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All The Controversy Surrounding The Veil Of Veronica

You've heard of the Shroud of Turin, the Holy Grail, and the Crown of Thorns, but just what exactly is the Veil of Veronica? As far as religious relics go, the Veil of Veronica is one of the more controversial pieces in existence. It's believed the Veil is a piece of cloth a pious woman - St. Veronica - used to wipe blood and sweat from Christ's face while he journeyed to Golgotha with a crucifix on his back. However, there's no mention of the Veil of Veronica in any Bible stories

In the centuries since its discovery, the Veil has been saddled with mystical properties, new backstories, and a controversy about whether the Vatican even owns the real artifact - at this point, the location of the actual cloth is heavily up for debate. Even though there's controversy about the cloth, whose existence in connection to Christ was first recorded back in the Middle Ages, the Veil of Veronica remains one of the more fascinating religious artifacts of our time.

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  • The Veil Shows The Same Face As The Shroud Of Turin
    Photo: Francisco de Zurbarán / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Veil Shows The Same Face As The Shroud Of Turin

    Without photographic evidence, it's nearly impossible to know exactly what Jesus of Nazareth looked like. The closest thing modern scholars have to a genuine picture of Jesus is the Shroud of Turin, a full body piece of linen that features the negative image of a man who some believe to be Christ, though that's heavily debated

    If you believe the religious intellectuals who claim the Shroud of Turin does have an imprint of the face of Jesus on it, then the artifact can be compared to the image on the Veil of Veronica, a piece of fabric that was supposedly used to wipe the blood away from Christ's face on his walk to the cross, or the Way of the Cross.

    The Veil hasn't been put through the same Carbon-14 dating tests as the Shroud, but believers have compared the Shroud to the Veil and have pinpointed specifics that align with both. For instance, each cloth's image contains the same features down to the teeth and hematoma at the bridge of the nose. 

  • The Story Dates Back To The 4th Century

    The fabric the Veil is made from is called byssus, which is composed of the silky threads of Pinna Nobilis mollusks, a rare material mostly used in ancient eras that's similar to nylon. 

    The image on the Veil is believed to be blood because, after examination under ultraviolet light, it was discovered to have pieces of a reddish-brown substance. True believers think this blood was left by the wounds of Christ that came from wearing the Crown of Thorns. 

    While the story of the Veil dates back to at least the 4th century, it's not clear when the physical piece of material appeared. However, the Veil was supposedly in the Vatican from the 12th century until 1608, at which point it was moved to the Vatican's archives. 

  • The Legend Of The Veil Comes From Christ's Final Day
    Photo: Basilica of the Holy Face / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Legend Of The Veil Comes From Christ's Final Day

    While the Veil doesn't appear in the Bible, there is an anecdote behind the item that sounds plausible. In the story of the Veil, a woman named Veronica took pity on Jesus as he was carrying his cross through the streets of Jerusalem on the way to his crucifixion at Calvary (also referred to as Golgotha). She stepped out of a crowd and used her veil to wipe blood and sweat out of his eyes and from his brow. 

    There's a story similar to the Veil's origin in the Acts of Pilate, also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus, where a woman touches Christ's robes and is instantly healed of an illness. Some scholars believe the stories in the Acts of Pilate were written by multiple people and, therefore, put its authenticity into question. 

     

  • Scholars Can't Explain How The Image Is Imprinted On The Veil

    Even if you don't believe Jesus worked a miracle and left a painting-like imprint of his face on the Veil, the image on the cloth - and the cloth itself - has a few curious attributes. The image believed to be the face of Christ appears identically on both sides of the cloth, something that wouldn't have been possible to do at the time of its creation. 

    Not only is the image the same on both sides, but it wasn't placed on the fabric by traditional means. Paul Badde, a Vatanicanist for Die Welt, said it's not possible to paint on the fabric. This makes it more likely that the image is made of blood, but it's still unclear. 

    The image also disappears when held at certain angles, a trait few works share throughout history. In the 12th century, this attribute would have been considered miraculous. Professor of Christian Art History, Heinrich Pfeiffer, said of the Veil: 

    There are few such objects in history. This is not a painting. We don't know what the material is that shapes the image, but it is the color of blood.

  • The Veil Is Said To Have Healing Powers
    Photo: Wilhelm Kalteysen / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Veil Is Said To Have Healing Powers

    Many stories about the Veil attribute miraculous healing powers to the cloth on account of its close proximity to Jesus prior to his sacrifice. It's believed Veronica held onto the fabric after using it to wipe Christ's face and discovered it had curative properties. One story about the cloth claims Veronica cured Emperor Tiberius of some form of malady with the fabric.

    Following the healing of Tiberius, Veronica supposedly gave the cloth to Pope Clement IV around 1265, where it was then held under the care of the Catholic church. There's no more evidence to suggest the Veil was ever used for its mystical abilities again, and no one can explain how Veronica lived from 37 AD to the middle ages in order to hand it off.

    If this story is believed, one has to assume the cloth was passed down through a family line until it was given to the church. 

  • The Catholic Church Says The Story Is True
    Photo: Daderot / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Catholic Church Says The Story Is True

    In spite of some major plotholes, the Catholic Church insists someone wiped Christ's face on his way to hang on the cross, and that piece of fabric is what's being kept in the Basilica. The Catholic church even inserted the story into their Stations of the Cross ritual

    The Stations of the Cross are a series of 14 important moments on Christ's journey to sacrifice himself for humanity. During Lent believers pray over these stations, but early in the history of Christianity followers visited each stop along the way to pray where Jesus actually stood. It's believed the story of the Veil was added during early excursions along the journey to Golgotha.

    As it currently stands, Veronica wiping Jesus's face with a piece of cloth is considered canon in Christian lore.