22nd August 2006
Christ's face' as it appears on Veronica's Veil.
A small piece of cloth bearing an eerily detailed image of a bearded man with a bruised face is to be the subject of a papal pilgrimage next week. Pope Benedict XVI will journey to a remote monastery in the Abruzzo region east of Rome next Friday to visit the mysterious icon, said to show the face of Christ.
Known by locals as Veronica's Veil, the cloth, measuring 9 1/2 in by 6 1/2 in, is said to have been used by St Veronica to wipe Jesus's brow on his walk to the cross. It later assumed Jesus's image, showing a man, eyes open, with a beard and a moustache.
The history of the icon is sketchy. Nothing is known of its whereabouts after Christ's crucifixion, but it is said to have been taken to Rome in 1297. Locals in the remote town of Manoppello in Abruzzo maintain the icon was brought to them 500 years ago by a wandering pilgrim.
It now resides in the town's monastery, where it is stretched between two panes of glass in a golden frame. The image clearly shows the face of a Christ-like figure. When held up against daylight, however, the image on the veil disappears.
In recent months, Veronica's Veil has been the subject of an influx of tourists from Rome, keen to see what they view as a 'holy relic'. The Vatican has stressed, however, that the Pope's visit does not mean he is officially endorsing the veil.
In 1999, scientists from Bari University in southern Italy reported that the image had not been painted or embossed on the veil in any way that could be explained.