The Heresy of Three Nails: Triclavianism

A reader named Art Martin recently read my post: The Holy Nails of Christ – Where Did They Go? – and he brought my attention to the so-called heresy of Triclavianism (three-nail-ism), of which I knew nothing.


Allegedly, Triclavianism was the belief of the heretical Albigenses and Waldensians, who held that three nails were used to crucify Christ (2 in hands and 1 in feet), and that a Roman soldier pierced Christ on the left side.

The 19th century Anglican scholar George Stanley Faber claimed that Pope Innocent III (1160 or 1161 – 16 July 1216) declared this to be a heresy and maintained that four nails were used and Jesus was pierced on the right side. This fact has been repeated by others, but there is no evidence that Pope Innocent III did in fact declare “three nails” orTriclavianism to be a heretical belief.

There’s reason to believe that this is a Franciscan myth. St Francis had his side wound on the right side of his chest. Also, the stigmata of St Francis contained flesh nails in his hands and both feet – leading to the presumption that there were four nails. I recorded a video on this unusual aspect of St Francis’ stigmata as compared to St Pio’s stigmata. You can watch this video analysis here: Fleshy Nails inside the Stigmata of St Francis.

It’s a good thing Triclavianism not a real heresy, because St. Gregory Nazianzus spoke of three nails and most western crucifixes show three nails.

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