail-wound of the left hand is in the wrist, not in the centre of the palm, as demanded by tradition. In a forged relic such a parade of independence would scarcely have been tolerated. As it was, to have shown the public only one hand, and consequently only one wound, was remarkable enough. Such licences would be pardoned only in the most authentic relic. Yet anatomy proves that the nails must have been driven into the wrists, not into the hands. Here again tradition is contradicted.

What would have become of the body on the cross, had the nails been driven through the palms of the hands ? The weight of the body would quickly have enlarged the wounds, and the ligaments at the base of the fingers would soon have given way. If, however, the nails were driven in at the wrist there would be no chance of the wounds enlargement ; indeed, the very weight of the body would throw pressure on the extremities of the metacarpal bones, which are very firmly united. It is easy to verify this experimentally. Let us take the right hand between the four fingers of the left and the thumb, pressing the thumb firmly on the back of the right hand. If we thrust our thumb-nail between the bases of the third and fourth fingers, there is no appreciable resistance. Hence the suppleness of the human hand ; the metacarpal bones turn easily, the one upon the other, when laterally compressed. Let us repeat the experiment, thrusting the thumb-nail this time into the wrist. We could not separate the ligaments of the metacarpal bones here if we tried.

Therefore on the Shroud, had the wound been visible in the centre of the hand, we should think that some painter had been at work, who was more mindful of tradition than of anatomy. As for the wounds in the feet, we have already dealt fully with the appearance of the blood-marks at and near the heels. If the nails were really driven in here, it must have been at the instep ; the wounds in the feet would then exactly correspond to those in the hands. All pictures give the feet pierced in the centre of the metatarsus, just as the hands are given pierced in the centre of the metacarpus, but certainly the feet would have been more solidly fastened had the nail been driven in at the instep.

We cannot, however, exactly determine the position of these wounds, as the front portion of the feet is not shown in the photographs. We shall draw attention, however, in Chapter IV to two copies, dating from the sixteenth century, in which the wounds are represented as near the ankles. The copyists in thus giving them have bravely disregarded tradition, which leads us to believe that the copies must have been made from this actual Shroud itself.

As to the scourge-wounds, there need be no surprise at the strangeness of their shape. The only point on which we lay stress is the improbability of any painter of religious subjects in the Middle Ages venturing to put marks of flagellation on the fleshy part of the body by the pelvis. It is indeed altogether unusual to find a nude Christ, deprived even of the small loin-cloth which is always allowed by artists. In the early centuries Christ was represented on the Cross clothed completely in a robe, but from the twelfth century the robe is shortened, until at last nothing is left on the naked figure but a small loin-cloth. A nude Christ is quite exceptional. The following phrase borrowed from Didron shows us the scandal which arose amongst the believers, and which still exists, at the mere thought of Christ being represented entirely naked. " In the fourteenth century, and even in our own time, Jesus has been constantly represented on the Cross with only a small piece of linen round the loins ; worse still—terrible thought—Jesus has been represented on the Cross, absolutely naked. Such an absolute nudity of the Divine is a revolting spectacle. I must admit, however, that I know only one such instance of complete nudity. It is in a manuscript in the Royal Library (Heures du Due d'Anjou, fol. 162). I believe that a second instance may be found in the Biblia Sacra (No. 6,829), possibly, nay probably, due to an error of the painter. M (Didron, Iconographie Chrrtienne, Histoire de Dieu. Paris, Imprimerie Royale, 1844. 607 pages, 150 figures.)