Manoppello, Italy Celebrates Historic Anniversary

May 2021 procession of the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

There are three solemn feast days celebrated each year to honor of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy: the “Transfiguration” on August 6th, “Omnis Terra” in January, and the May memorial of the mysterious arrival of the “Veronica” to Manoppello in the early 1500’s. This year, the historic May anniversary of the Holy Face was celebrated with a traditional procession between the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello, and the church of San Nicola di Bari. A Solemn Mass was presided over by the Archbishop of the Chieti-Vasto Diocese, Bruno Forte, and was concelebrated by the Minister of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, Provincial Father Friar Matteo Siro in the church of San Nicola di Bari.

Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello in the processional reliquary. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The Capuchin Friars minor have guarded the precious “Veronica” relic veil of the Face of Jesus since 1638, when “a devout and well-respected man” named Don Antonio Fabritiis donated the holy veil bearing the Face of Christ to the Capuchin monastery in the small, isolated mountain village of Manoppello. A document entitled Relazione Historica re-telling the local legend of the Veil was written by Capuchin Donato da Bomba and notarized in 1646 and then, certified by sixteen local witnesses. The story told of the arrival of the Veil in Manoppello, “in around 1506,”(the date was vague) in the hands of a mysterious stranger who was thought to have been a holy angel, who later, suddenly disappeared.  (Aside from the “angel,” the main characters in the story have been historically verified.)

Photo: Esther Dinh

The recorded story told was this: “There lived in Manoppello the very famous Giacomo Antonio Leonelli, doctor in medicine…one day when he was out in the public square just outside of the door of the Mother church of the town of Manoppello, St. Nicholas Bari, in honest conversation with other peers, and while they were speaking a pilgrim arrived unknown by anyone, with a very venerable religious appearance, who having greeted this beautiful circle of citizens, he said, with many terms of manners, and of humility to Dr. Giacomo Antonio Leonelli that he had to speak with him about a secret thing which would be very pleasing, useful and profitable for him.  And thus, taking him aside just inside the doorway of the church of St. Nicholas Bari, gave him a parcel, and without unfolding it told him that he ought to hold this devotion very dear, because God would do him many favors, so that in things both temporal and spiritual he would always prosper.”  So the doctor took the parcel and turning towards the holy water fount carefully opened it, and “seeing the Most Sacred Face of Our Lord Christ…he burst into most tender tears…and thanking God for such a gift…turned to the unknown pilgrim to thank him…but he did not see him anymore.”  When the good doctor, “shaken” and “filled with wonder,” went outside to his friends and asked where the man went, his friends replied that they never saw him exit the church. They searched high and low but never found the mysterious pilgrim, “hence all judged that the man in the form of a pilgrim to be a heavenly Angel, or else a Saint from Paradise.” 

— Relazione Historica

The Holy Veil remained the property of the Leonelli family for nearly a century, until a family member in need of money sold the Veil to Don Antonio Fabritiis, who in turn gave it to the Capuchins in 1638.  The Holy Veil, called the “Il Volto Santo,” was kept in a dimly lit side chapel until the church was renovated in 1960, when it was decided that the Veil should be moved to a more prominent place behind the altar of the church of St. Michael, the Shrine of “Il Volto Santo,” which was elevated to the status of a Sanctuary Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Holy Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Holy Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Processional Reliquary of the Holy Veil Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

Holy Face Procession. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Through the luminous, transparent veil, the Face of Jesus is still visible.
Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
Holy Face of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Many thanks to the intrepid Paul Badde for sharing his amazing photos of the Holy Face!

More may be read here – on Holy Face of Manoppello Blogspot, in an article by Antonio Bini, including other beautiful photos and video of the Solemn Mass.

Opening Benediction of the celebration, Saturday, May 15th, with the Holy Face by the Rector of the Sanctuary, Padre Antonio Gentili.

PRAYER TO THE HOLY FACE

Lord Jesus, Face of eternal love, in this holy place, guardian of the veil in which you show yourself in the signs of pain and let the infinite mercy of your Divine Heart shine through, grant us to live a new beginning on the journey of faith, of charity and hope, that you call us to travel together with You. May your gaze fill us with the light that comes from the Father to illuminate our steps and lead us to the pastures of heaven, and pour the Holy Spirit into our hearts, perfume of your grace and imprint of your beauty. And Mary, who first looked at Your Face and kissed it with the tenderness of a Mother, She who saw him close his eyes on the arms of the Cross, contemplated him risen and now contemplates him in glory, help us to seek your ever new desire. Face of King crucified out of love, victorious over evil and death, to meet you in the embrace of your Church, recognize you in your sacraments and bear witness to you in the works and days of our life. Amen!

  • Bruno Forte
    Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto
Closing blessing with the Holy Face by Archbishop Bruno Forte, Monday, May 17th, when the Holy Face was brought back to to Basilica on Tarigni hill from the parish church in San Nicola. Video by Esther Dinh

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