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Shroud of Turin: the image of the extreme pain suffered for our redemption, Part 3ª

This week we publish the third part of this essential reading scientific article for anyone who wants to have a solid, in-depth understanding of the Shroud Man from a medico-legal perspective. Next week the publication will be completed.

The dorsum of the nose has a lesion compatible with an excoriation, i.e., a shallow wound, but from it one can observe how the nasal cartilage shifts to the left. It should be noted that what has been produced is a dislocation of the nasal cartilage on its insertion into the bony nasal septum, i.e., there has been no fracture of the nasal bones, nor of the nasal septum, but only a deviation of the cartilaginous part of the nose.

These injuries, in addition to causing severe pain and nasal hemorrhage, would have largely obstructed nasal breathing. The right cheekbone appears very inflamed and elevated about 2.5 centimeters above the normal position of the skin in this anatomical location. The left cheekbone, as would be expected in the face of such relentless condemnation, is also inflamed, although to a lesser extent, and also emits a small trickle of blood.

The emission of blood also occurred through the nostrils, and in this case it is an emission on several occasions: at first vital blood, with preserved clotting capacity, was emitted as a result of the nasal trauma suffered by the Man of the Shroud, and at a later time also cadaveric blood mixed with acute pulmonary edema fluid, pleural fluid and pericardial fluid. This emission of more body fluids also occurred from the mouth and, as in the case of the nose, may have happened several times, coinciding with the manipulations and transfers that the corpse underwent after the death of the condemned man.

The lips present a pathological appearance compatible with a twofold mechanism, on the one hand mucosal lesions caused by dehydration, and on the other hand it is possible that the Man of the Shroud suffered injuries in the oral region, occurring bleeding wounds that would be added to the cracked appearance of the lips, a consequence of dehydration. In any case, this area is covered with blood and other bodily fluids, so the visible image does not allow for definitive conclusions on this particular subject. There is also not enough information in the shroud image to affirm or deny whether any cracking or fracture of any dental piece occurred. Finally, in the chin area, we can see that this appears very inflamed, as a result of a severe contusion.

In the anterior area of the neck we do not have much information, since no impressions appear in the Shroud: the little information available is provided by the Sudarium of Oviedo, which covered this area and shows some bloodstains due to small bleeding lesions located in this anatomical region. Also appearing are vital bloodstains mixed with saliva and previous mucous from the respiratory tract: something should not be considered abnormal, since the Man of the Shroud, as a consequence of the physical torture he suffered and the crucifixion, it is logical to assume that he expelled these bodily fluids from his mouth on some or all occasions.

Scattered throughout the body, with the exception of the face and perhaps the scalp, appear the marks of injuries that have usually been attributed to scourging. If there is any imprint on the scalp area, it is not visible. Their number varies according to the subjectivity of the person who makes the effort to count them: there are about one hundred and forty wounds, but it is difficult to know for sure, for although most of them have a very characteristic morphology, resembling the appearance of some small weight of alterophilia, some of them are not marked with sufficient sharpness, or perhaps are not due to this cause.

In any case, it seems risky to label these latter lesions of indeterminate appearance within the lesions allegedly caused by flagellation, especially when they lack all scientific evidence. It is very likely that some of them are, but others are not. In any case, the latter circumstance is not very relevant when we take into account the terrible consequences of the many injuries that can be attributed to flagellation.

The condemned man, when he received this chastisement, was most likely naked, or practically naked, because there appear to be scourging injuries in the gluteal area as well. Everything seems to indicate that he was in a standing position with his arms outstretched above his shoulders, but it is not possible to determine whether he was suspended by his arms without resting his feet on the ground, or conversely whether he was resting them. In any case, he was not lying down, sitting, or in a horizontal position.

By conducting a Forensic Medical Study of these injuries, it is possible to determine their trajectory, distribution, and morphology: it can be deduced that there were two people who inflicted this punishment, striking alternately and not simultaneously, since there does not appear evidence of any interference or simultaneous confluence of the blows delivered by the two legionaries in the same area and at the same time.

Moreover, it is possible to establish some characteristics with respect to the attitude of each of the legionnaires during the execution of their function. One of them merely discharged the blows in a systematic form, distributing them more or less evenly over the entire exposed surface of the convict. The other, on the contrary, concentrated most of its blows in particularly sensitive areas, such as:

- the precordial region, near the heart, where he could have caused cardiac arrhythmias, or including cardiac arrest.

- the area of the shoulders and pectoral muscles, where damaging the respiratory muscles could have caused some degree of respiratory distress, which would undoubtedly have diminished the condemned man's ability to recover and ultimately hastened his death on the cross for reasons that will be commented on below.

- the lumbar area-there are the kidneys-where in addition to severe pain it could have caused severe internal bleeding with kidney damage that could have generated kidney failure, or aggravated said failure already caused by other causes that will be commented on at the time.

In any case, even if the Man of the Shroud had been allowed to go free after the scourging, the most likely scenario is that he would have died shortly thereafter as a consequence of the scourging itself, or at most a couple of weeks later due to renal failure, and all without taking into consideration the risk of tetanus or any other serious infection of his wounds. The second legionnaire was also to lash out at areas where a large artery is located very superficially close to the skin, and this is the case with the femoral artery, in the groin area, or the popliteal artery, posterior to the knee. In this circumstance, it could have caused a hemorrhage that would have ended the condemned man's life within moments. The something ultimately did not happen.

Regarding the scourging, it should be taken into consideration that, given the type of instrument used, probably a Flagrum Taxi l latum, a hideous scourge equipped with talus and other blunt ends like plumbatae, and given the kinetic energy with which the blows were administered, there were not only contused wounds with skin lacerations. The damaging effect of the blows, by a simple principle of physics, was also transmitted in depth. It is well known that water transmits vibration and pressure at a distance very effectively, and both blood and soft tissue consist of water in a high percentage. The harmful effect, therefore, was transmitted at a distance and in depth, damaging the relevant tissues. In the Shroud, in fact, there are particles of torn muscle tissue and fragments of human skin: literally, they "tore his skin in strips."

As a consequence of this deep and distant damage, injuries may have been produced to vital organs such as the heart (manifesting as cardiac arrhythmias), lungs (resulting in internal bleeding and respiratory distress), kidneys (resulting in renal failure), and perhaps other abdominal organs, but no scientific evidence is observed in this circumstance.

The macroscopic effect of flagellation injuries has been mentioned, but the microscopic effect is no less important: in fact, the cell membrane of several types of cells (red blood cells, muscle cells, fat cells, and epithelial cells) has been destroyed, releasing their contents into the blood circulation, and this too has had its consequences. As an immediate effect of the flagellation blows, the red blood cells in the injured area suffered a high percentage of damage to their cell membrane, which ultimately caused many of them to rupture. The damaged red blood cells are no longer useful for carrying oxygen to the body, causing, when their numbers are high, a certain degree of cellular asphyxiation.

In addition, the inside of all human cells, including red blood cells, is very rich in potassium, a chemical element that is essential for regulating multiple functions of the body. Its blood levels have a very narrow physiological margin, so a slight increase or decrease is capable of causing serious health problems and even death.

In the present case, as a significant number of red blood cells and other cells, especially muscle cells, broke down, a large amount of potassium would have been released into the bloodstream, raising its levels above normal. This would have caused cardiac arrhythmias and muscle cramps, which would have provided pain and possibly a sensation of imminent death, also putting an already weakened body on the ropes, particularly during crucifixion, thus contributing to the causes of asphyxiation and hastening the death of the condemned man.

The problem is aggravated in the case of muscle cells, since in addition to potassium they are rich in a molecule called myoglobin, very similar to hemoglobin in blood, whose function is to store oxygen in the muscles for use during muscle activity. But when myoglobin is poured into the bloodstream in large quantities, it can obstruct the kidney's filtration mechanisms, causing or aggravating renal failure. In the present case, there are at least two reasons for renal failure, direct traumatic injury to the kidneys due to flagellation, and urinary tract obstruction caused by myoglobin.

This is not an immediate cause of death; however, it weakens the organism and decreases its resilience. In any case, in the long run and even if the convicted person was released, it could cause his death after only a few weeks. Destruction of fat cells releases their fat content into the bloodstream, which can cause small fat embolisms throughout the body, with serious consequences that would endanger the condemned person's health and life.

If we look closely at some of the stains on the Shroud in the area of the right hemithorax, and on the Sudarium in the area near where the mouth and nose were located, watery-looking stains probably consisting of various other organic fluids other than blood appear, possibly being pleural fluid, pericardial fluid or a mixture of both.

The heart and lungs are very fragile vital organs, but they are also in constant motion. If they did not protect themselves in any way, the same heartbeat and breathing movements could cause friction damage to other organs, including bony structures such as ribs and vertebrae. To prevent this, the lungs are covered by two membranes called pleuras, and in the space limited by these membranes is an organic fluid, pleural fluid, whose main function, among others, is to serve as a lubricant and prevent friction of the lungs during respiratory movement.

Something similar occurs with the heart; it is lined with the pericardium, a membrane that protects it, containing another organic fluid, pericardial fluid, with a function similar to the previous case, namely to lubricate and prevent friction of the heart during heartbeats. In a healthy person, the total amount of these two fluids is very small; they perform their function with a few cubic centimeters. This amount, however, can increase for various reasons and sometimes very rapidly, such as in chest trauma. It is likely that, as a consequence of flagellation, the amount of pleural and pericardial fluid is significantly increased.

This circumstance, in principle, could be an advantage, since through physical mechanisms it would dissipate part of the kinetic energy of the blows of flagellation by partially reducing its harmful power: such is the reason why the convict's own body increased the amount of these body fluids. However, given the large amount of fluid in the Shroud and Sudarium, it can be assumed that the volume of pleural and pericardial fluid in the Man of the Shroud was much greater than what can be considered normal. And this, too, had serious consequences.

To produce these fluids, the body resorts to blood plasma, and the fluid thus removed is recovered later. This is not a problem for small amounts, but in this case the Man of the Shroud was already dehydrated and had suffered intense hemorrhaging, so the amount of circulating blood was already greatly reduced and perhaps in a situation bordering on normal. The accelerated production of pleural and pericardial fluids increased the levels of overall dehydration, also decreasing the volume of circulating blood: blood that also had serious functional problems, due to the rupture of cell membranes by red blood cells.

Finally, a large volume of pleural fluid decreases the efficiency of respiratory movements, since it does not allow the lungs to expand normally: this causes a certain degree of respiratory failure, which would complicate the other causes of asphyxiation that occurred in the case of the Man of the Shroud. Something similar happens with excess pericardial fluid: it compresses the heart and does not allow it to beat normally, especially since after each contraction or systole the heart dilates in the diastolic phase, which is why its ability to pump blood decreases, causing a certain degree of heart failure and further aggravating the situation.

From the above, it can be inferred that the scourging was not limited to a few blows to punish the condemned man and produce more or less intense pain. The pain was tremendous and the consequences, both immediate and long-term, terrible, endangering the condemned man's health and life. When they untied him once the chastisement of scourging was over, in fact, it was more than likely that he could not walk or even keep himself upright on his own, so he either fell to the ground, or needed immediate help to avoid it, and of course to be able to walk unaided took time. It is also likely that he fainted one or more times because of the physical pain and the immediate, mechanical and traumatic consequences of the scourging itself. It is very likely that the physical space in which the scourging occurred was abundantly sprinkled with blood, as were the executioners themselves. Certainly, the Man of the Shroud was completely covered with his own blood.

In both the shroud image and the stains of blood and other bodily fluids, there are obvious signs of death by suffocation. The presence of pulmonary edema fluid, as well as the forced position of the lower limbs, fixed by rigor mortis, together with the image of bleeding lesions of square morphology on the right wrist and feet are compatible with a crucifixion. In the same torture, nails instead of ropes were used to fasten the condemned man to the cross, so the process leading to death is faster, but for this reason it is not more humanitarian, since despite the rapidity, the pain and suffering are more acute and intense.

Death on the cross was not produced by the tedium of the condemned man, nor by unknown processes, but by asphyxiation. To understand this, it is sufficient to carry out a simple experiment: we invite the amiable reader to sit comfortably and place his arms stretched across his shoulders; they need not be in a very elevated position, just placed clearly over his shoulders. After a few minutes he will begin to feel uncomfortable, to notice that his breathing is difficult, shortly thereafter he will notice how his arms go numb as he feels an increasingly uncomfortable sensation. Then, muscle cramps and the feeling of breathlessness will come, until finally, no matter how much he wants to continue the experiment, he will end it, simply because his body refuses to continue suffering. And all this happened while the experimenter was comfortably seated and because that was his desire, something that certainly did not happen in the case of a person condemned to die on the cross.

This position on the cross prevents breathing movements from occurring normally, causing slow suffocation. It is likely that all of us, at some point in our lives, have experienced the sensation of shortness of breath during a short period of time, such as while swimming in a pool or on a sunny beach. This may give us an idea of what the Man of the Shroud might have experienced, although, of course, at a very small scale, it is not in fact the same as lasting a few seconds, or several hours in that situation.

Sticking the nails into the hands and feet also produced new anatomical injuries. In the case of the hands, the nails were inserted between the carpal bones, where their strong ligaments ensured that the condemned could not escape the cruel punishment. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the insertion of the nails, all is speculation, in any case new sources of intense pain were created, as well as new foci of bleeding. It is very likely that some of the nerves that pick up sensation in the hand and transmit from the brain the orders needed to move the intrinsic muscles of the hand itself were injured, and it is even possible that one or more tendons were also damaged. All these situations caused new foci of pain that must be added to all the others. And with an added consequence, should the condemned man's life have been spared, for the injuries would have caused disabling sequelae in the form of paralysis, chronic pain and problems moving wrists, hands and fingers, so that the condemned man would no longer have provided for himself to work, not even to dress, clean himself or feed himself without help. Whereupon, surely, he would cease to be a problem for the competent authority, since he would no longer be able to commit any "crime": but moreover, if no one then cared for him, he would be condemned to die for lack of care, attention and nourishment, since he would no longer be able to "earn his livelihood."

Regarding the wounds caused by the nails in the feet, the situation is similar; they are new foci of pain and bleeding, as well as probable sources of injury in the tendons and nerves of the feet themselves. In the present case, the nails appear to be located between the second and third metatarsals. Even if his life had been spared, therefore, he would not have been able to walk normally during his remaining time, let alone run: even keeping upright would have been extremely painful and complicated. In fact, he would have had chronic pain even sitting or lying down for the rest of his days.

Death by crucifixion is quite possibly the most refinely cruel torment invented by human beings, especially if the condemned man was nailed to the cross instead of being tied to it, since every breath could be obtained in exchange for extremely sharp pain and great physical exertion. The condemned man had to lean on his abused feet, force his arms sore from cramping, and rotate his wrists around the nails, so the pain was exacerbated and the injured nerves caused more terrible pain, to the point that he could lose consciousness with every breath.

This loss of consciousness was not a momentary relief to his suffering, for while he was motionless he could not breathe, so that the asphyxiation "woke" the condemned man up, forcing him to his chagrin to breathe again, in a painfully cruel spiral of suffering: breathing - pain - fainting - asphyxiation - recovery of consciousness - breathing, and so on. The condemned man probably stopped his breathing movements as much as possible, but this constituted only a small relief to his pain and suffering, at the cost of increasing the sensation of suffocation. On the one hand, he cannot breathe, his body refuses to suffer this unbearable pain, and on the other hand, the body also demands that he resume breathing, which temporarily distances him from death. Words are not enough to reflect this situation in all its harshness.

While all this was going on, as a consequence of the tremendous physical exertion, the condemned man, while naked or half-naked, and regardless of whether the temperature outside was cold or not, sweated profusely, losing even more body fluid and increasing his own dehydration. This, coupled with renewed bleeding every time his hands and feet moved on the nails, led the condemned man to suffer unbearable thirst, which could not be alleviated even if he was given water to drink, since he was losing fluid at a faster rate than he could replace it by drinking. Not to mention that it is possible that all this torment caused nausea and vomiting, making the situation even worse.

The condemned man not only had serious breathing problems, but was almost unable even to speak, and not only because his lips and tongue were extremely dehydrated, but because he lacked the physical strength to do so, his own asphyxiation and physical exhaustion prevented him from doing so.

The scourging injuries located in the shoulder area appear bruised: in fact, images compatible with the situation in which the condemned man carried a heavy burden on his shoulders with a rough texture, compatible with a roughly rough-hewn and unfinished log of wood, are visible on both shoulders. It is unlikely that he carried the full cross, even if he had been healthy and without having undergone the scourging he would not have been able to do so (we are talking about an approximate weight of between one hundred and twenty and one hundred and fifty kilograms), moreover, it was not the usual practice either. In general, the vertical crossbeam, called stipes by the Romans, was placed permanently at the place of execution: these were in fact crucifixions by judicial sentence, and not summary executions carried out immediately during a war conflict with prisoners. The condemned man carried only the horizontal crossbeam, called patibulum, weighing between thirty-five and fifty kilograms. Even so, this weight was too much for the Man of the Shroud, if we consider his already deteriorating physical condition. It is likely that this added weight on his shoulders, in conjunction with physical weakness, would have caused him to trip over any obstacle in the road, no matter how little it protruded, and in his state he would not have been able to maintain his balance. The fall was therefore assured, and at keeping his hands tied to the scaffold he could not minimize the consequences of said fall, causing himself new trauma that would be added to those already present, in the form of bruises to his knees and face. His head and face, moreover, would also have been affected by the combined effect of the blow and the consequent rebound between the ground and the scaffold that would hit on his shoulders, neck and head, so that his face, in turn, would have impacted against the ground with a demolishing effect, far greater than a strong punch delivered by a heavyweight boxer.

Of all the physical injuries that appear in the Shroud image, only one of them did not cause pain or suffering, and not because it was not serious, but because when it was produced the Man of the Shroud was already dead: we are referring to a deep wound to the right side of the chest, which has traditionally been attributed to the spear. In any case, it is a precise and deep wound, for through it not only cadaveric blood leaked out (in the rest of the wounds, blood was shed when the Man of the Shroud was still alive), but also other bodily fluids, such as pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, postmortem blood clots, and probably acute pulmonary edema fluid.

Whoever produced this injury did so with determination and dexterity, to the extent that there are no "verifying injuries," that is, it only took one attempt to achieve his goal, and he did so with such efficiency that he prevented the tip of the weapon from passing through any bone, opening the way by completely crossing the right hemithorax of the Man of the Shroud, that is, from the front to the back. The exit orifice is visible between the right side of the spine and the right scapula: cadaveric blood and other bodily fluids also leaked from this hole, as specified above. If this wound had not occurred probably as a "coup de grace" to ensure that the Man of the Shroud was dead, and not to confuse his immobility and lifeless posture with a loss of consciousness caused by asphyxiation, all these fluids would be inside the chest cavity and would not have leaked out, and we would not have the information that their presence provides.

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Jul 09, 2023

I wish links to the prior or other two articles were provided in this article. As noted, this is the THIRD article on this topic, following two others, but links to the others are not provided in the article. If they can be included in the article, it would be great and helpful. If needed, delete or edit this article, then re-post it with the links added in the article.


Jul 09, 2023

Your analysis and discussion of the Shroud, the injuries sustained, and the nature of crucifixion is reasonably comprehensive, concise, and excellent in all regards. Well done!

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