Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Uncountable Number of Images of the Risen Christ

Paul Badde, the author of "The Face of God: The Rediscovery of the True Face of Jesus on the Holy Face of Manoppello" (Ignatius Press) is interviewed by Genevieve Pollock and gives the best summary and commentary to date on the significance and importance of the Holy Face of Manoppello. Badde continues to announce this special witness to Christ, which he says features "an uncountable number of images of the Risen Christ". Badde weaves together all the many strands of the history of this "secret veil". He also shines the light on Pope Benedict's lifelong interest in the Face of God, and reveals the interest in the Holy Face on the part of many in the Orthodox tradition as evidenced by Sr. Columba, an Orthodox nun whom he quotes "God has left an image of his Face on earth!" Badde believes that the Holy Face will change the "face of the world" in a way similar to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe which "changed the map and history in Mexico after she had appeared and left her image there on December 12, 1531."

Paul Badde greeting Pope Benedict in the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello on September 1, 2006 with Sr. Blandina Schloemer at his left and Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, SJ at his right, and to the right of Fr. Pfeiffer is Redemptorist Father Andreas Resch

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our Lady of Las Lajas

top photo credit wikipedia commons; lower photo credit

"The image is not painted, but mysteriously imprinted in the rock. The colors are not applied in a surface layer of paint or other material, but penetrate deep into the rock. No one knows how the work was done."
Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira

photo credit Martin St-Amant - Wikipedia - CC-BY-SA-3.0

Another acheropite image? At the very top of South America. An amazing basilica on the border of Colombia and Ecuador, an engineering wonder, marvelously balanced high above a river and wedged into a steep canyon and built around the miraculous image of Our Lady of Las Lajas. There is no apse or back wall of the church, for the building is built right up against the rock, and the naturally formed grotto containing the image of Our Lady of Las Lajas is the framework and structure for the main altar of the basilica. The amazing image of Mary, Jesus, St. Dominic and St. Francis has been venerated there since 1754. I love Our Lady's robe which is so similar to that of Guadalupe but displayed in such a different manner. And to see Our Lady's hair is quite striking.

The Story of Our Lady of Las Lajas from the Colombian website as quoted in

Back in the 18th century, Maria Mueses de Quinones, an Indian woman from the village of Potosi, Colombia, often walked the six miles between her village and the neighboring one of Ipiales. One day in 1754 as she was making the journey, she approached the place called Las Lajas (the Rocks), where the trail passes through a deep gorge of the Guaitara River. Maria never liked this part of the trail. There were rumors that a cave in Las Lajas was haunted. Such superstitions lingered amongst the converted Christian Indians.

She was carrying her daughter Rosa, a deaf-mute, on her back in the Indian fashion. By the time she had climbed to Las Lajas, she was weary and sat on a rock to rest. The child got down from her back to play.

After a while, Rosa emerged from the cave shouting: “Mama, there is a woman in here with a boy in her arms!” Maria was beside herself with the fright since this was the first time she had heard her daughter speak. She did not see the figures the girl was talking about, nor did she want to. She grabbed the child and hastened on to Ipiales.

When she recounted what had happened, no one took her seriously at first. However, as the news spread, some asked if perhaps it were true. After all, the child was now able to speak.

A few days later, the child Rosa disappeared from her home. After looking everywhere, the anguished Maria guessed that her daughter must have gone to the cave. The child had often said that the Lady was calling her. Maria ran to Las Lajas and found her daughter in front of a noble Lady and playing affectionately with a Child who had come down from His mother’s arms to let the girl enjoy His divine tenderness. Maria fell to her knees before this beautiful spectacle; she had seen the Blessed Virgin and the Divine Infant.

Fearful of ridicule, Maria kept quiet about the episode. But she and Rosa frequently went to the cave to place wild flowers and candles in the cracks of the rocks.

Months went by, with Maria and Rosa keeping their secret. Finally, one day the girl fell gravely ill and died. A distraught Maria decided to take her daughter’s body to Las Lajas to ask the Lady to restore Rosa to life.

Moved by the sadness of Maria’s unrelenting supplications, the Blessed Virgin obtained Rosa’s resurrection from her Divine Son. Overflowing with joy, Maria returned home. It was not long before a crowd had gathered to hear what had happened. Early the next morning everyone went to Las Lajas, each one wanting to check the details for themselves.

That was when the marvelous picture of Our Lady on the wall of the grotto was discovered. Maria Muese de Quinones could not recall noticing it until then. The Child Jesus is in Our Lady’s arms. On one side of Our Lady is St. Francis; on the other is St. Dominic. Her delicate and regal features are those of a Latin American, perhaps an Indian. Her abundant black hair covers her like a mantle (The two-dimensional crown is metal and was added by devotees much later on). The Indians had no doubt: this was their Queen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conference on Acheropite Images to be Held at Torun, Poland May 11 to 13

This gathering entitled the International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Acheiropoietos Images is a big step forward which will bring together scientists and scholars from many disciplines including theology, humanities and the natural sciences. The organizers of the conference are from the Nicholas Copernicus University in Torun, as well as from the University of Gdansk. The language of the conference will be english. It is very significant that it is being held in commemorate the 12th anniversary of the visit which Pope John Paul II made to Torun, and also that it falls on the twentieth anniversary of the date on which Our Lady saved the faithful and beloved son of Poland so that he might continue to carry on his mission of "Throwing Open Wide the Doors to Christ".

from the website of the Conference
The conference aims, among others, to update knowledge on the objects not made by human hand which are referred to by a Greek term “acheiropoietos”. This ancient concept has a wide range of meaning. Within the narrow range, the term covers images which in the strict sense came into existence without the assistance of human hand. In the broad meaning – the objects which are in a more or less conventional way entitled to such a definition when Tradition sources are taken into consideration.

It is still not perfectly clear which objects are entitled to be described as acheiropoietos in the strict sense. Without fail, the images which underwent a thorough research in the previous century obviously belong to that group. These are the images on the Turin Shroud and the Tilma of Guadalupe, and additionally, in the light of recent comparison research carried out i.a. by sister Blandina Paschalis, the Veil of Manoppello has been also included in that group. The question, whether one can classify as acheiropoietos in the strict sense also the images from other objects such as e.g. the miniature cloth from Coromoto in Venezuela, is under discussion.

The organisers of Toruń Acheiropoietos Conference 2011 conference are eager to open the ground for scientific discussion among researchers of various disciplines in order to circumscribe the methodological frames of research scope which is set by the term “acheiropoietos”, to confront research achievements of all scientific disciplines which deal with acheiropoietos and to set the direction for integration of acheiropoietos studies.

The conference will be held on May 11–13, 2011 and will commemorate 12th anniversary of John Paul II's visit to Toruń. While giving a speech at Toruń’s University, he encouraged to engage in a deep dialogue between science and faith. This is also the aim of organisers of Toruń Acheiropoietos Conference 2011. It’s realisation is possible due to special subject of study wich is in the limelight of natural science as well as humanities and theology.

Suggested thematic areas

Acheropoietos images in natural science cognition
Characteristics of material structure of acheiorpoietos
Consequences (pastoral, liturgical, ecumenical) of integrating acheiropoietos studies for the icon theology
The theology of icon
The theology of sign and miracle
Fenomenology of sacred images
Significance of the acheiropoietos images in fundamental theology, missiology and new evangelisation
The issue of authenticity of Jesus Christ image in Christian iconographic canons in the context of acheiropoietos images
The issue of authenticity of Jesus Christ acheiropoietos image in comparison to images of deities of other religions (in the context of religious studies)
Forecast on scientific, sociological, cultural consequences of undertaking integrated acheiropoietos studies
Historical aspects

The True Face of Mary

I was just telling my friend who is going on a pilgrim to Rome in April about the image of Mary, the oldest icon of her in Rome, Advocata Nostra, which is at the Dominican Sisters Convent on Via Trionfale on Monte Mario. Paul Badde had alerted me to it. It hit me that Advocata Nostra has everything in common with the miraculous image of Our Lady of Absam which I posted about several days ago. The same nose, eyes and mouth!

Monday, March 21, 2011

New German Website With Interesting Points Regarding Holy Face of Manoppello which is easy to use, gives clear description of the Holy Face of Manoppello and shows many connections between the Holy Face of Manoppello and the Shroud of Turin. It is in the german language but if one of the internet translation services is used, it is quite helpful. It includes a list of lodgings and restaurants in the vicinity of the Shrine of the Holy Face.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Lucca Conference on the Holy Face

(from left to right) Maria Pia Bertolucci, Umberto Palagi, Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, Ofm, Cap., Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, SJ, Giuseppe Giannelli, Antonio Bini

(thanks to Antonio Bini for allowing me to publish here my translation of his article along with his photographs of this important event)

The Image of Christ from the Shroud to the Holy Face
reflections on the Lucca conference
by Antonio Bini

Immediately prior to the inauguration of the exhibit on the Holy Face at Lucca a conference was held on March 4, 2011 at the Agora’ Auditorium – formerly the Convent of the Servites. The gathering was opened by Umberto Palagi, scholar of the Holy Face of Lucca, who recalled the principal historic references to the crucifix preserved in the Cathedral of San Martin, as well as connections to the face of the man of the Shroud and that of the Veil of Manoppello. There followed a talk by Giuseppe Giannelli who gave an interesting description of the copies of the cloth of the Shroud which were done in centuries past, underscoring in particular the cloth on display in the exhibit which comes from a local church. Today on that cloth there can not be seen any trace of an image, but only the writing which declares the authenticity of the copy.

Father Carmine Cucinelli, rector of the Shrine of Manoppello thanked the Diocese and the Comune of Modena, and in particular the Assessor for Culture Moreno Bruni in attendance in the Auditorium, for the attention given to the Holy Face, which was evident by the invitation to the conference and the opportunity to display illustrative material in the exhibit held in the Oratory of Saint Joseph, next to the Museum of the Cathedral.

Father Carmine underscored how the Faces of Christ which are under discussion are very different from one another, that of Lucca is a Crucifix, while that of Manoppello is composed of an image impressed on a very fine cloth, which presents unique characteristics. My talk followed in which I described the most important stages which have marked in recent years the extraordinary diffusion of the relic in Italy and throughout the world. As I spoke just before Prof. Heinrich Pfeiffer, pioneer in the studies of the Holy Face of Manoppello, I had to point to the solitude which characterized the first phase of his research, with his hypothesis which initially found skepticism and even aversion on the part of theologians, historians and church authorities. An attitude which at first took me by surprise due to its negativity but regarding which I later came to understand their motivation.

(from left to right) Fr. Cucinelli, Fr. Pfeiffer, Antonio Bini

Father Pfeiffer, professor of history of Christian Art at the Gregorian University of Rome and recognized by the international community as a scientific authority in that field, asserted that the Veil of Manoppello should be seen as identical with the Veronica (vera-ikon) the most important relic of Christianity and fundamental reference – until the 1500’s – for so many artists who throughout history had drawn and interpreted the Face of Christ.

In 2005 the journalist and author Paul Badde described in his book meeting the German scholar and the moment when there began in him an increasing interest regarding the history of the Holy Face of Manoppello:

“The professor told me that there actually was an image that was even more important than the Shroud. Only a crazy person would hold something like that, and that was how Father Pfeiffer was described to me”.

Badde, author of books on the Face of Manoppello which today are published in German, Polish, French, Dutch, Italian and English, has the distinction of breaking through a kind of wall of silence coming from the attitude of avoiding the topic, or even hostility, assumed without even having seen the relic or having made the slightest effort to check the research which had been done. An attitude which at times has unjustly involved even the Capuchins of the Abruzzi shrine themselves.

Last year Saverio Gaeta in the preface to his book, “The Engima of the Face of the Jesus, the Adventures of the Secret Shroud” (Rizzoli, 2010) reflected on this particular situation: “it seemed a challenge of David against the Goliath of the army of the Shroud’s scholars who couldn’t bother themselves with the veil of Manoppello because it would disturb their seemingly already well-established acquisition of the burial cloths of Jesus”. Gaeta correctly writes in the past tense “It seemed”. In fact in recent years the framework for scholars and researchers unexpectedly has expanded and what Father Pfeiffer in past years was saying constitutes the basis for what a segment of these scholars are finally examining without prejudices to delve more deeply into research on the Holy Face.

Fr. Pfeiffer being interviewed by the media

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Manoppello on Sept. 1, 2006, the immediate elevation of the Shrine to the status of a Basilica and the prayer which the Pope himself desired to compose to recognize the first anniversary of his visit, represent the latest confirmations of the validity of Fr. Pfeiffer’s courageous hypothesis, now supported by other scholars, who are widening the field of their research also into that of the natural sciences.

This historic visit of the Pope was opposed up to the last moment for the implicit reaction that it would cause, beginning with its indirect support for the thesis that the Veronica is no longer kept at St. Peter’s, a circumstance which has never been admitted by the Vatican.

I explained how in my opinion it was only with the Grand Jubilee of the year 2000 and the beginning of the third millennium –which put an end to the silence regarding the Holy Face of Manoppello – that the Capuchins themselves were able to overcome the fears with which they for centuries had preserved with devotion and care the relic. This was also in regards to the observance of the decrees of Urban VIII, of which there was still mention in 1966, on the occasion of the book published by Padre Antonio da Serramonacesca, then provincial of the Capuchins.

The conference, moderated by Anna Maria Bertolucci, concluded with the talk by Father Pfeiffer, who presented, with a critical eye, some attitudes held by a part of Church, who show themselves to have little faith and a limited attention to the artistic and cultural patrimony of the Christian history.

He emphasized that relics come before works of art. Then he came to the Holy Face of Lucca. Although in general in the middle ages relics were the model for works of art, the relation between the luccan crucifix and the style of Antelami must be seen in the exact opposite way. Antelami imitated the style of his master Nicodemus, in as much as Nicodeumus is thought to have been the sculptor of the Holy Face.

According to Pfeiffer the crucifix, which according to tradition came from Beirut, “is the only Syrian sculpture come down to us, and can be traced back to the date of the sixth century after Christ. My suspicion is that the legend of the artist Nicodemus was invented to save it from destruction by the muslim or byzantine iconclasts”.

In any case, the mantle of hair with the curls in the middle has its parallel in the two medallions of the cross of Justin II from the year 574 AD which are in the Treasury of St. Peter’s at the Vatican. Father Pfeiffer has cited this in his own study which he wrote together with Werner Bulst, Das Turiner Grabtuch und das Christusbild Il Das echte Christusbild, published in Germany in 1991. These medallions derive from the two relic images, the Mandylion (now known as the Shroud of Turin) and the image of Camulia (now known as the Holy Face of Manoppello). The long face with the long beard divided in two points and the eyes of the crucifix derived from the Mandylion. They are an interpretive reading of the marks visible on the Shroud and “readable” by the human eye from a distance at least of 1.50 meters as a majestic human face. The twist of hair on the forehead reveals that their model is that of the Holy Face of Manoppello.

Both models were visible and able to be studied together only until the second half of the sixth century, one prior to its transfer from Constantinople to the small town of Camulia or Camuliana in Cappadocia, and the other until 544 at Edessa, about 80 kilometers distant from the forementioned place in Cappadocia.

The art historian’s hypothesis, which backdates the crucifix of Lucca to the sixth century, raised particular interest among the knowledgeable and attentive public who were present.

The conference concluded with the opening of the exhibit in the nearby former Oratory of San Giuseppe, in which are displayed large panels which illustrate the history and the features of the Holy Face of Manoppello, along with a huge photograph of the image in plexiglass, visible from both sides.

A structure was made for this exhibit – designed by Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer - with movable images of the Shroud and the Holy Face - imprinted on glass panes, which permit the visitor to be able to personally experience the superimposition of the two faces.

Also part of the exhibit are some tokens coming from burial chambers between Lucca and Valdera, including ancient medallions found during the excavations.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Lady of Absam

From the village of Absam, near Innsbruck, Austria. A special image of Our Lady which suddenly appeared on a pane of glass in the home of the Bucher family in 1797. The image is in the glass, it is not etched or painted. If the pane of glass is immersed in water the image disappears but then re-appears when the glass dries. This miraculous image of Our Lady of Absam, not made by human hands (acheropite) is now enshrined in the local church with the blessing of the parish priest and the local bishop for over 200 years. Thanks to Paul Badde for telling me about this acheropite image and for providing me with these photos..

Doesn't it remind you of the Holy Face of Manoppello in so many ways? The transparency of the material, the features of the two faces,the inexplicability, the dimensions...the supernatural breaking into the natural world.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Holy Face of Manoppello on Exhibit in Lucca

by Antonio Bini

Upon the invitation of the Diocese and also the Comune of Lucca, the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello will participate in the exhibition “The body transfigured. The image of Christ from the Shroud to the Holy Face”, to be held at the Oratory of St. Joseph in the tuscan city from March 4 to May 3, 2011.

Maria Pia Bertolucci, coordinator of the Museum and Archeological Complex of the Cathedral of Lucca, explains that the exhibit seeks to place in comparison the Holy Face of Lucca -- ancient wooden statue preserved and venerated in the cathedral of Saint Martin -- with reproductions of the Holy Shroud and the Veil of Manoppello.

The event is part of the activities which together make up the second edition of the program “Lucca and the avenues of the Saints” in which there will take place many cultural and religious initiatives, including sacred music concerts, guided tours, conferences and the screening of documentaries.

The Holy Face of Manoppello will be represented by 8 large panels, made especially for this event, which tells the story of the relic by means of a kind of journey which begins with the facade of the Sanctuary, then passes through the various expressions of the sacred image, to the documentation of the visit of Benedict XVI and then to the illustration of the superimposition of the Holy Face with the Shroud and with the Sudarium of Oviedo. At Lucca there will be displayed for the first time a very large photo (130 x 210cm. or 4ft. by 7ft.) which reproduces the image of the Holy Face – visible from both sides, as in real life.

Immediately prior to the inauguration of the exhibit – at 5:30pm – there will be a conference held in the Agora’ Auditorium (formerly the Convent of the Servites) in which will participate various speakers including Umberto Palagi, Giuseppe Giannelli, Antonio Bini and Padre Carmine Cucinelli, rector of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello. Also expected is a talk by Padre Heinrich Pfeiffer, Professor at the Gregorian University of Rome, one of the most respected scholars of the history of Christian art, who supports the hypothesis that the Face of Manoppello is identical with the Veronica.

This meeting – which will be moderated by Don Piero Ciardella – constitutes an interesting occassion for comparison and discussion around the theme of the Face of Christ, occuring just a few days before the awaited release of the second volume of Benedict XVI’s “Jesus of Nazareth”, which will be dedicated to the themes of the passion and resurrection.

Facade of the cathedral of Lucca where the wooden crucifix of the Holy Face is preserved.

The two photos are taken from the website of the city of Lucca