The exquisite illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages reflect the great love and devotion shown to the Holy Face, as well as provide evidence of what the Holy Face of Jesus looked like, as it was seen on a miraculous veil, known as “the Veronica.” “The Veronica,” or Veil of the Holy Face of Jesus, was the greatest relic in Rome at that time. To gaze upon the veil was the great desire of pilgrims, who came from far and wide, to see for themselves the sheer veil bearing the Face of Jesus. Beginning with public exhibitions and processions of the Holy Veil by Pope Innocent III in the mid thirteenth century, the miraculous veil could be viewed by all. Then, the artists got to work on paintings, illustrations, poetry, prayers, and hymns in honor of the Holy Face. ( “The Veronica Route” website wonderfully catalogues many of these “Veronica” artworks that may be found throughout the world.)
Pope John XXII, who was elected Pope in 1316, composed a beautiful hymn in honor of the Holy Face, and he also granted a special indulgence to those who recited it — and for those who could could not read, the Pope granted the same indulgence to the faithful for reciting five Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Be’s. (For an understanding of indulgences, this EWTN article, Primer on Indulgences by James Akin is very helpful.)
Hymn in Honor of the Holy Face by Pope John XXII (translated from the original Latin)
Hail! Holy Face of our Redeemer, hail! Which shines in all its majesty divine Upon the spotless veil, a priceless gift To Saint Veronica; of love the sign. Hail! Glory of all time, mirror-glass of the Saints, Wherein the blessed love for eye to gaze; Destroy within us every stain of sin, And with the elect our souls towards Thee raise. Hail, Face of God! With His own gifts adorned, Whose splendor through the ages shall not cease; Oh! make Thy light descend into our hearts, And from their earthly toils our souls release. Hail! Mighty bulwark of the Christian faith, Of heresy and lies the Victor Thou; King in the Sacred Bread, renew the strength Of all the faithful who before Thee bow. Hail! all our joy in this hard life below, So frail and fugitive, so quickly over; Sweet Picture, lead us onwards to the skies, That we may there the Face of Christ adore. Hail! noblest of all gems, celestial pearl, In Thee innumerable graces shine; No hand depicted Thee, no chisel carved, Thou wert of God alone the work divine. The tints with which Thy features He has traced Will never alter and will never fade; Changeless amidst the ravages of time, The everlasting King Thy Face may see. Forever incorrupt and free from stain, The living Christ we honour still in Thee; Thou turnest into joy our sighs and tears, Oh! grant that we, in heaven, thy Face may see. Be thou, we pray, our buckler and defense, Our consolation and refreshment sweet, That nothing hostile may our spirits harm, Till, after death, we rest at Jesus’ feet. Amen.
Shed, O Lord, joy over the faces of Thy faithful, and turn them away from the depths of hell, that, protected by the contemplation of Thy divine Face, we may have strength to tread underfoot the desires of the flesh, and that we may behold Thee face to face, without fear, Lord Jesus Christ, when Thou will come to judge us. Amen.