Feast Day of St. Veronica
Saint Veronica is known as the woman who offered a cloth to Jesus so He could wipe His face on the way to His crucifixion. The cloth is believed to exist today in the Vatican and is considered one of the most treasured relics of the Church.
Saint Veronica is not mentioned in the Bible, but is known to us by Catholic tradition and in the Sixth Station of the Cross, “Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.”
Legend states that as Christ was walking to Calvary, his face dripping with sweat and blood, Saint Veronica, a bystander, was moved with compassion. She approached Jesus and offered Him a cloth, likely her veil, which He accepted and used to wipe His face.
The image of his face was subsequently imprinted on the cloth.
There are no legends from the period which speak of Veronica either before or after her act of compassion. We do not know when she was born or when she died. She is literally lost to history. However, the cloth may still exist today, kept safe at St. Peter’s in Rome.
This particular cloth bearing the likeness of Christ’s face, although ancient and difficult to distinguish, is considered one of the most treasured relics in the Vatican. According to legend, it is the original relic, although throughout the ages many copies were created and some were passed along as genuine.
Most of what we know about the veil was recorded in the medieval period, although it was first mentioned as being in the hands of Pope John VII in the early eighth century. The veil and the legend surrounding it became very popular in the thirteenth though fifteenth centuries when the veil was on public display. Indulgences were granted for people who performed devotions before it.
The fate of the veil was obscured by violence in 1527 by the Sack of Rome in which it may have been destroyed. Many reproductions were created at this time, and it is unfortunately unclear if the veil still kept by the Vatican is the original or a reproduction.
In 1616, Pope Paul V banned the production of all copies of the veil, which has become popular. In 1629, Pope Urban VIII went a step further and ordered the destruction of all copies, or that existing copies should be delivered to the Vatican. Anyone who disobeyed this order was to be excommunicated.
The Veil of Veronica has since been kept from the public and rarely has been seen since. There are six known copies in the world, and there is one kept in St. Peter’s basilica which is allegedly the same one from the Medieval period. If true, then it is possible this is the original relic. None of these relics have been photographed in detail or have been subjected to forensic testing.
The relic is kept in a frame, cut to match the outline of the original image on the cloth.
The Vatican’s relic is displayed, although briefly, on the 5th Sunday of Lent each year. According to those who have seen the relic up close, there is minimal detail.
As for Saint Veronica, she is honored with a feast on July 12. Her icons show a woman holding a cloth upon which the face of Christ is imprinted. She is the patron of laundry workers and photographers.
St. Veronica, pray for us.