Ok it's Easter. I have a Cabinet of Curiosities and one of my prized items in it is a Veil of Veronica.
Those two things together seem like a good enough reason to talk about the Veil.
For those who don't know the Veil of Veronica is supposedly a piece of cloth that was used to wipe the
face of Jesus on his way to his crucifixion. The piece of cloth was then imprinted with the likeness of Jesus. This would make it a first class relic (in the absence of a body of Jesus anything relating to the Passion is a first class relic). The Veronica (as it is commonly known) is an example of acheiropoieta – an image not made by human hand. The Veronica is also know as the Sudarim and the word Veronica can be translated as "true image".
The tale of the imprinting is not in the Biblical Gospel stories but it is represented on the 6th of the
Stations of the Cross. The Veronica is said to be able to cure thirst, blindness and death.
So lets have a look at the history of the Veronica. In the 8th century Pope John VII built a Chapel of Veronica in St Peters. Some point to this as evidence that the Veronica was in the possession of the Pope at this time. Again the image is (possibly) mentioned in 1011 when a keeper of the cloth is listed as a role carried out by a priest at St Peters. Writings external to the Papacy first mention it in 1199. At the start of the thirteenth century Pope Innocent III displayed it publicly. In the 1500's the Veronica was listed by some as being destroyed when Rome was sacked. But some claim that it survived as it was never actually found as it was hidden in St Peters. Around this time there was a cottage industry in the manufacture of replica Veronicas. Eventually it was decreed, under pain of excommunication, that all replicas should be destroyed. And quite frankly that about wraps it up for the history of the Veronica. There are reports that it is still in St Peters housed in a pillar supporting the dome – it's easy to spot – it's the one with St Veronica on it. This Veronica has not been seen properly in public for one hundred years. It is paraded once a year on the 5th Sunday of Lent but at a distance where all that can be really made out is the frame. During the latter part of the nineteenth century replicas were created which were then touched to the original – making them third class relics themselves. There is even a photograph of it.
But this isn't the only claimant to be the real Veronica. There is however a great deal of confusion due to the many gaps in its history and the prevalence of replicas, including six that were commissioned in 1607. One of these is in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.
One claimant for the real deal is housed in the Monastery of the Holy Face in Alicante, Spain. This Veronica dates from at least 1453 and it arrived in Alicante in 1489.
We have a fourteenth century copy housed in Jaen, Spain along with a couple of others.
claimant to be the real cloth appeared in 1508 at Manopello in Italy. An anonymous pilgrim arrived with the Veronica and he presented it to someone outside the local church. Taking the package inside and opening it it was found to contain the (a?) Veronica. On rushing back out of the church it was found that the benefactor had simply vanished. Some claim that the pilgrim was an angel delivering the image to the church. This Veronica is on a fabric called byssus – this is made from the silky filaments molluscs use to anchor themselves to their rocks. This cloth is interesting as the image changes depending on how the light plays on it. Light shining through shows wounds whereas light reflecting shows no wounds.
So with the best will in the world - no one knows where the "real" Veronica is and the earliest mention of it seems to be from the 8th century. One problem is there is too much confusion - replica Veronica's, the Mandylion, the Shroud of Turin folded over, the Templars head worshipand a broken chain of evidence - all just muddy the waters.
This is just a whistle stop tour of some of the claimants to the throne. I've seen my own, I've seen the pillar containing it in St Peters but I haven't seen any of the others. Yet.