Friday, June 27, 2008

Interview with Chiara Vigo Expert Weaver of Marine Byssus

Above is a copy of a page from the english translation of Paul Badde's historic first article from the Inside the Vatican magazine which was first published in the Die Welt newspaper in Germany. It shows a photograph of Chiara Vigo and also a photograph of her holding a small clump of marine byssus. Click on the article to magnify it so it can be read. To see the entire article of Badde, go to and click on the word zeitschriften, then scroll down and click on the photo of the magazine Inside the Vatican.

What follows is a translation of an interview with Chiara Vigo regarding the fabric of the Holy Face of Manoppello which was originally broadcast on the Italian RAI television network. The original Italian can be found on the official website of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello.

Television interviewer: From your perspective as an expert, we ask you, is it possible that the relic is made of marine byssus?

Chiara Vigo: On the basis of the result of my studies, I would say yes. The cloth presents the characteristics typical of marine byssus.

Television interviewer: Can you give us some examples?

Chiara Vigo: Principally the transparency. Marine byssus is the only fiber that allows light to pass through: it is a bronze color in the dark and a golden color if illuminated. This peculiarity is compatible with the features of the Holy Face, that disappear when light shines against it.

Television interviewer: Surely the fact that the Face disappears when light shines against it is one of the most disquieting aspects of the relic. If we were dealing with a painting the image shouldn't be visible from both sides. This aspect has been looked into by a professor from Bari, right?

Chiara Vigo: Yes, that would be Professor Donato Vittore, who has found that on the cloth there are no traces of color. Thus we can exclude the theory that the Face had been drawn by a human hand. In that sense we can say that if one would paint on marine byssus, which is a smooth and impermeable fiber, the color would tend to run and form crusts, which he has not found to be on the cloth. Marine byssus could be dyed only by a carbon bath, but this can be excluded considering the era to which it dates and that we find ourselves in Mesopotamia.

Television interviewer: What are the alternative hypotheses?

Chiara Vigo: The Face could have been obtained with a sort of decolorization. It has been discovered that lemon has a lightening effect on fabric of marine byssus. This theory becomes even more interesting if one thinks that in ancient times an emulsion of oil and lemon was used to anoint the dead.

Television interviewer: Let's turn to the theory that we find ourselves in front of the veil offered by Veronica for the burial of Jesus.

Chiara Vigo: There is some possibility. Also because the relic presents some irregularities along the border that allow us to suppose that it was transferred from one frame to another, and we know that in the Vatican there is preserved a frame similar to the one of the Holy Face. If comparing them should show that they are compatible, than there would no longer be any room for doubt.

Television interviewer: Can we say that the question is more than ever open?

Chiara Vigo: Yes, there is need for greater seriousness in the studies. It is necessary to analyze all the possible fabrics, making use of the collaboration of the Universities of Urbino and Camerino. In fact, only after an accurate examination of the fibers will the contribution of persons like me, experts in the field, be useful.

Television interviewer: Do I detect a subtle vein of criticism in your words, or am I wrong?

Chiara Vigo: Let's say yes, as a Catholic I understand the mystical leap of faith, but the only way to verify a sound theory is to undertake a scientific study which may provide objective and concrete proofs.

Television interviewer: In point of fact what do you propose?

Chiara Vigo: That the church and local officials work together to form a committee that would concentrate solely on resolving the question of the Holy Face. I think that often we can get lost in the mixing of many matters, causing the fact to be forgotten that we are dealing with the patrimony of everyone, and first of all, that of the people of Abruzzo.

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