VATICAN CITY, AUG. 31, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will be the first Pope to visit the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello, home of what many believe is Veronica’s veil.
The Pope will visit the shrine Friday, arriving by helicopter to the small town in the Abruzzo region, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Rome.
The Holy Face is a veil of 17 by 24 centimeters (6.8 by 9.6 inches), with a controversial history.
According to an ancient legend from the apocryphal Acts of Pilate from the 6th century, a holy woman whose name was Veronica (“vera icona,” true icon), dried Christ’s face on the road to Calvary, and the image of his face was impressed onto the cloth.
As early as the 300s, there were documents which spoke of the existence of the veil, and reproductions of the veil have been found in fourth-century catacombs.
On the occasion of the first Holy Year in 1300, Veronica’s veil was publicly displayed and became one of the “Mirabilia Urbis”‘ (“wonders of the City”) for the pilgrims who visited Rome.
This is confirmed by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), in Canto XXXI of “Paradise” (Verses 103-111) in the “Divine Comedy.”
Traces of Veronica’s veil were lost in subsequent years until the Holy Year of 1600, when the veil was found in Manoppello.
Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, professor of iconography and Christian art history at the Gregorian University in Rome, studied the veil for 13 years and is the first scientist to say that it is Veronica’s veil.
According to historical studies mentioned by Father Pfeiffer, it is probable that the relic was stolen in 1608 during the re-structuring of St. Peter’s Basilica, carried out by Pope Paul V (1605-1621).
In 1618, Vatican archivist Giacomo Grimaldi made a list of objects of the old St. Peter’s Basilica, in which he speaks of the reliquary in which the veil was kept, specifying that the glass was broken.
Father Pfeiffer explains that in the lower margin of the veil of Manoppello, one can still see a small fragment of glass of the previous reliquary, which would demonstrate that it came from the Vatican.
According to a report written in 1646 by Capuchin Father Donato da Bomba, a woman by the name of Marzia Leonelli sold the veil in 1608 to Donato Antonio de Fabritiis to get her husband out of prison. She had supposedly received the veil as a wedding gift from her family.
Given that the relic was not in good condition, de Fabritiis gave it to the Capuchin Fathers of Manoppello in 1638.
Friar Remigio da Rapino cut off the veil’s borders and placed it between two walnut wood frames, which remain to this day.
Father Pfeiffer says that this version has few historical proofs.
Father Pfeiffer has collected the main artistic works of history that were inspired in Veronica’s Veil — until Paul V prohibited its reproduction, following the probable theft in the Vatican — and all seem to have as model the relic of Manoppello.
Father Pfeiffer explains that “[w]hen the different details are found together in one single image, the latter must have been the model for all the others. All the other paintings imitate a single model: the Veronica of Rome. For this reason, we can conclude that the Veil of Manoppello is no more than the original of the Veronica of Rome.”
Professor Donato Vittori, of the University of Bari, carried out an examination of the veil with ultra-violet rays in 1997, discovering that the fibers have no type of pigmentation.
On observing the relic with a microscope one discovers that it is not painted and that it is not woven with colored fibers.
Through sophisticated digital photographic techniques, it has been possible to confirm that the image is identical on both sides of the veil, as if it were a slide.
Iconographer Blandine Pascalis Shloemer has demonstrated that the image of the Holy Shroud of Turin is perfectly superimposed on the Holy Face of Manoppello, using more than ten points of reference.