Saint Veronica is known as the woman who offered a cloth to Jesus so He could wipe His face on the way to His crucifixion. The cloth is believed to exist today in the Vatican and is considered one of the most treasured relics of the Church.
Saint Veronica is not mentioned in the Bible, but is known to us by Catholic tradition and in the Sixth Station of the Cross, "Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus."
Legend states that as Christ was walking to Calvary, his face dripping with sweat and blood, Saint Veronica, a bystander, was moved with compassion. She approached Jesus and offered Him a cloth, likely her veil, which He accepted and used to wipe His face.
The image of his face was subsequently imprinted on the cloth.
There are no legends from the period which speak of Veronica either before or after her act of compassion. We do not know when she was born or when she died. She is literally lost to history. However, the cloth may still exist today, kept safe at St. Peter's in Rome.
This particular cloth bearing the likeness of Christ's face, although ancient and difficult to distinguish, is considered one of the most treasured relics in the Vatican. According to legend, it is the original relic, although throughout the ages many copies were created and some were passed along as genuine.
Most of what we know about the veil was recorded in the medieval period, although it was first mentioned as being in the hands of Pope John VII in the early eighth century. The veil and the legend surrounding it became very popular in the thirteenth though fifteenth centuries when the veil was on public display. Indulgences were granted for people who performed devotions before it.
The fate of the veil was obscured by violence in 1527 by the Sack of Rome in which it may have been destroyed. Many reproductions were created at this time, and it is unfortunately unclear if the veil still kept by the Vatican is the original or a reproduction.
In 1616, Pope Paul V banned the production of all copies of the veil, which has become popular. In 1629, Pope Urban VIII went a step further and ordered the destruction of all copies, or that existing copies should be delivered to the Vatican. Anyone who disobeyed this order was to be excommunicated.
The Veil of Veronica has since been kept from the public and rarely has been seen since. There are six known copies in the world, and there is one kept in St. Peter's basilica which is allegedly the same one from the Medieval period. If true, then it is possible this is the original relic. None of these relics have been photographed in detail or have been subjected to forensic testing.
The relic is kept in a frame, cut to match the outline of the original image on the cloth.
The Vatican's relic is displayed, although briefly, on the 5th Sunday of Lent each year. According to those who have seen the relic up close, there is minimal detail.
As for Saint Veronica, she is honored with a feast on July 12. Her icons show a woman holding a cloth upon which the face of Christ is imprinted. She is the patron of laundry workers and photographers.
The womanof Jerusalemwho wiped the face of Christwith a veil while he was on the way to Calvary. According to tradition, the cloth was imprinted with the image of Christ's face." Unfortunately, there is no historical evidence or scriptural reference to this event, but the legend of Veronica became one of the most popular in Christianlore and the veil one of the beloved relicsin the Church. According to legend, Veronica bore the relic away from the Holy Land, and used it to cure an Emperorof some illness. The veil was subsequently seen in Romein the eighth century, and was translated to St. Peter's in 1297 by command of Pope Boniface VIII. Nothing is known about Veronica, although the apocryphal Acts of Pilate identify her with the womanmentioned in the Gospel of Matthewwho suffered from an issue of blood. Her name is probably derived from Veronica , as was reported by Giraldus Cambrensis. The term was thus a convenient appellation to denote the genuine relic of Veronica's veil and so differentiate from the other similar relics, such as those kept in Milan. The relic is still preserved in St. Peter's, and the memoryof Veronica's act of charityis commemorated in the Stations of the Cross. While she is not included in the Roman Martyrology, she is honored with a feast day. Her symbol is the veil bearing the face of Christand the Crown of Thorns.
According to the Catholic Stations of the Cross, there was once a woman who wiped the sweat and blood from the face of Jesus Christ with a cloth as he endured the torturous walk carrying his own cross to Calvary. This woman is portrayed in the Sixth Station out of the complete Fourteen, which is entitled ‘Veronica Wiping the Face of Jesus’. Legend tells the rest of the story as a miraculous one. Some believe that Christ's sweat, having left an imprint of his face on the cloth, transferred healing properties into its fabric. Others have insisted over time to have laid their hands on the relic itself, (with some actual claims of being witness to its healing power), or to have been in possession of a replica.
Most recent claims have come from the small town of Madisonville, Tennessee, where a replicated painting of the piece, having been lost for 150 years, was stolen from a mobile home and later taken to St. Joseph the Worker Church. The history of this event, the veil itself, and subsequent related artistic pieces are the subjects of numerous archival and scholarly works, which have been examined with scrutiny over time.
It is noteworthy that Veronica and the veil are well-established elements in the Stations of the Cross, (a practice of the Catholic Church developed as symbol of the original pilgrimages made by early Christians in representation of Jesus' excruciating voyage to Golgotha. The fourteen Stations are considered to exemplify the most prominent events of this journey, which are remembered in prayer and meditation by the devout as they pass each one), and it is said to be near the time of these early pilgrimages that her event's inclusion in the Stations took place. Some speculate modernized representations occurred alongside the ensuing practice of many such participants creating shrines from pieces brought home from the pilgrimages, such as oils from lamps burning near Christ's tomb and other memorabilia considered by some as souvenirs from the trip.
Although the specific incident with the veil has no mention in the Bible, it has been compared in the Acts of Pilate (an apocryphal piece also named the 'Gospel of Nicodemus') to a woman noted throughout the New Testament gospels as having touched Jesus' robes and been instantly healed of a bleeding malady (Mark 5:24-34; Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56). The Acts of Pilate are widely believed to be the records of Pontius Pilate himself (the Roman governor of Judea said to be responsible for Christ's crucifixion), written during the time of his governorship. However, it has been noted by scholars that the records are composed with strange irregularity in style and structure, as if written by numerous persons rather than just one. Such irregularities have prompted some to question the authenticity of these documents.
Some curiosity has also arisen due to the use of the name Veronica. Translated from Latin, the terms "Vera", meaning "clear or true," and "Icona," (or the Greek "Eikon"), meaning "image," together form the name "Veronica," or "True Image." Yet the name Veronica has been attributed both to the woman who wiped Christ's face and additionally in early Christian history to the gospel story of the woman's touching/healing by Jesus' robes (also called 'Bernice' or 'Berenice', meaning 'bearing victory', in Greek versions), as if they are the same person. The Acts of Pilate is thought to be the first occasion of the use of the name; in Chapter VII of the piece is mentioned, "And a certain woman named Bernice (Veronica in the Latin) crying out from afar off said: ‘I had an issue of blood and touched the hem of His garment and the flowing of my blood was stayed which I had twelve years.’ While some felt at this time that it was possible the two stories could be about the same woman, there is no mention of her name or her wiping of his face in the gospel narratives.
In 680 A.D., however, the connection is clearly made for the first time in the writing of The Avenging of the Savior, also called The Cure of the Emperor Tiberius, where Veronica is mentioned both as the bleeding woman healed by Jesus' robes and the one who later wiped his face. This connection, as well assertions of the veil's healing of the Emperor Tiberius of leprosy (and many others also present with him who were suffering from various disorders and maladies), was established in several passages within this work.
The most recent discussion of the replica in Tennessee came to be after the theft of the item from a mobile home belonging to a man known only as "Frosty". The thief, named Kelly Ghormley, was said to have stolen the piece from 73-year-old Frosty's home, later taking it to the nearby St. Joseph the Worker Church in an endeavor to sell it to them. The church notified the authorities after assessing the authenticity of the cloth, subsequently interviewing Frosty himself, who claimed the item had been in his home cupboard for seventeen years and he had no idea how it originally came to be there. The painting, considered by the church to be one of a rare few made based on the original veil, was said to be blessed by Pope Leo XIII.
There are several remarkable traits attributed to the piece the Pope examined in Manoppello, a piece believed by many to be the relic stolen from the Vatican Basilica in 1608. The image on the veil shows up identically on both sides of the cloth itself, which is stated as a characteristic impossible to have been created using any of the ancient means of the time. According to a Vatanicanist for Germany's Die Welt named Paul Badde, the fabric's image was not painted, as the fabric itself is of a very rare fiber called 'byssus', upon which no one can possibly paint. Badde insists the piece is authentic and is, in fact, the original Veronica's Veil, and thus - the actual face of Christ.
The University of Bari's Professor Donato Vittore examined the piece using ultraviolet light and found the image to have flecks of a reddish brown substance which definitely is not paint, and in fact was created using an unidentified substance - which some speculate may have been the blood drops caused by Christ's wearing of the crown of thorns. Others have compared the piece to the renowned Shroud of Turin, considered by millions to be the authentic burial cloth used to wrap Christ's body, and found similarities in face shape, hair length and other identifying features of the beard and forehead.
Arguably the most fascinating aspect of the piece at Manoppello is the fact that the image becomes invisible when held at a certain angle by the viewer. This trait is a rare one throughout history as well, and was once considered miraculous in ancient times. German Jesuit Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, a professor of Christian Art History, maintains, "There are few such objects in history. This is not a painting. We don't know what the material is that shapes the image, but it is the color of blood."
Although Pope XVI did make the trip in 2006 to Manoppello in order to view this piece in person, he did not make any claims as to his opinion on its authenticity. Instead, he made reference to the symbolic and ongoing search all Christians should make in relationship to their savior, Jesus Christ. The Pope stated at the time, "Searching for the face of Christ must be the desire of all Christians."
Although many skeptics remain amidst the scholarly developments and church writings, the exciting discoveries appear to be ongoing regarding the mysterious Veil of Veronica.