Veronica and the Holy Shroud

Where is nowadays the ancient Roman Veronica?
Jan Wilson (*)

Why on earth the other Veil with the Image of Jesus Christ, in times past exposed to thousands of persons, nowadays is kept in all secrecy ?
The first official photo of the Holy Shroud of Turin was taken by Secondo Pia in May, 1898.
Since that historical occasion, a lot of believers could admire the Shroud close up and all the visitors were admitted laudably and freely, to the presence of the sacred object of Christianity, the cloth which wrapped Jesus in the tomb, bearing marks of His body and His blood and always to take new photos was permitted and the researches were facilitated. But what happened to the Roman Veronica, the other great relic bearing marks of Our Lord’s Face impressed on the Veil when, according to the popular legend, a woman mopped his brow when He carried his cross to Calvary? We know historically that in Middle Ages and Renaissance during the Jubilee Years (generally every 25 or 50 years or at the turning of the century), the “Veronica” was exhibited to thousands of pilgrims who came from all parts to admire it, as it happens nowadays when the Holy Shroud is exposed in Turin.During the Jubilee Year 1450, for example, a large crowd gathered there and 172 pilgrims died in Rome that day when the multitude was badly controlled. During the Holy Year 1575, while the large cupola of Michelangelo for St. Peter’s Basilica was still under construction, we know that 30.000 pilgrims were in Piazza San Pietro waiting for the opening of the doors to contemplate the Image and lots of them had travelled for miles and miles only to enjoy the privilege to gaze at Veronica (Vera Icona) i.e. the true Icon of Jesus.
Nevertheless, for reasons never made completely manifest, the believers lost the possibility to admire the Relic close up, except few chosen by St. Peter’s canons and their members by right of birth, the so called “Sampietrini”, since the Veronica was transferred where it is nowadays, i.e. in a S.W. pilaster supporting St. Peter’s cupola inside a special chapel just behind the balcony overhanging the statue of Saint Veronica.

Even though it seems that the Veil was shown from its balcony during the Holy Year 1950, it was impossible to see any Image on it. At present no kind of photograph is findable and even the most formal and important requirements to photograph it are denied or ignored and this reserve only for this Veil is suspect, as to take a pitcure of the Holy Shroud of Turin has never been forbidden.
To this mystery we must add the discrepancy between the medieval paintings ad prints of the Veronica with the Image of Jesus with His sweat and blood as in the Holy Shroud and the sporadic descriptions regarding his aspect we have by some people who, during this century, by way of privilege observed privately the Veil inside the Roman chapel. For example in 1907 the German researcher Monsignor Joseph Wilpert was allowed not only to see it, but also to remove the two protective panes of glass to study it more distinctly and he relates he only saw “a square section of light coloured material, rather faded in the long run, with two confused rust-coloured blobs each other connected”.
A present-day liturgic artist, Isabel Piczek from Los Angeles, who saw the Veronica in 1950 while she was working on a fresco for the Papal Biblical Institute, described it to me in the same way, adding resolutely “you couldn’t discern any face or features, not even the smallest sign”. Is the breadth of cloth kept in St. Peter’s chapel the same Veil thousands of pilgrims wanted to see during the Middle Ages pressing together in Piazza San Pietro, even though the Image, faded in the long run, is now nearly invisible?
Or must we agree with Father Pfeiffer who categorically affirms that a secret change happened during the XVI century, so that the original, true Veronica is that Veil appeared in those times at Manoppello, while inside the Roman chapel is kept just a common cloth? The third millennium after Christ has started and now, finally, in the name of the general right of knowledge, someone responsible before public opinion at last must order promptly the longed for ostentation of the Veronica to the public scrutiny.

(*) Jan Wilson, historiographer, member of the British Society for the Turin Shroud, writer of numerous publications regarding the Veronica and the Shroud.