There are at least four separate historical accounts of a veil or cloth of miraculous origin, “not made by human hands,” bearing an image of the Face of Jesus Christ. Each account relates, in its own way, that the Sacred Image came into contact with the living Face of Jesus. Human nature, being what it is, has altered the story, over the centuries, like the old game of “telephone” where one child whispers a story to the first child in line and by the time it has reached the last child the narrative has become very different.
Humanity has journeyed through millennia of dangers, persecution, wars, and intrigue since Christ walked on the earth (and on water), which obscured the facts of the origin of the Holy Veil of the Face of Jesus. The stories of the Veil were handed down to us today by way of history, tradition, literature, art, and music. Somewhere within these intertwined stories is the truth, but, one must have the humility to acknowledge before such a great mystery that we don’t know the whole of the story because God, whose “ways are not our ways,” has allowed them to be hidden.
There are many clues (read anything written about the Holy Face by Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI or Pope Francis to find those clues) as to why the Holy Face is taking such a prominent role at this particular point in history to draw humanity back out of the abyss of darkness it now finds itself submerged in. It seems that God, in His Mercy, is “drawing back the veil,” in these dark days, allowing facts to come to light. The four stories point us to one image in particular.
To begin, each are said to depict the Face of the living Christ on a sheer veil or cloth–a human face of a man who has suffered, with traces of wounds, bruises, and swelling visible, especially on the left cheek. His wavy hair is long and parted with a small, short lock of curls at the center. His beard is sparse as though torn, and divided in two. His open eyes are peaceful and looking slightly to one side. His mouth is partially opened. The images each were reported to have been miraculous not only in appearance, but also as an instrument of healing.
The Camulia-The oldest story of such an image is the Camulia—named for where it was found, the town of Kamuliana, in Cappodocia, Turkey. The story is of a pagan woman name Hypatia who was receiving Christian instruction and had difficulty believing in Jesus unless she could see Him. “How can I worship Him when He is not visible and I cannot see Him?” She asked. One day she drew from the water of a well, a cloth, with His Holy Face. She became a believer from that moment on. Although there is no longer any trace in art history of the Camulia, the image was described by Theophylactus Simocattus as “the image of the God incarnate…said since ancient times and to the present day that divine art created it, that it was not produced either by a weaver’s hands nor was it painted by the colors of a painter.” The Camulia was cited as a historical image during the iconoclast war against sacred images. During the second council of Nicaea in 787, a deacon named Cosmos demonstrated how the iconoclasts wanted to destroy evidence of testimony of the Eastern Fathers in favor of images of the Face of Jesus. He held up a martyrology from which pages of the story of the Camulia had been ripped out. That was the last mention of the Camulia in history. (source)
The history of the Camulia overlaps with another historical narrative, also originating in Turkey, of an image of the Face of Christ–The Mandylion of Edessa– which will be continued in the next post, “Four Stories – One Face, Part 2.”
Book Sources: True Icon: From the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manoppello, The Rediscovered Face, the Unmistakeable Features of Christ and Witnesses to Mystery, Investigations into Christ’s Relics