Ambrose Paré wrote in 1530 of a forty year old man with a headless parasitic body hanging ‘like a pendulum’ from his belly. He also wrote of a German man, ‘born the same year that peace was made with the Swiss and King Francis’ who had a parasitic head protruding from his abdomen. These accounts and the illustrations that accompanied them serve as the earliest confirmed documentation of an epigastric parasite. One can hypothesize that many mythologies – like the gods Vishnu (many arms) and Janus (two headed / many faced) resulted from the observation of human marvels born attached to a parasitic twin.
One of the most well documented cases of early parasitic twining is the case of Lazarus-Joannes Baptista Colloredo (pictured). The 17th century anatomist Bartholinus detailed the history of Lazarus-Joannes Baptista Colloredo quite diligently and personally observed the man for the purpose of documentation. Born in Genoa in 1617, Colloredo exhibited himself all over Europe because from his belly hung a parasitic twin that had one thigh, hands, body, arms, and even a well-formed head covered with hair. Lazarus was the name the complete twin was known by and his underdeveloped sibling was Joannes. It is highly unlikely that these were their giving names as Joannes Baptista translates to ‘John the Baptist’ in English. However, interestingly enough, it was the practice of the day to baptize both twins in a parasite or conjoined twin situation.
There were allegedly some faint signs that Joannes had some independent existence as movements of respiration were evident as were occasional rapid eye fluttering movements. The mouth of Joannes was said to be in a state of near constant salivation and Bartholinus himself wrote that he had seen the arms of Joannes move in response to stimuli. The genitals of Joannes were said to be ‘imperfect’ and it is unclear if any regular eliminations occurred.
Bartholinus first examined Colloredo when the twins were aged at twenty-two however he later amending his report when he was able to examine the twins in Scotland in 1642 just before they were to visit Charles I. Most accounts of the time described Lazarus as courteous and handsome man even with Joannes in tow and that must have been true because Bartholinus reported that Lazarus was married and the father of several children who were fully and admirably developed.
It is believed that Lazarus-Joannes Baptista Colloredo died in the mid 1640’s, however the exact date is unknown.