‘Saint Veronica’ holding the veil depicting the face of Jesus, by Hans Memling.

The Mysterious Veil of Veronica: Masterpiece or Miracle?

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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.

Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, Saint Symphorian church of Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France.

Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, Saint Symphorian church of Pfettisheim, Bas-Rhin, France. ( public domain )

Pope Benedict examines the Veil

Pope Benedict XVI himself even made a trip to a remote monastery in the mountains of Manoppello, Italy, to assess such a claim in 2006.  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.

Pope Benedict XVI looks at the Veronica`s Veil during a visit to the Saint Veil monastery in Manoppello, central Italy

Pope Benedict XVI looks at the Veronica`s Veil during a visit to the Saint Veil monastery in Manoppello, central Italy ( Times of Malta )

The Stations of the Cross

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.

Artist’s depiction of the fourteen stations of the cross, Portuguese Church, Kolkata

Artist’s depiction of the fourteen stations of the cross, Portuguese Church, Kolkata ( public domain )

Who is Veronica?

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.


Thank you AO for finally bringing this ‘article of faith’ to light. I have heard about this relic all my life, but had never seen pictures of it before. Now it is obvious why it has never been seen. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge in art history would recognize the image of a 12th or 13th century artists depiction of a face. A face which bears little if any resemblance whatsoever to the Shourd of Turin. Tha vatican is steeped in a history of relic forgeries and this appears to be just one more.

Can Paul Badde the famous ‘Vaticanist’ (whatever that is) explain how the cloth stuck to the eyeballs of the individual to create the image? And how about the teeth?  While there may be, and probably is, blood on the cloth, it is not beyond speculation that the artist used actual human blood to assist in creating the image on sea silk (byssus). The miraculous aspects of the cloth is actually the miraculous characteristics of the sea silk it was woven from. Not miraculous at all, just fascinating. Sea silk is and always has been the most expensive fabric obtainable. Only the very wealthy can/could afford it which is unlikely for a commoner like Veronica. But a wealthy institution like the Vatican could well afford it and the project of creating such an image upon it, through dying, bleaching and possibly even weaving.   

An actual scientific study of this cloth produced some interesting conculsions; one which points to it not being byssus at all, but linen.



Cudos to Ancient Origins for finally showing us what all the bruhaha was all about. Keep up the good work guys!




“And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth”

J.R.R.Tolkien in ‘Lord of the Rings’

Seems that progression was turned on its head where the Veil of Veronica is concerned. Myth became legend. Legend became history. Some things that should have been forgotten were not lost. Or, put another way, some things that were “found” should not have been remembered (as in ‘false folk memories’ etc).

However, there’s a possible link between the Veil of Veronica and the Shroud of Turin, one this Shroud-researcher stumbled upon and reported some 2 years ago.


It’s a motif on the recently discovered (2009) Machy mould for a variant of the Lirey Pilgrim’s badge, with a image of an arguably ‘Veronica-like’ disembodied face, clearly that of Jesus, directly above the word SUAIRE (a historical French alternative to “linceul”, i.e. shroud).

Machy is just a couple of kilometres as the bird flies across rolling Champage country from Lirey, each being tiny hamlets. The Machy mould (engraved stone used as cast with molten lead/tin alloy for a badge or medallion) has both similarities and differences with the better known Lirey Pilgrim’s Badge housed in a Paris museum. It’s the differences that are intriguing, ones that historian Ian Wilson has deliberated upon with considerable finesse in three consecutive BSTS Newsletters.

See his pdf monographs in No. 76,77and 78.

More later, should anyone be interested.

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