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The Holy Face of Manoppello - ITALY







The Volto Santo (Holy Face) in Manoppello
In a church called the Sanctuary of Volto Santo (Sacred Face) in the province of Pescara people have worshipped for more than 400 years an image of Christ: according to many people it is the only and real image of Christ made by no human being. Therefore its origin would be divine.
The Volto Santo is a thin veil; the horizontal threads of the cloth are weaving and their framework is quite simple; the warp and the weft are not very visible to the naked eye: they interweave with one another forming a usual weaving. The veil is 17 x 24 cm. The image shows a male face with long hair and a beard parted in bands. It is the only case in the world where the image is visible on both sides of the cloth; colours are very light, the eyes are turned upward and the pupils are completely open, even though irregular. Scientific tests, observations under ultraviolet light and under a microscope show no pigments and no paintings on the veil.

Guided Tour in "Volto Santo Manoppello"

Manoppello: the Volto Santo (Holy Face)
Where does this mysterious relic come from? According to the tradition based on a historic account written by Father Donato from Bomba in 1640, it arrived in Manoppello on an unknown day in the year 1506, when the physicist and astrologer Giacomo Antonio Leonelli, while was talking with some people, met a foreign man. He was invited to follow him into the Church. He received a mysterious wrapped veil. He should have taken care of the mysterious object. In return he would have got material and spiritual advantages. While Father Donato was unrolling the veil, thus discovering the image of Christ, the foreign man disappeared.

The veil stayed at the Leonelli family for almost one hundred years; but in 1608 the several heirs started to contend for it. Pancrazio Petrucci, a soldier, one of the heirs' husband (Marzia Leonelli's husband), carried the veil away with force. Since that day the Leonelli family started falling down. Pancrazio was arrested and imprisoned in Chieti; his wife was forced to sell the precious veil to Donantonio De Fabritiis in order to free her husband.
As De Fabritiis was not well, he showed the veil to the Capuchin Friars to verify the real value of the veil. The Friars were happy with that relic and put it inside a frame (today you can still see it) in order to protect the veil. In 1683 De Fabritiis gave it to the Capuchin Friars who showed the relic for the public veneration in 1646, after the notarization.

However throughout the years many experts and ecclesiastics have looked for the historic truth. Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, Jesuit and Professor of Iconology and History of Christian Art at the Gregorian University of Rome, thinks the veil of Manoppello is the Roman Veronica. According to the historic reconstruction, Veronica, called "acheiropoietos", reached Constantinople in VI century (coming from Jerusalem and then from Camelia, in Cappadocia). It stayed there until 705, when it disappeared mysteriously, perhaps to save it from the iconoclastic movements of the time. It was in Rome under Pope Gregorio; after several vicissitudes, it was carried into St Peter's Cathedral, becoming an important destination for thousands pilgrims. After the demolition of the chapel where Veronica was held, in 1608, no trace of the veil was found. The veil appeared in Manoppello is thought to be the historic and legendary Veronica.

In 1978 Sister Blandina Paschalis Schloemer, a clever iconographer, said on account of some researches and investigations that the sacred face in Manoppello and the sacred face of the Sacra Sindone (the Holy Shroud) in Turin are exactly superimposable. Indeed, their features are the same: oval face, a bit round and asymmetric; long hair, a tuft of hair on his forehead; his mouth slightly open; his look upwards. Further researches were carried out by Pfeiffer and Father Blust, an expert of the Holy Shroud. The connection between the Sacred Face and the Holy Shroud is almost sure. Inside the Sanctuary you can see a permanent exhibition devoted to Pfeiffer and Father Blust's researches (tests and photos).
In addition, according to historic chronicles, The Holy Shroud would have had an historic/geographic route very similar to the Veronica's one. This would confirm the two experts' hypothesis. According to them, both the Shroud and the Veil would have been put on Christ's face. Their superimposability would depend on that aspect. Then they would have been carried away separately from Jerusalem to Camelia and afterwards to Constantinople. From there their routes would have been different.

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