story of Veronica and her veil does not, in fact, occur in the Bible, though the
apocryphal "Acts of Pilate" gives this name to the woman with a blood
flow who was cured by touching the hem of Jesus' cloak. Critics of the incidents
historicity point to the very name of the saint: "Veronica"
is a combination of Latin and Greek words meaning "true image."
Nonetheless, the story has been a part of popular Christian culture for centuries,
including a brief scene in Zefferelli's "Jesus of Nazareth."
almost transparent veil measures about 6.5 x 9.5 inches and bears dark red features
of a bearded man with long hair and open eyes. The legend holds that Jesus rewarded
Veronica's charity in wiping the sweat from his brow by imprinting his image into
the cloth. The image on the Monoppello cloth becomes invisible depending on the
angle from which the cloth is viewed.
"The fact that the face appears
and disappears according to where the light comes from was considered a miracle
in itself in medieval times," noted Pfeiffer. "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."
examinations of the cloth, carried out by Prof. Donato Vittore of the University
of Bari, confirm that the image is not paint. Particularly noteworthy are several
small flecks of reddish brown -- presumably drops of blood from the wounds caused
by the crown of thorns.
Enlarged digital photographs of the veil reveal
that the image is identical on both sides of the cloth -- a feat impossible to
achieve by ancient techniques. These photographs have also been used to compare
the veil with the face on the Shroud of Turin, which millions of Christians believe
to be Jesus' burial sheet. Striking similarities were apparent: the faces are
the same shape, both have shoulder-length hair with a tuft on the forehead, and
the beards match.
of a Relic
records the existence of this relic from the fourth century, but only from the
Middle Ages was it strongly linked to the Passion of Christ. From the 12th century
until 1608, it was kept in the Vatican Basilica as a popular goal of pilgrims,
mentioned in Canto XXXI of Dante's "Paradise." When the part of the
Basilica containing the relic was scheduled to be torn down for remodeling, the
relic disappeared overnight.
According to records in the monastery, the wife
of a soldier sold the veil to a nobleman of Monoppello in 1608 to get her husband
out of jail. The nobleman, it turn, donated it to the Capuchins. In 1618, it was
placed in a walnut frame adorned in silver and gold between two sheets of glass.
It remained in the monastery every since. Fr. Pfeiffer invested 13 years of searching
through archives to prove that this is the same cloth that disappeared in 1608.