Imprint of Our Savior’s Bloodstained Countenance on the
Veil of Veronica
Veneration of the Dolorous Face of our Savior Jesus Christ, as proved in Rome and practiced throughout the Church, had its beginning during the very Passion of our Lord. It came to us through that heroic woman whose memory, from the first ages of Christianity, has been inseparably connected with the Sixth Station of the holy Way of the Cross, and who, tradition tells us, was called “Veronica.” The Son of God was being led forth to execution through the crowded streets of Jerusalem, followed by a shouting rabble which filled the air with loud insulting cries. Our Divine Lord, exhausted by the tortures of the night, fell beneath the heavy weight of His Cross. A man, Simon of Cyrene, who was passing by, was compelled by the inhuman soldiers to assist Jesus in carrying the Cross. The
sad procession had advanced but a short distance farther, when suddenly a woman of majestic appearance broke through the infuriated mob, and offered our Savior a veil as a sign of her compassion , upon which He wiped His Adorable Face covered with sweat and blood. In reward for her sympathy, our Blessed Redeemer imprinted indelibly upon her veil the likeness of His Sacred Countenance.
The Treasure of the Vatican
Tradition says that at the advice of St. Peter, Veronica later entrusted the holy Veil to the care of St. Clement, a noble Roman who was a disciple of St. Peter, and his third successor in the See of Rome. From the hands of Pope St. Clement this venerated relic passed to his successors, who guarded it most carefully during the long years of persecution. Even since that time the holy Veil has remained in Rome, where it is preserved with the greatest care as one of the most precious relics of the Vatican Basilica.
Every year on Good Friday the holy Veil is taken from the rich casket in which it is treasured, and from a high balcony erected around one of the pillars of the Vatican Basilica, it is exposed to the veneration of the faithful. An eye-witness writes: “One cannot, without feelings of tenderest compassion and sorrow, look upon the noble brow covered with blood, the Divine eyes, livid and bloody, the whole Face pallid as in death. On the right cheek is seen the mark of the cruel blow inflicted by the brutal soldier, and on the left are traces of the insults of the Jews who spat upon Him. The nose is bruised and blood-stained; the mouth half open; the teeth broken; the beard dishevelled and partly torn out; the hair matted with blood. But the whole Sacred Face, though disfigured, presents an appearance of indescribable majesty and compassion, love and sadness.”
The miraculous preservation of this Veil proves what great complacency our Lord takes in the veneration of His Sacred Face.
Transfiguration of the Holy Veil
In the memorable days of Pope Pius IX, God deigned, by a touching prodigy, to glorify the Sacred Image venerated at the Vatican. It was during the exile of the Holy Father at Gaeta, in 1849, when the Veil of Veronica was allowed to be exposed for veneration from Christmas to Epiphany. On the third day of the exposition, the Veil, hitherto somewhat faded, became transfigured, as it were; the Sacred Features of our Savior appeared life-like and surrounded by a mild halo. Though covered with a piece of silk, which would normally prevent one from distinguishing them, the Sacred Features could, nevertheless, be distinctly seen. The Holy Face was of a deathly pallor, the eyes sunken, yet animated with an expression of profound sadness. The canons who were guarding it immediately notified their colleagues and the ecclesiastics of the Basilica. The bells were rung and the faithful flocked to the Vatican. The witnesses of this prodigy were filled with wonder and awe; many were in tears — all were visibly affected.