Many of us have taken the Passion and Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ more or less for granted. We have grown callous to its absolute Horror, Brutality and Terror via a too-easy familiarity with the accounts of the Four Gospels, which are lacking in specific detail and paint no definite picture (Remember that the writers of the Four Gospels assumed that readers of their Gospels would be intimately familiar with the Brutality of Crucifixion, and that the reader had probably witnessed one or more in their lifetime).
If a close member of our family had undergone such terrible treatment, we would be searching out every detail; therefore, it is only fitting that we search out every detail of the Death of the One Who Loves us more than life itself, so that we may more fully appreciate the vast extent and depth of His Love. At this culminating point of Human History, the smallest detail has Infinite Value.
Although no written record or corpse remains for us to examine, God Almighty has given us graphically detailed evidence of the Horrors and Brutality which His Son Jesus sustained in order to pay the price for our Redemption. He has also separately given Twentieth Century mankind the analytical tools and empirical data necessary to fully examine the multitude of evidence contained in the Holy Shroud.
Just as today's fathers treasure the testimonies of their sons' achievements, so too does God the Father treasure the achievement of His Son, culminating in His Victory over Sin, Death and Satan; and that testimony is found today in His Son's Holy Shroud, which He has preserved and protected through Wars, Fires and Natural Disasters for almost Two Thousand Years.
The History of the Holy Shroud, and the Terrible History of the Cross are discussed on separate pages. This page will concentrate on the Physical and Bodily Suffering of Jesus, and try to explain: how much He Suffered, in what way He Suffered, the quantity and quality of His Sufferings, and finally how much He wished to die for us.
This analysis can only serve to tearfully deepen our Love for our Beloved Savior.
Background Comments on the Shroud
(Note that in the positive image above, blood is seen as a dark image;
Several technical comments concerning the Holy Shroud are necessary in order for the reader to understand the analysis to be presented:
What does Scripture tell us about Jesus' Sufferings?
Not much! From Luke the Physician we know about Jesus' Agony in the Garden where he accurately reported "His sweat was like drops of Blood falling to the ground".
Otherwise we just have Non-Descriptive reference to His Beatings, Scourging and Crucifixion.
What does the Shroud tell us about Jesus' Sufferings?
A great deal more!
Analysis of the Facial Region
Perhaps the best place to start in examining the Horrible Injuries to Jesus is with His Head and Facial Injuries.
The bright white areas of the Negative Image are Blood, and are quite evident even in these reduced images; an example of this is the Number Three on His Forehead.
In order to help the reader more easily interpret these images, it should be noted that in the Photographic Imprint left by the Body everything is in Light and Shade, merging imperceptibly and without defined boundaries; whereas conversely, the marks of Blood produced by Direct Contact with the Shroud, have a far more precise and sharper outline.
Medical Doctors, skilled in Forensics and using Photographic Enlargements of the Shroud, have examined the Shroud in light of the Passion contained in Scripture, and came to the following conclusions regarding the Facial Injuries:
Analysis of the Dorsal (back) Region
Analysis of the Ventral (front) Region
What does Medical Science and Analysis
Christ Beaten with Sticks -
Wounds to the Face - Excoriation are to be found almost everywhere on the Face, but especially on the right side. This side is also deformed, as if there were Hematomes beneath the bleeding surfaces. The Two Superciliary Arches show those contused wounds which were caused by a blow with a fist or a stick. The most noticeable lesion consists of a broad triangular Excoriation below the Right Eye Socket. The base is ¾ of an inch long; the point is directed upwards and inwards, and joins another Excoriated area on the nose, about two-thirds of the way up. At this level the Nose is deformed by a Very Painful Fracture of the Posterior of the Cartilage, near to where it joins the Nasal Bone, which is intact. All these Painful Lesions seem to have been caused by a Stick about 1¾ inches in diameter, and vigorously handled by an Assailant standing at the right of Jesus. There are also Excoriation on the Left Cheek, at the end of the Nose and of the Lower Lip.
The Scourging - The instrument of torture was the Roman Flagrum, the thongs of which had Two Balls of Lead or a small bone, the "Talus" of a sheep, at some distance from their end. There are a myriad of marks like this on the Shroud. They are scattered over the whole body, from the Shoulders to the lower part of the Legs. Most of them are to be seen on the back portion which proves that Jesus was bound with His Face to the Column, with His Hands above Him, for there are no marks on the Forearms which are quite visible. These could not have failed to receive some blows, if they had been bound lower down. A considerable number of marks are however to be found on the Chest.
One must add that only those lashes have left a mark on the Shroud, which produced an Excoriation or a Contused Wound (i.e. bleeding wound). All those, which only caused Ecchymosis (a severe bruise), have left no mark on the Shroud. Altogether, can be counted more than 100, perhaps 120 Marks. This means, if there were Two Thongs, that Our Lord received about Sixty Strokes, not counting those possibly Tens and Hundreds of Lashes which left no bloody mark.
All the wounds have the same shape, like a little Halter about Three Centimeters Long. The Two Circles represent the Balls of Lead, while the line joining them is the mark of the Thong.
They are nearly in pairs of Two Parallel Wounds, which makes one think that each Flagrum had Two Thongs, and they are laid out in the form of a Fan, the center of which would be the Torturer's hand. On the Thorax they are oblique, horizontal on the Loins, and oblique once more on the Legs. At this level, one can see in the Frontal Image, long oblique furrows (similar to the halter-like wounds at the Back), that must have been produced by the ends of the Thongs. Having struck the Calves of the Legs with their leaden balls, they have wrapped around the outer edge of the Leg and lashed the front with their points.
We may assume that during the Scourging, Our Lord was completely naked (as was Roman Custom), for the wounds are to be seen all over the Pelvic Region, which would otherwise have been protected by the Loincloth; and they are as deep as the rest of the Body. There must have been Two Torturers. It is possible that They were not of the same height because the obliqueness of the lashes is not the same on each side. They alternated Their strokes. At first, the strokes left long livid marks, long blue bruises beneath the skin. Remember that the skin had already been weakened; i.e. it is Sore and Painful due to the many little Hemorrhages caused by the Sweat of Blood in the Garden. Further marks are made by the Balls of Lead. Then the skin, into which the blood has crept, becomes tender and breaks under fresh blows. The blood pours out; shreds of skin become detached and hang down. The whole of the back is now no more than a red surface, on which great furrows stand out like marble; and, here and there, everywhere, there are deeper wounds caused by Balls of Lead. These wounds are what you see on the Shroud.
At each stroke, the Body gives a painful shudder. But He has not opened His Mouth, and His silence redoubles the Satanic Rage of His Torturers. It is no longer a cold-blooded, judicial execution; it is the unchaining of Demons. The Blood flows from His Shoulders down to the earth, and it is scattered like rain by the whips as far as the red cloaks of the onlookers. But the strength of the Victim soon begins to fail; sweat breaks out on His Forehead; His Head whirls with Giddiness and Nausea; Shivers run down His Spine; His Legs give way under Him, and if He was not tied up by His Wrists, He would slip down into the pool of His own Blood. They have completed the count, even though they have not counted. After all, they have not received the order that He would Die under the Lash. Let Him recover a bit; there will be further chances for amusement.
The Crowning with Thorns - Saint Matthew and Saint John say that the Crown was a sort of cap made of thorny branches, and not just some kind of band. It is generally thought that they belong to thorn-bearing tree which is common in Judea, the Sisyphus Spina Christi. It is probable that there was a heap of its branches in the Praetorium, used for firing by the Romans. Its thorns are long and very sharp. The Scalp bleeds very easily and very vigorously, and as this cap was driven against the Head by blows with a stick, the wounds caused much Loss of Blood, as can be seen from both the front and back views of the Shroud. Such a Crown would have wounded the whole surface of the Cranium, and also the Forehead. Saint Vincent counts Seventy Wounds to the Scalp.
The Thorns dig into the Scalp and it bleeds. The top of the Head is already clotted with Blood; long streams of Blood have flown down to the Forehead, and have soaked into the tangled hair and into the beard. Each soldier in turn comes forward and bows in mock adoration to Him, followed by a blow to the Head with a Rod: "Hail King of the Jews". But He answers nothing. His poor Face, so ravaged and pale, displays no movement. In their exasperation they spit in His Face. Then fresh Blows on the Crown of Thorns, which makes it sink painfully deeper. Suddenly a Vicious Blow from a Stick delivered from the side which makes a Horrible Bruise on His Face, breaking the Septum of His fine well-shaped Nose. The Blood is flowing from His Nostrils. Oh, my God, this is enough!
The Carrying of the Cross - The soldiers tear the purple robe from Him, which has already stuck to His Wounds. The Blood starts to flow once more; He gives a great shudder. They replace His own clothes, which become stained with red. The Cross is ready, they place It on His Shoulders. By what Miracle of Strength does He remain standing beneath Its burden? It is not in fact, the whole Cross, but only the great horizontal beam, which He must carry to Golgotha, but still It weighs nearly 125 pounds. The vertical is already planted on Calvary.
There are on the Shroud clear traces of Excoriation on the Back and the Knees. The Right Knee seems to be more contused, and shows in the region of the Patella a number of Excoriation which vary in size and shape, and have jagged edges. A little above and on the outer side, there are Two Round Wounds, about a Centimeter in Diameter. The Left Knee also shows various contused wounds, but they are less evident and less numerous.
Christ Falls on the Way to Calvary -
It is specially in the Dorsal Image of the Shroud that we find marks of the Carrying of Cross. On the Right Shoulder, in the outer part of the Sub-Scapular Region, there is a broad Excoriation area, which is in the form of a rectangle of about 10 x 9 Centimeters. One can also see in the Frontal Image that this area extends forwards into the outer Clavicular Region with broad patches of Excoriation. The area at the back seems to be made up of an accumulation of Excoriation. They are superimposed on the numerous wounds of the Flagellation, which seem to be as if it were bruised and widened by them, when compared with those along side them. It would appear that some Weighty Body, and one with a furrowed surface and loosely fastened, must have lain on this Shoulder and have Bruised, Reopened and Widened the Wounds of the Scourging.
Jesus Painfully puts one foot before the other, and He often falls. He falls to His Knees which are soon all raw. The soldiers who form the escort lift Him up, and are not too Brutal about it, for they feel He might easily Die on the way. His Shoulders are covered with raw places, which open up again, and get larger and deeper with each step He takes. He is worn out. On His seamless coat there is a large patch of Blood which gets even larger till it reaches right down His Back. He falls again and this time at full length; the Beam falls off Him; will He be able to get up again? Luckily at this moment one Simon of Cyrene passes by. The soldiers make him carry the Cross the rest of the way. There is at last only the slope of Golgotha to be climbed, and they make their painful way to the top of the hill. Jesus sinks to the ground and the Crucifixion begins.
Wounds to the Hands - The Nails in Jesus' Hands were driven into an area of the wrist called Destot's Space, which is situated between the Two Rows of Bones of the Wrist. Destot's Space contains an Anatomical Passage, i.e. a natural road along which the nail passes without resistance and where it is held solidly in place by the Bones of the Wrist, which are themselves held in place by an array of strong Ligaments. Medical doctors have experimentally proven that this is the only area strong enough to support the weight of a man. Experiments have also shown that a nail driven into this area will not break any bones, thus confirming what is said in Scripture: "Not one of His bones will be broken".
Note the profusion of blood in the wrist area,
The effusion of Blood would be minimal, as the Nail would damage no major artery. This naturally occurring spot coincides exactly with the stains of the Shroud.
Damage would be done however to the Trunk of the Median Nerve, which has been verified repeatedly during experimentation. The Median Nerve is composed of both Motor Nerves and Sensory Nerves, causing Jesus Unbearable Pain every time He moved, during His Three Hours on the Cross.
Damage to the Motor Nerves would cause Jesus' Thumbs to contract Violently into the Palms of His Hands and become rigidly fixed in this position, which is why the Shroud only shows the Four Fingers of His Hands.
Notice the Two Flows of Blood issuing downward from the Wrist, with an angular difference of about 25 Degrees. This was caused by Jesus' constant struggle with Asphyxia and Violent Cramps during His Three Hours on the Cross. As He struggled to raise Himself from a slumped position on the Cross, in order to be able to breathe and to relieve His Terrible Cramps, the Flow of Blood was diverted these 25 Degrees. The Median Nerve would then be agitated by His Struggle, causing such Excruciating Pain as to cause Jesus to faint for Short Periods of Time, hastening the oncome of more Asphyxia in His Three Hour battle to stay alive, until all had been accomplished.
Wounds to the Feet- Similar findings were made concerning the feet. There was One Hole piercing the Two Feet crossed one over the other, through the Second Intermetatarsal spaces, with the Right Foot against the Cross and the Left Foot in front. As with the Hand, this route of the Nail would not break any bones, and bleeding would be minimal until the Nail was removed. Nailing of the Feet to the Cross served no purpose in supporting the weight of Jesus; it served only to keep the Legs in place. Since the Jewish authorities wanted Jesus Dead and His Body removed before Sundown of Passover, He was Crucified in a manner so as to hasten His Death by Asphyxia.
The Crucifixion - For Jesus, the raised position of the arms on the Cross entailed a relative immobility of the Sides, and thus greatly hindered exhaling; consequently He had the resulting sensation of Progressive Suffocation. The Heart has to work harder; its beats grow Faster and Weaker. There then follows a kind of Stagnation in all the Vessels of the Body. And as Oxygenation is not properly produced in the Lungs, which are not working sufficiently, the additional burden of Carbonic Acid provokes an excitation of the Muscular Fibers. In consequence after a certain time, Violent Contractions of all the muscles are seen to appear, which end in a Permanent State of Contraction and of Rigidity in the Contraction of the Muscles. This is what is usually called Cramps. Everyone knows how Painful Cramps can be, and how they can only be stopped by pulling the afflicted limb in the opposite direction to the contracted muscles. On the Cross, these Cramps began in the Forearm, then in the Arm, and spread to the Lower Limbs and to the Trunk. The great muscles which produce breathing, the great Pectorals and the Stemocleidomastoids and the Diaphragm are invaded. The result is that the lungs are filled with air, but are unable to expel it. The Exhaling Muscles, which are also contracted, are weaker than the Inhaling (under normal conditions, exhaling is done almost automatically and without muscular effort, owing to the elasticity of the lungs and of the Thoracic Framework). The Lungs being thus caught in a State of Forced Inhalation and unable to empty themselves, the normal Oxygenation of the circulating blood is unable to take place and Asphyxiation begins in the Victim, as thoroughly as if He was being strangled. How then could Jesus escape, for the moment, from these Excruciating Cramps and this Asphyxia? This could only be done by using His Two Feet, which were nailed to the Cross, as a Fulcrum, so as to lift His Body and bring His Arms, which dropped from 90 Degrees to 65 Degrees, back to the 90 Degree horizontal position. The weight on the Hands would be greatly reduced; the Cramps would be lessened and the Asphyxia would disappear for the moment, through the renewal of the breathing process. Then, the Fatigue of the Lower Limbs would supervene, which would force Jesus to drop again, and bring on a fresh attack of Asphyxia. Jesus' Three Hours of Agony on the Cross was spent in an alternation of sagging and then of straightening His Body; of Asphyxia, and of Respiration. The whole process was complicated severely by the Excruciating Pain from the Damaged Median Nerve of His Hands every time He moved in any way, and also by the Violent Thirst due to Loss of Blood and Profuse Sweats during His Agony. One can readily see that the exhausted Jesus would not be able to prolong this struggle for long. And then, if in His Supreme Wisdom He considered that all had been accomplished and the time had come to Die - "It is finished!"- He could easily do so by putting Himself in His Father's Hands.
It is evident with what Serene Self-Control, with what Supreme Dignity, He dominated this Passion which was foreseen and Willed by Himself. He Died because He Willed It, when He was able to say to Himself in a State of Full Consciousness: "It is consummated", My task is accomplished. He Died in the way that He Willed.
Piercing of Christ's Side by Longinus, &
Wound to the Heart - It has been confirmed by extensive experimentation that the blow of the Lance, which was given to the Right Side of Jesus, reached the Right Auricle of the Heart, perforating the Pericardium. "But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His Legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened His Side, and immediately there came out Blood and Water". (John 19:33-34). The Body of one who had been Executed could be legally delivered to the Family, but only after the Executioner made sure the Body was Dead. This action which seems so strange was merely the carrying out of a Legal Regulation.
Your Heart, poor Jesus, was compressed by this Liquid, and apart from all Your other Sufferings, You had the Agonizing Cruel Pain of Your Heart being held as if in a vice. Was it so that we should know this; that this soldier performed this odd aggressive act? The Jews might also have made out that You were not Dead, but have fainted; Your Resurrection needed this Testimony. Thank you, soldier; thank you, Longinus; one day to come, you would be privileged by God to Die a Christian Martyr.
Conclusion - And now let us thank God. All these Terrible Pains that we have just lived in Him, were forseen by Him all through His Life; He Premeditated Them and Willed Them, out of His Love, so that He might Redeem us from our Sins. He directed the whole of HisPassion without avoiding One Torture, accepting the Physiological Consequences, without being dominated by them. He Died When and How and Because He Willed It.
Jesus is in Agony till the end of time, by virtue of His Sacred Heart. It is Right, it is Good to Suffer with Him, and to thank Him, when He sends us Pain, to associate ourselves with His. We have, as Saint Paul writes, to complete what is lacking in the Passion of Christ, and with Mary, His mother and our mother, to accept our Suffering Fraternally and with Joy.
You Who had no pity on Yourself,
You Who are God,
have pity on me a sinner.