Wednesday, January 23, 2008

St. Peter's Basilica was the former residence in Rome of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Many people have wondered what happened to the Veil of Veronica which we all commemorate when we pray the Stations of the Cross, Station VI, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. Most of us don't have any idea that there is a special place in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome where this Veil once resided and that this Veil still technically has the primary place among all the relics in St. Peter's. When the first stone of the new (current) St. Peter's Basilica in Rome was laid in 1506 this stone was the first stone also of the Veronica pillar, one of four great pillars to support the dome of St. Peter's. Today there is a massive marble statue of St. Veronica holding a representation of the Veil not far from the Baldocchino of Bernini. However the Veil is no longer there, but only a copy of this Veil. The Veil has now been revealed to the world to be in the small Italian town of Manoppello where it is known as the Holy Face of Manoppello. According to Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J. "The Holy Face of Jesus must be the true relic which disappeared from St. Peter's in the second decade of the 1600's and re-appeared in the city of Manoppello in Abruzzo". (Il Volto Santo di Manoppello, Carsa Edizioni, (Pescara), 2000, p. 14)

Fr. Pfeiffer's Views on the Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Sanctuary of the Holy Face

“A Visit Which Has Opened our Eyes to Once Again Look Upon Jesus”
“Una visita che ha aperto di nuovo lo sguardo verso Gesu”
by Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J.
from the journal Il Volto Santo di Manoppello Vol. XCII, no. 2, December 2006.

Translation by Raymond Frost, University of San Francisco

After a long period of waiting which lasted centuries and centuries a Pope has visited Manoppello for the first time. After only a very brief time following his election to the throne of Peter: Pope Benedict XVI.

And I am convinced that many of his predecessors already had seen the same image when the Holy Face itself was still called the “Veronica” linking it to the legendary tradition and to the popular devotion of a pious woman by the same name who wiped the face of Christ on his way to Calvary.

It is of enormous and beneficial significance that the current Pope has seen with his own eyes and contemplated at length on this image of Christ which was venerated across the centuries as the most important relic of Christianity. Perhaps this most precious object would never have been known by the wider public if the late Father Domenico da Cese, Capuchin friar of the Convent to which the Holy Face was entrusted centuries ago, had not desired that there be an exhibit on the Holy Face at the National Eucharistic Congress which took place in Pescara in 1978.

Perhaps a Pope would never had gone to visit the religious sanctuary in Abruzzo if news of this exhibit had not reached all the way to the cell of a Trappistine nun by the name of Blandina Paschalis Schlomer in the convent of S. Maria Frieden, near Dahlem in the Eifel region in Germany. And perhaps no scholar would ever have dedicated himself to this extraordinary object if the Sister had not sent a package containing her research to Father Werner Bulst, of the Society of Jesus, an expert on the Shroud of Turin, and if the author of this article had not been there with his fellow Jesuit at the moment the package arrived.

With the research contained in this package the Trappistine Sister wished to demonstrate nothing less than that the Holy Face of Manoppello can be perfectly superimposed on the head that can be seen on the linen of the Shroud of Turin. And I myself have also been able to authenticate the exactness of her research and the irrefutable result. Then I made, together with friends in Rome who are experts on the Shroud, my first visit to Manoppello. An extraordinary insight and a new conviction was offered to me at that moment: I had found the Roman Veronica, by all experts given up for lost. It was a moment of great emotion.

I have never wanted to create difficulties for the Canons of St. Peter’s in Rome. However each year on the vigil of Passion Sunday it is to be noted that one of them exhibits at St. Peter’s what is only a copy as a substitute for the true relic. This is done with a special blessing from the upper balcony of the pillar of the Basilica of St. Peter’s where Francesco Mochi has situated the massive statue of St. Veronica with the veil in her hand.
But every research is in debt to only one thing: the truth. I did everything in my power to show with iconographic expositions and comparisons with so many other images of Christ, that the Holy Face of Manoppello is nothing other than the original Veronica that was venerated for centuries in the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican.

I tried to demonstrate also the fact that both this Face, and that of the Shroud, are at the root of all the great development of the representations of Christ at least from the fourth century, if not already from the third. It appears evident that the image of Christ in the Christian East even to this day, and that the same image in the Christian West, at least until the Renaissance, must have had the same model. The question of why this is has never been posed by scholars in the field of art.

Now the Pope has come to Manoppello and according to my opinion, more through this gesture than through his words, he has clearly expressed his opinion that this object is, beyond all research already done and still to be done, of extreme importance.

Even beyond the joy of the encounter with the people of Manoppello and of all of Abruzzo, the lengthy remaining before the image-relic was the most eloquent gesture of his visit. The Pope was visibly touched and remained in a great silence before this image of Christ as in a direct encounter with Jesus made possible through the Holy Face.

Before this encounter, all research is secondary. The truth defends itself. Now gratitude above all is due, not only because this image has remained substantially intact throughout the course of the centuries, but also because God has offered to the current Pope a most personal encounter with the Son, in front of and through the means of the icon-relic, which very well may be the most important in all the world.

It is true that I had hoped that such a visit might be made by the late Pope John Paul II, in particular for the year of the Son in preparation for the Great Jubilee of 2000.
I spoke with the then Cardinal Ratzinger, and at his request, prepared a memorandum on the Holy Face of Manoppello.

Perhaps he had this memorandum in mind when he decided as Pope to make this pilgrimage, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Chieti, Bruno Forte. I will never forget the moments of preparation for the visit of the Pope when the Archbishop prayed Lauds with the Capuchins. Such gestures should be repeated more often. Perhaps the visit of the Pope to the Sanctuary of Manoppello, has opened once again our eyes to look upon Jesus, and not so much on church structures.

To find Jesus, seeking his face, is the duty of every Christian, the Pope said in his discourse. Finding Jesus in his church, and thinking, speaking and acting in front of his Face will have as a consequence a new love for the millennial institution of Christ. The contemplation of the actual Face of Jesus, the creation of which cannot be attributed to human effort, will be able to produce in all theologians and officials of the Church a new attitude toward God, less dependent on human reasoning and more faithful to his saving interventions even in our own history.

Pope Benedict XVI visited Shrine of Holy Face on Sept. 1, 2006

Great photos of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, the first visit of a Pope to the shrine. IL VOLTO SANTO di Manoppello - Sito ufficiale

IL VOLTO SANTO di Manoppello - Sito ufficiale

Great photographs taken from the official site of the Capuchin Shrine (Sanctuary) of the Holy Face in Manoppello. See a photograph of the Holy Face taken in its place above the main altar and another photograph of the Holy Face in its processional covering as its being carried outside through the streets of Manoppello at IL VOLTO SANTO di Manoppello - Sito ufficiale

Cristianita' - The Holy Face of Manoppello

Cristianita' - The Holy Face of Manoppello

Sources of information regarding the Holy Face of Manoppello

The two main websites which deal with the Holy Face of Manoppello are:



1. The Capuchin Friars of Manoppello Website. (In Italian Il Volto Santo di Manoppello) http://www.voltosanto.it/ This website has four language components: Italian, English, German and Spanish

2. A German website http://www.voltosanto.de/ . This website has some english language material, most notably the article by Paul Badde, Vatican journalist for Die Welt newspaper, which was published in the magazine Inside the Vatican. To access this article click on the word "zeitschriften" and scroll down and click on the photo from the article.



English language information regarding the Holy Face of Manoppello is extremely limited. Translators are needed to make the information available from Italian and German researchers. The main researchers are Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J., professor of Art History at the Gregorian University at Rome, and Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer, Trappistine Sister and Iconographer who lives in Manoppello. Fr. Pfeiffer's main work on the Holy Face is a book edited by him entitled Il Volto Santo di Manoppello which was published in the year 2000. Sr. Blandina's research is included in this book. A link to a translation of a review of this book is available at the previous post of this blog.



Journalists who have written about the Holy Face of Manoppello are Paul Badde, noted above, who has written two books in German which have been very well received, and Saverio Gaeta, editor of Famiglia Cristiana, who has also written two books, but in Italian. I have translated Mr. Gaeta's book, entitled L'Altra Sindone, la vera storia del Volto di Gesu', (The Other Shroud, the true Story of the Face of Jesus). I hope that it will be published soon.

A beautiful photograph of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Thanks to Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, O.F.M., Cap., Rector of the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Province of Pescara, Italy for providing me with this photograph. It should be noted that the image of the Holy Face changes depending on the light which strikes it, and that there are two sides to the image which is on a woven cloth made of marine byssus. There are many possible photographs which show different aspects of the Holy Face. I intend to post as many as I am able.

Interview with Rev. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J.

“Natural Colors on the Holy Face, the Work of an Artist?”
by Fr. Carmine Cucinelli
from the Italian journal Il Volto Santo di Manoppello Vol. XCI, no. 2 (Dec. 2005)
translated by Raymond Frost, University of San Francisco

A discussion with Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer on the recent hypothesis put forth by the photographer Roberto Falcinelli, according to whom the precious veil is possibly a work of art made in the 16th century which many believed had been lost.

Fr. Cucinelli: There are many theories that affirm that the Holy Face is a painting. Recently Roberto Falcinelli, a photographer and expert on the Shroud, has affirmed that we are dealing with a painting of the 1500’s by the great German painter Albert Durrer or even Raphael, what do you think of this?

Fr. Pfeiffer: I know the basis for why Falcinelli is able to say this. But he is mistaken. He is neither the first nor will he be the last to say these things. Already the Jesuit Father Bulst, a famous expert on the Shroud from Germany, with whom I have worked, has affirmed a statement of this type. Actually I was the very one to have pointed out to him the reference to Vasari in his “Life of Raphael”. There it says that the German painter would have sent to the Urbanite (Raphael) a self-portrait, painted on both sides of a cloth so subtle that it was not possible to see that it was a painting. So in reply there are five things that should be highlighted: First we could say that we would be very proud if we possessed a heretofore unknown original of the great artist of Nuremberg. Second unfortunately it does not correspond to the characteristics of the face of the artist. Third he must have copied the Shroud of Turin. Fourth the phenomenon of the oscillation of colors is seen on the Holy Face. Fifth it is not possible to paint on fabric made of marine byssus.

Fr. Cucinelli: Can you explain these points in a detailed and understandable way? In particular why can’t it be a painting?

Fr. Pfeiffer: Again we say that the Holy Face can in no way be a painting. And for a number of reasons. First, even if one could paint with the greatest perfection on both sides of a cloth, there would never be the total transparency as in the Holy Face of Manoppello. The only painting of this type that I know of is a Byzantine work of art made around the year 1000 which shows St. Vitale equally on both sides of a silk fabric. This work is found in the treasury of the Cathedral in Trieste.
Second. As Sr. Blandina Pascalis Schlomer has shown that the Holy Face is able to be perfectly superimposed over the Shroud of Turin, the presumed painter, let’s say Albert Durrer, would first have had to place his cloth over the Shroud and copy onto it exactly the characteristics of the negative. One must realize that the Shroud can only be seen from a distance of at least one and half meters. So one can’t ever copy all the details that correspond element by element. In fact until now no one has ever been able to make a perfect copy of the Shroud with purely artistic means. Our presumed painter would have had to turn the cloth over and paint the other side with the same perfection. One can clearly see that this procedure was not possible for any artist, still less for one in the first or second decade of the 1500’s.
Third: If one begins to look at the Face and then moves to the right or left, at a certain point one sees that the lips are pink and then this blush disappears and the lips become brown. If one shines a light diagonally from behind only a light brown can be seen in various tones, the red disappears completely. If a light shines from the front, there comes forth a more intense brown and also the red of the wounds from the crown of thorns on the temple is seen. If all this artificial illumination is taken away the colors vanish and there comes forth on the figure a light grey. All these changes can best be observed with the light of the day during the open air solemn procession in May.

Fr. Cucinelli: How can the changing colors be explained? If they are colors, as they appear to the eye to be, of what kind are they?

Fr. Pfeiffer: Such oscillation of colors is only found in nature itself.

Fr. Cucinelli: Can you give some examples of natural coloration that changes?

Fr. Pfeiffer: Yes, in the fish in the Caribbean Sea or in the butterflies in tropical zones, that oscillate, according to the angle of view, between blue and grey. So one must understand that in reality, in nature colors don’t exist, but rather when an object is struck by the white light, it absorbs a part of the light and reflects the complementary light, for example, it absorbs the green and reflects the red. The phenomenon of oscillation is such that as the surface of the object has various angles which are able to be seen, these reflect one or another of the colors at a different time. Therefore the threads of the fabric of the Holy Face must change either on the surface of the threads or inside them in order to permit the same phenomenon. No artist with any technique, whether known or still to be discovered, can change a fabric in this way in order to permit this phenomenon.
In other words, one must distinguish the fabric from the image. The very fine fabric is a human work, the image that can be seen on it, is not. This image behaves as a phenomenon that is found in nature. This insperable combination between human work (fabric) and natural phenomenon (image) we can only call by the word “miracle”, a miracle that will last as long as the fabric does not decompose.
There is still another reason that excludes any kind of painting. A fabric so fine, which is identified as marine byssus by Chiara Vigo, the only known weaver of this material, can be found only in ancient times. But marine byssus can only be “tinted”, for example through a purple dye, but one can not “paint” anything on it. The salt remaining between the threads sooner of later will cause any color to fall from the threads.

Fr. Cucinelli: It is said that if the color comes from watercolor, then there would not be residue or pigment left between the threads. What if the colors were watercolor?

Fr. Pfeiffer: It doesn’t make any difference. By definition any painting technique consists of a material applied over a support, in this case a fabric. Whether such material might be between the threads or over the threads, it has yet to be found. I have not studied the fabric with a microscope but I have gone millimeter by millimeter with a lens that magnifies ten times and I have not found traces of such residue. If one might find something one could only speak of a strip of paint applied afterwards to highlight some pre-existing detail of the image.

Fr. Cucinelli: Falcinelli says that Vasari has perhaps confused the work of Raphael with a supposed self-portrait of Durrer and that this work of the Urbinate would be the Holy Face. Do we find ourselves on a totally mistaken trail?

Fr. Pfeiffer: The same difficulty remains whether it were to be the work of Durrer or the work of Raphael. The Holy Face of Manoppello corresponds much better to the thousands of paintings of Christ in both the West and the East then it does with the work of Raphael. However it is possible that there is a certain relationship between Raphael and the Roman Veronica. When Raphael, towards the end of his life, painted his Transfiguration of Christ, he certainly used the Veronica as a model for the characteristics of the face of Christ. There is a possibility, or we might say a suspicion, he even had the famous relic in his studio, by special permission of Pope Leo X. Perhaps to throw the curious off the track he made up the story that it was a self-portrait by the famous Durrer. However on this matter we can say nothing for certain. The only thing we can say is that the characteristics of the painting described by Vasari, whether in the life of Raphael, or in that of Giulio Romano, are not sufficient to identify this very fine painting with the Holy Face of Manoppello. The human mind, it seems to me, has today a great difficulty in admitting a miraculous event. So, contrary to any real possibility, one prefers to attribute the Shroud of Turin to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, and now the Veil of Manoppello to that of Raphael, only because one does not want to confess that God has intervened in the creation of both images.

Prayer of BenedictXVI to Recognize the Face of Jesus

Prayer of BenedictXVI to Recognize the Face of Jesus