Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Historic First Visit by Journalist inside the Pillar of St. Veronica at St. Peter's Basilica

For years journalists and historians had been requesting permission from Vatican officials to be able to see close-up the Veil of Veronica image which is kept in the Pillar of St. Veronica and displayed once a year from the balcony of the same pillar high above the floor of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. This request had always been met with either polite refusal or stony silence. Among those who had been frustrated was the British author, Ian Wilson, who describes his long and fruitless attempt to be given permission to see the Veronica in his book published in 1991, Holy Faces, Secret Places.

However in 2005, in an amazing turn of events which has strangely attracted little attention on the part of english speaking peoples, the German journalist Paul Badde was the first to be allowed to see the image with the permission of Cardinal Marchisano, President of the Fabbrica of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Mr. Badde describes this unique and historic visit in his book, first published later that same year in German entitled Das Muschelseidentuch and then in a later 2006 edition retitled Das Gottliche Gesicht, which appeared in an Italian translation in 2007 with the title La Seconda Sindone (The Second Shroud). It is not an exaggeration to say that Mr. Badde's visit to see the image in the Vatican, and his reporting of what he saw on this visit, made possible, and even inevitable, the even more historic visit by Pope Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006 to the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello to gaze upon that most wonderful image of the face of Jesus.

Mr. Badde's chapter entitled "Nelle Segrete del Vaticano" gives a classic description of the physical and emotional journey which he made through the Vatican bureaucracy and the actual massive pillar to see the Vatican copy of the Veronica. Here in my own english translation (unfortunately of the Italian translation of the original German with all the limitations that a secondary translation is prey to) is Mr. Badde's description of what he saw on the Vatican's Veil of Veronica in early 2005. The quote is from p. 190 of La Seconda Sindone

"I went down on my knees to be able to observe it better. I got up, moved to the left, to the right. Next to all the other precious objects present in the room, I almost had to force myself to look at it, because absolutely nothing at all could be seen on it. Nothing that could attract one's attention or curiosity or aesthetic sense. The contrast with the rest of the marvelous treasury could not have been more stark. The icon is covered in glass. Underneath the glass is seen an object in decomposition: a stained fabric, dark dirty grey without any human characteristics, any design or color. The only feature that it has is conferred on it by the masque with three points of layered gold: two points for the hair and one for the beard. Its cover is like the one on the Mandylion of Edessa, which Ellen and I saw some time ago in the Sacristy of the Sistine chapel, or as which we saw in Genoa...and it is clearly an imitation of the other two venerable images. The object can be called a face only and exclusively because of that covering...and for no other reason. One can't recognize there traces of an image or painting, nothing of nothing. Of a face or even only of the hint of a face it is not possible to speak. It is in no way reconcilable with all the ancient representations of the Veronica, and not even with what was always said of it, even through the mouths of its most acerbic opponents and worst critics. It's not a 'klaret linn', a white handkerchief, as Luther scornfully called it."

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