The Shroud of Turin: Perspectives on a Multifaceted Enigma


August 14 through August 17, 2008           Abstracts of Papers


Text Box:  
The Death of the Shroud Man: An Improved Review by Barbara Faccini (fccbbr@unife.it). Saturday, August 16, 2:15 p.m.–2:45 p.m. 

The death of the Man of the Turin Shroud (TSM) has been supposed for thousands of years, since the Shroud ap­peared in Lirey in 1356 A.D. In the second half of the last century, however, the hypotheses of the survival of the TSM have been formulated by Kurt Berna and re-examined by K. Herbst, H. Kersten, and E. Gruber in 1992 and, more re­cently, by H. Felzmann and Miguel Lorente (Felzmann 2002, 2005; Lorente 2007). They based their claim on mainly the opinion of the forensic pathologist professor W. Bonte from Düsseldorf, who proposed an apparent-death status for the TSM from his preliminary observations and conclusions on amount of blood, bloodstain patterns, and absence of rigor mortis. 

Most medical experts, however, agree that TSM was already dead when buried, because of the severity of injuries

and the presence of post-mortem stiffness as deducible from the characteristics of the double image (Barbet 1954; Baima Bollone 1992, 1994, 2000; Zugibe 2005). 

In 2000 Basso et al. published a study on the compatibility of the frontal and dorsal images with a real human body. A computerized manikin was moved in order to obtain the correspondence between its anthropometric points and that of the sheet. It resulted that both images are compatible with the wrapping of a man 175 + 2 cm tall having a position simi­lar to that of a crucified man. In particular the asymmetrical bending of knees, the unnatural bending of ankles leading to an almost flat position of the right footprint, and the absence of flattening in the buttocks area (typical of a lying subject) are only compatible with an extreme rigidity in a human body. Rigor mortis is universally considered as a sign of death. 

The severity of wounds and especially that of the chest is a reasonable proof of death. Bonte, looking at a small pho­tograph of the Shroud, interpreted the “considerable” amount of blood coming out of the spear wound as a sign of blood circulation activity not yet terminated in the grave, but he did not take note of the separation between the serum and the red blood cell rich part of the blood poured out from the chest. 

The shape of the wound is consistent with the damage of a sharp-pointed tool, and the consequent bleeding is ex­plained by the cutting of deep structures (lungs and eventually heart), with consequent entry of air in the pleural cavity, incompatible with life (Baima Bollone 1994). 

The trajectory of the spear has been experimentally traced by Coppini (1987), demonstrating how the point of the spear, penetrated between the IV° and V° rib, reached the right atrium of the heart after a route of only 8–10 cm. 

This kind of blow, probably inflicted as verification of death, is sufficient to guarantee the death of the TSM. The paper will enter in the details showing why it is reasonable to conclude that the TSM was enveloped as a corpse in the Shroud.



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