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.
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.)
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.
Look closely! Note the differences in the countenance between the photo above and the photo below taken from each side of the sheer veil. The veil is sheer enough to read through, and in light, can disappear, and yet miraculously appears on each side with subtle differences, such as the lock of hair at the forehead, and even greater differences in the eyes and the mouth. It is not humanly possible to reproduce the image with paint and retain its mysterious changeability as well as transparency. This image is known as an archeiropoieta–made not by human hand but by the Hand of God!
To view more of Alexandra Prandell’s remarkable photos of the Holy Face Veil of Manoppello, Italy, please visit her Instagram account at this link: https://instagram.com/voltosantomanoppello?igshid=MmIzYWVlNDQ5Yg==