A big thank you to Antonio Bini for allowing me to post my translation of his review of Paul Badde's book, The Face of God, which has already appeared in a number of newspapers and websites, not only in Italy but also around the world. Antonio is an editor of the official journal Il Volto Santo published by the Capuchin Friars of the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello
The fascinating story of the authentic Face of Jesus told in the book “The Face of God” by Paul Badde is hitting the shelves of American bookstores.
by Antonio Bini
After five centuries of silence, during which the most important relic of the Christian world – the Veronica (true icon) – remained shrouded in mystery and almost forgotten, there emerges today the seemingly well founded hypothesis that this relic is to be identified as the Face kept in a small Italian shrine, in Manoppello, a locality set at the foot of the mountainous chain of the Maiella.
“The Face of God: the rediscovery of the true face of Jesus” by the German journalist and author Paul Badde, which is about to appear in the USA in an edition published by Ignatius Press, San Francisco, recounts the tortured and complex story of this extraordinary image.
Badde’s research is so totally convincing as to have influenced the decision of Benedict XVI to personally visit the shrine of Manoppello on September 1, 2006. The images from that visit – which was opposed right up to the last minute by high Vatican officials and then simply classified as a “personal pilgrimage” – show the Pope profoundly moved, even to the point of tears, before the Holy Face.
As Badde explains – the Vatican has never admitted the disappearance of the Veronica from St. Peter’s, an event which probably happened during the time of the construction of the new Basilica (1506 to early 1600’s) or during the Sack of Rome (1527). Badde himself was the one to discover that the present day image kept in Rome (of which little or nothing can be seen) can not be the Veronica. He accomplished this by comparing the Vatican image’s measurements to the measurements of the ancient reliquary of the Veronica, with its shattered glass panes, now on public display in the Treasury of St. Peter’s.
Even prior to the institution of the first Jubilee year proclaimed by Boniface VIII in 1300, large numbers of pilgrims poured into Rome to venerate the Veronica which came to be put on display on many occasions, even in ordinary years.
Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of the Face of Manoppello: the image is present on an extremely fine material, with threads of the thickness of little more than a tenth of a millimeter and a space between one thread and another of two tenths of a millimeter. The image, which is transparent and visible from both sides, disappears in backlight and presents a masculine face with long hair and beard divided into two bands. On the forehead is seen a tuft of hair. The expression is sweet and suffering at the same time. The gaze, which is intense and profound, appears to be that of a living person.
His encounter with this gaze made a great impression on the Pope, as can be deduced by the granting of the title of Basilica to the humble church just a few days after his visit and by the special prayer which he himself composed on the first anniversary of his pilgrimage to Manoppello.
It is to Badde’s intuition that we owe the hypothesis of the nature of the material, marine byssus. He is supported in this intuition by the last weaver of this very ancient “sea silk” coming from the hairs of the mollusk called “Pinna nobilis”. The Gospels speak of this byssus a number of times to underscore the precious workmanship of this fabric.
Badde describes the incredulity of the weaver Chiara Vigo, who lives on the island of Sant’Antioco in Sardinia, when she saw the Holy Face and recognized thereupon the ancient fabric of marine byssus which can be dyed but upon which one can not paint.
The circumstances are uncertain regarding the arrival of the Holy Face in Manoppello where tradition holds that it arrived “by the hand of an angel” in the year 1506, although the first written document – the Historical Report of Father Donato da Bomba attests that the presence of the image in Abruzzo dates from 1640.
Until just a few years ago the knowledge and the cult of the Holy Face had been for centuries limited only to the devotion of the local population which certainly didn’t wait for the result of historical studies and scientific research to believe in the authenticity of this extraordinary image, cared for with humilty by the Capuchin friars – www.voltosanto.it.
The studies of Professor Heinrich Pfeiffer, one of the greatest experts on Christian art, had attracted the interest of Paul Badde, as well as the research of the German iconographer Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer, who demonstrated the affinity of the Holy Face with the man of the Shroud.
It must be kept in mind that the case which holds the image has not been opened ever since the time that Father Antonio da Poschiavo (1713), then guardian of the Shrine, saw the image of the Holy Face disappear when it was opened and then suddenly reappear only after he closed the glass panes of the reliquary which he had intended to replace. However thanks to the latest types of technology this does not constitute any limitation on scientific research which in fact has been carried out using various techniques (laser, infrared, etc.) and confirms the inexplicable nature of the image.
Some of these studies were set forth this last May in an international scientific workshop – promoted by the Italian energy reserach institute ENEA -- which discussed the most important acheropite images (Shroud, Tilma of Guadalupe, Holy Face of Manoppello) and was attended by over 40 scientists and researchers coming from 13 countries, including a large American delegation. cfr. www.acheiropoietos.info –
Badde, historian and journalist in Rome (and previously in Jerusalem) for the important German newspaper Die Welt, remembers that while on his way to San Giovanni Rotondo for the inauguration of the new church by Renzo Piano, he had been drawn by curiosity to make a brief stop at Manoppello, of which he had heard some vague talk.
That visit would have profound conseguences for his life.
I remember having met him at the friary when he asked the then father guardian – Fr. Germano – to be able to stay for ten days as a guest in one of the monastic cells desiring to immerse himself for a brief period in the silent spirituality and simplicity of the Shrine, meditating on that image and beginning to gather documents and testimonies useful for his book. A period of extreme concentration, during which he limited himself to drink only water with a little bit of honey.
The result of a complex and passionate effort, this book, often called “a historical whodunit” originally published in Germany and then becoming a bestseller in Poland, and later still in Italy, France and Holland, is attracting the interest of so many readers because of its fast paced narrative as well as for its intricate plot, between history and spirituality, following the tracks of a bimillenial quest for the true image of Christ.
For more information consult the interesting blog of Raymond Frost which is entirely dedicated to the Holy Face www.holyfaceofmanoppello.blogspot.com.