After decades studying Christ's death, Dr. Frederick Zugibe, proves wounds
in the hands indicated by the Shroud of Turin, and also matching the stigmata
of Padre Pio, Catalina Rivas, Francis, and the saints who bore the wounds,
would support the weight during crucifixion.
Original publication: June 11, 2002 By BOB BAIRD
For more than half a century, Rockland's chief medical examiner, Dr.
Frederick Zugibe, has applied the science he uses every day to study the
crucifixion of Christ and the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, which
many believe to be his burial cloth.
Zugibe, who held master's and doctoral degrees in anatomy before earning
his medical degree.
While doing the medical examiner's job since 1969 — which he describes
as identifying criminality and public health hazards — he has written extensively,
publishing numerous books and journal articles, and appeared in countless
television documentaries, including a recent one for The Learning Channel.
He has even gone so far as to involve his family in his experiments, which,
he says, disprove many conclusions reached by earlier students of Christ's
death. And, just recently, he traveled to Europe to deliver yet another
scholarly paper and to be honored in Fatima, the town in Portugal where
in 1917 three young children said they saw an apparition of the Virgin
As with knights of old, his honor came at the end of an adventure,
this one beginning in Paris.
Zugibe was there with his wife, Catherine, to address the International
Symposium on the Shroud of Turin. "I was able to show the result of my
experiments proving the palms of the hands will support the weight of the
body in crucifixion." For 50 years, conclusions to the contrary by Pierre
Barbet had been quoted over and over, taken as fact although he had not
supported them with experimentation, Zugibe says.
Zugibe, on the other hand, has gone so far as to crucify one of his
sons to study his respiration and the anatomical effects of hanging from
a cross, in the process proving asphyxiation was not the cause of death
in crucifixion. Of course, Thomas Zugibe, an attorney, wasn't nailed through
the hands and was uninjured.
Working with another son, Kevin, who is a mechanical engineer, Zugibe
was able to use sophisticated programmable instruments to show that the
forces exerted during crucifixion were less than Barbet theorized and that
the palms would withstand them. In fact, Zugibe says, a nail through a
particular point at the base of the palm would emerge in precisely the
spot shown on the Shroud of Turin. He saw proof of that once during an
autopsy of a stabbing victim who had a defensive wound that followed that
His conclusions, Zugibe says, were well-received in Paris, even though
they disproved the work of a highly regarded French expert.
After 33 years of autopsies and investigations at his office in Pomona,
Zugibe says, he's thinking about retirement. But at 74, he hasn't finished
his study of the crucifixion and shroud.
"I have my faith," he says, "but I push the religious out when I'm
experimenting," instead going wherever his science takes him. "If it matches
my faith, that's fine."