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We present a remarkably interesting article of Dr. Villalaín from forensic medicine. Dr. Villaláin was a forensic Doctor of International prestige and a main researcher of the Shroud of Oviedo and the Sudarium of Oviedo. Due to its length, we will do it in several parts to facilitate its reading.

Prof. Dr. D. José Delfín VILLALAÍN BLANCO

Professor of Legal Medicine.


Given that rigidity is established progressively, the study of this, the level reached, characteristics and evolution can offer us elements that allow us to determine at what moment the syndonic image was produced.

The scientific researches, more and more abundant and of better level, that are currently carried out on the Shroud of Turin as well as on the Sudarium of Oviedo make it more and more probable that these cloths have been in contact with the corpse of Jesus. This is the main value of these relics.

Starting from this reality, we will proceed to the study of the presumed rigidity of the Man of the Shroud, using to complete and complement it not only the data provided by the Oviedo Sudarium, but also the data that tradition and the Gospels have transmitted to us about the death of Jesus.


In the books and monographs on the Shroud, the subject of the cadaveric rigidity is not usually dealt with, but only in passing and in a general way. Not even in those of medical character, but tacitly or implicitly, all the authors in the works and syndonic analyses, or simply on the image of the Shroud agree on the existence of an intense rigidity in the Man of the Shroud. All the authors, when describing the syndonic image, without referring to a cadaveric rigidity, describe it as muscular.

In general, the authors limit themselves to affirming that the Man of the Shroud presented "rigor mortis", as does, for example, Novelli, or they point out that he was in cadaveric rigidity (Stevenson, Habermans, Jackson et al., and many others); Royo Villanova specifically points out that "the medicolegal study of the Shroud of Turin... has verified the "rigor mortis" of the inert body of the Redeemer".

In the first medical studies made on the Shroud, the authors speak of tetanization. Le Bec refers to a state of tetanization of the whole body. Caminals, writes that the Man of the Shroud had the chest raised by asphyxiating tetany and retracted epigastrium. The same expression is used by Hynek and this author writes: "The excessive rigidity of the muscles, as presented in Enrie's photos, reminded me of a fact that I have been constantly verifying: as a consequence of the forced tension imposed on the muscles, mortal rigidity manifests itself immediately after the last breath". In another of his books he limits himself to saying that the image has "the typical mortal rigidity", although in another of them he analyzes rigidity in detail and compares it with his own testimonies and experiences. Siliato makes Antoine Legrand's phrase his own: "After death, the corpse immediately became extremely rigid".

The American anatomopathologist, Robert Bucklin, adds "that the body was definitely and obviously rigid and tense, the left leg shrunk in the position it had during crucifixion, having remained so fixed; due to the cadaveric rigidity, the head definitely bent forward", and, in another place: "The body appears to be in state of rigor mortis which is evidenced by an overall stiffness as web as specific alterations in the appearance of the lower extremities from the posterior aspects. The imprint of the right calf is much more distinct than that of the left leg was rotated in such a way that the sole of the left foot rested on the ventral surface of the right foot with resultant slinght flexion of the left knee. That position was maintained after rigor mortis had developed".

The experts in Forensic Medicine underline "the accentuated rigidity of the Man of the Shroud, characteristic of exceptionally fatiguing and painful deaths". Some authors add "with his head sunk into his chest, a typical trait of the crucified". According to Hynek "the cadaveric stiffness in crucified persons... was more pronounced in the upper extremities" and he attributed it to the strain of suspension.

A series of complementary stories in which dramatic situations of death and torture by hanging are recounted, shed much light on the mechanism of production.

Solé tells that in a lecture by Antoine Legran, an audience member named R. Gieser, a Luxembourger by nationality, who had been forcibly enlisted in the German army and then deported to the Dachau concentration camp, told of his experience in this concentration camp where he witnessed numerous deaths by hanging. Subsequently, P. G. Delory, a priest who had been in that camp, confirmed the account, as did two former Lager prisoners. In all these cases, he refers to copious sweating and fever of the tortured and concludes: "The condemned died with his head sunk into his chest, so far into the shoulder blades that it was almost at his level"... "the head fell forward on the axis of the body whose rigidity was extreme". These testimonies are completed by the accounts given by Hynek who witnessed, in the 1914-1918 war, the punishment by hanging, called aufbinden, which was applied to the Austro-Hungarian soldiers and which confirmed this symptomatology. These pictures are repeated in police interrogations in many countries where torture is not correctly measured and the death of the interrogated person follows.

The same criterion is maintained by Prof. Valdés, who limits himself to saying that "the Lord's body quickly entered postmortal rigidity", a postulate that is also taken up by Loring. Mario Cappi points out very sharply that the fixation of the body in the general semi-flexed posture demonstrates that it was dead and rigid when it was removed from the cross. Therefore, rigor mortis presented itself at a very early moment. This is what Barbet affirms when he points out that "when he dies he is instantly rigid. The rigidity must have been brutal, instantaneous, total in a single blow". For Hynek it was instantaneous, he compares it to that which occurs in deer harassed and subjected to excessive fatigue. Gedda, when calculating the stature, took into account the state of rigidity and wrote in this regard that "the thorax of Jesus was agitated, expanded, globular".

Siliato adds, regarding the cadaveric rigidity, that it is probable "that this prevented the gravediggers from placing the corpse with the arms along the hips, the only possible posture, given the sudden cadaveric rigidity of the body".

It is, therefore, according to our own observations and the unanimous criterion of a cadaveric rigidity, instantaneous or very precocious, that was complete when the body was taken down, intense and that had to be overcome to pick up the arms and to proceed to shroud it. This is a key phenomenon to determine the time elapsed from death to the moment when the image is produced.

Domínguez summarizes in a complete way the situation of rigidity in which the Man of the Shroud is found and says that the Syndonic Man presents an accentuated rigidity, typical, on the other hand, of the extremely fatiguing and painful deaths with dehydration and fever.

This rigidity is mainly characterized by:

The head is flexed forward and the nape of the neck is elevated and tense.

The sternocleidomastoid, trapezius and inspiratory muscles are rigid, as well as the deltoid.

The thorax is dilated, in forced inspiration.

The pectoralis major muscles are contracted and protruding.

The scapular musculature is contracted and attached to the ribs.

Epigastrium sunken and prominent hypogastrium.

Tense dorsolumbar muscles.

Accentuated lumbar lordosis.

Intensely marked buttocks, especially the right one.

Flexed legs, especially the right.

Left foot more hyperextended than the right.

Domínguez adds that the arms, on the other hand, do not present rigidity comparable to that of the rest of the body and were crossed over the pubis without excessive effort, unlike the legs, a subjective criterion, assessable because it comes from a doctor.

In synthesis: there is no doubt that the image of the Shroud reproduces a corpse in a state of intense rigidity. That this rigidity was produced, due to the morphology of the body, while it was still on the cross. That in order to place the hands of the corpse on the pubic area it was necessary to overcome this rigidity. That the rigidity was again implanted in the hands, arms and shoulders.

This being so, the existence of the implanted rigor mortis can guide us as to when the image was produced from the moment of death.


Porter states in his book, without citing sources or reasons, that Gilbert Lavois had suggested that the body of the crucified had been wrapped in the sheet for no more than two and a half hours after his death, as opposed to other authors such as Rodante, who calculated this period at thirty-six hours applying standard medicolegal calculations, a criterion copied by Benítez. Igartua, not detecting any putrefactive signs, marks a period of less than three or four days, although he points out that the corpse was not too long in the canvas that wrapped it; Manuela Corsini gives the figure of about thirty hours, without reaching forty, according to the vaporographic theories on the formation of the image that were considered valid at that time.


Undoubtedly it must be affirmed that he was. The signs provided by the shroud itself and the Gospel accounts are demonstrative. To try to prove the contrary is nothing but a stubbornness that has no serious scientific basis.

-1. According to the Shroud, this subject was a corpse. The mechanism of formation of the stains is incompatible with any possible respiratory movement and, moreover, it is demonstrated that there is postmortem blood.

-2. According to the Gospels there are numerous witnesses, some knowledgeable by trade of the death on the cross, others interested in the destruction of the Master. They witnessed the death: John, the soldiers,

the centurion, Joseph of Arimathea, the followers of Jesus present, the women, priests, pontiffs and Pharisees, personally or represented.

-According to the Shroud: In the cloth itself it has been demonstrated that the wound of the side had a postmortem character, The thrown one supposes a serious wound in the heart or at pleuropulmonary level; the hippocratic facies of the image is cadaveric; the body was in a situation of intense rigidity at all levels and in all regions; the thorax was in inspiration; the same position of arms and hands on pubis, immobile, after overcoming the rigidity, so indicates it to us; the lower limbs appear asymmetrical with the legs flexed, in a maintained anti-gravitational posture; the head flexed on the thorax and the latter on the abdomen, in a posture maintained against gravity; the belly outwards; the existence of vital and postmortem blood has been verified and, above all, the absolute stillness that the image presents, incompatible with any breath of life.

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