From Jerusalem to Rome

The various stages of the Holy Face before the arrival in Rome
P. Heinrich Pfeiffer

As the Face of the Holy Shroud can be perfectly superimposed to the Holy Face of Manoppello, we must admit that the two Images formed at the same time. In fact, we can realize the Image of the Holy Shroud, showing the body of a man crucified and dead according to the Gospel-truth, only by admitting its formation while the body was in the tomb. Therefore, also the Holy Face of Manoppello formed in the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem when, very probably, the napkin was put hastily on the Shroud.


Hagia Sophia


About the very thin Veil showing the very fine image, kept nowadays in the sanctuary of Manoppello, found in the by then empty tomb in that Easter morning, we can express two hypotheses: the first one supposes it was owned nearly by right by the Virgin Mary who maybe kept it to herself, so we can imagine. Then the Holy Face perhaps was retained by the apostle John so it was in Ephesus first, than somewhere in Asia minor. The second hypothesis supposes it remained together with the Shroud and separated long after as I opined in my book “Das echte Christusbild” written in 1991.
Following this second supposition, as in Cedreno’s writings, in A.D. 574 an “acheiropoietos” icon was transferred from Camulia in Cappadocia to Constantinople. It is an image so similar that it is in all probability the same Veil kept nowadays in the sanctuary of Abruzzi. It remained in Constantinople till 705 when it disappeared from the capital of the empire. It is the first thing defined “ảχειροποίητος” i.e. not human hand manufactured. Teofilatto Simocatta in a praise-poetry written to celebrate the victory of the Byzantine troops in the battle near the river Arzamon (586) obtained thanks to the presence of the Image, described it: “not painted, not woven, but made with divine art”. Giorgio Piside defined it: “prototype written by God”. Even after the disappearance of the Image, Teofane (758-818) declared that: “no human hand could have drawn this Image, but only the creative and everything-forming Word produced the shape” of this divine-human figure.
All these descriptions of Byzantine poets and historiographers can be justified only thanks to the presence of the Holy Face which, at the first sight, seems to be a painting but, if we examine it better, we must reject this hypothesis immediately as well as that one referring to the technique of weaving. So we understand the description of the Byzantine poets: “not painted, not woven”.
None of the well-known techniques to realize a work of art was used for this Image entirely transparent and disappearing almost completely against the light. The Image of Camulia, the first “ảχειροποίητος”, not only disappeared in Constantinople, but also maybe travelled by sea towards Rome, the old capital of the empire. In Constantinople they said that patriarch German had committed to the waves of the sea, at the beginning of the iconoclasm, this Image which, consequently arrived in Rome in the times of Pope Gregory II.


The Roman Sancta Sanctorum chapel

In Rome it was said that, when longobard king Aistulfo besieged the city in A.D. 753, Pope Stephen II led in a religious procession an “acheropsita” i.e. the Holy Face of the chapel “Sancta Sanctorum” in the papal Lateran Palace. On the Face of this icon was placed a linen cloth with Jesus Christ’s Face. The most reliable hypothesis is that the first Veil superimposed was precisely the Holy Face kept nowadays at Manoppello.

The best way to hide a Veil with an image was to place it on an icon so the Byzantine emperor could never find out the disappearance of his “acheiropoietos” which could be venerated in the papal liturgy.When the Byzantine emperors began little by little to lose their powers and influence over Rome, the Veil could be separated from the icon, replaced with a painted veil and transferred to the chapel in St. Peterâ, got built by Pope John VII not long after the disappearance of the Image of Camulia in Constantinople.

 The first Pope not compelled to fear the powers of the Byzantine emperor was Innocent III who, for the first time, promoted the cult and the veneration for the Veil with the Image of Christ and this time the Veil was named Veronica (vera icona – true icon) while the name Holy Face remained for the Lateran Icon.

This is the most probable sacred history of the Holy Face of Manoppello according to our knowledge of the documents and the “acheropite” images. A point must be settled: how and when the funeral cloths (the Holy Shroud and the Holy Face) were separated.As Mandilion of Edessa the Shroud covered its own rout towards Constantinople in A.D. 944 disappearing temporarily during the latin crusade of the year 1204 reappearing long after in Lirey around the middle of the 14th century.

antica basilica S. Pietro

The ancient St. Peter basilica in Rome

Regarding the Holy Face we tried to delineate its course: Jerusalem a Ephesus a Camulia of Cappadocia a Constantinople Rome (chapel Sacta Sanctorum of the lateran palace, chapel of the Veronica in St. Peterâ in the Vatican State; at last the Holy Face arrived at Manoppello and on the way the image was called differently in our opinion: Image “ảχειροποίητος” of Camulia, “prototypos”, “acheropsita”, Holy Face of the Sancta Santorum chapel, Veronica and, finally, again Holy Face at Manoppello.
This route is only a well – grounded supposition, but the Holy Face of Manoppello is certainly the same Roman Veronica. Our Lord gave us not only his Word by means of the Holy Scriptures, but also his Image in the Holy Shroud of Turin and in the Holy Face of Manoppello, a divine evidence of his Passion, Resurrection and Glory.