Veil of Veronica

The Turin Shroud is not the only ancient artifact claiming to show a mysterious imprint of Christ’s facial features. A prominent Christian legend tells of a mythical, linen veil which also inexplicably shows the face of Jesus. It is a cloth said to have miraculous healing powers and supernatural qualities. Similar to the Turin Shroud it is also a source of controversy. Although, there is more to the veil than just what caused the image. The Vatican has claimed that it has been holding the cloth in its archive since the twelfth century, but in the late 1990s, an expert in Christian art history said he located the real veil hidden in a remote Italian abbey.

When Christ was carrying his cross through Jerusalem on the way to being crucified at Cavalry, a woman stepped towards him and used her veil to wipe the sweat and blood from His face. As a sign of gratitude, he left an image of his likeness stained on the cloth. Although, this event is not recorded in the scriptures, legend states that the woman’s name was Veronica. It’s understood that she kept the cloth and eventually realized its innate holy healing powers. She took the veil to Rome where she used it to cure the Emperor Tiberius of a malady, where she left it in the care of Pope Clement and the Catholic Church.

Historical records show that the veil was in Rome from at least the fourth century. In 1297, it was placed in the Vatican Basilica and was the subject of worship from pilgrims who believed the picture was indeed the genuine likeness of Christ. The image itself was almost identical to the face seen on the Turin Shroud. In 1608, the area of the Basilica displaying the veil was demolished in order to be redesigned, and the cloth was placed in the Vatican’s archives. Under tight security, it was brought out once a year for public viewing.

On June 3 1999, a professor of Christian art history at the Vatican’s Gregorian university, and official advisor to the Papal Commission for the Cultural History of the Church, revealed he had successfully completed a 13-year hunt to locate the real Veil of Veronica. A German Jesuit, Heinrich Pfeiffer explained that the artefact annually displayed was merely a copy that the Vatican had created so as not to disappoint pilgrims.

He claimed to have actually discovered the true relic in an abbey in the tiny village of Monopello, high in the Italian Apennine mountains. Records in the village’s monastery revealed that the wife of a jailed soldier stole the veil in 1608, and sold it to a Monopellan nobleman to release her husband from prison. The nobleman gave it to the abbey’s Capuchin monks, who have kept it in the monastery and have worshipped it as a sacred icon ever since.

The veil Pfeiffer found is an almost transparent cloth 6.7 inches wide and 9.4 inches long. The dark red image on it depicts a bearded man with long hair and open eyes. The picture seems to appear and disappear in different light – a trait which would have been viewed as supernatural in more ignorant times. Pfeiffer also revealed that ultraviolet testing confirmed that veil the image was not created by paint, and the image has been infused identically on both sides.

As usual, skeptics are not convinced. They state that the extremely thin nature of the cloth allowed the image to seep through to be the same one each side. Many folks believe the similarities between the veil and the Turin Shroud occur because the veil was a deliberate copy of the larger cloth. They also pointed out the fact that Veronica’s meeting with Christ has never been historically documented, and her name itself is a work of fiction – being an amalgamation of the Latin words for ‘true image’, or ‘vera-icon’.

The only true scientific way of determining the age of the cloth is through carbon dating. However, due to its brittle and delicate nature, it has a high possibility of irreparable damage during such tests. For Heinrich Pfeiffer, there is no doubt about the validity and authenticity of the veil, and he is thoroughly convinced that his find is the true artifact.