Saint Veronica is known as the woman who offered a cloth to Jesus so He could wipe His face on
the way to His crucifixion. The cloth is believed to exist today in the Vatican and is considered one of the
most treasured relics of the Church.
Saint Veronica is not mentioned in the Bible, but is known to us by Catholic tradition and in the
Sixth Station of the Cross, "Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus."
Legend states that as Christ was walking to Calvary, his face dripping with sweat and blood, Saint
Veronica, a bystander, was moved with compassion. She approached Jesus and offered Him a cloth, likely her
veil, which He accepted and used to wipe His face.
The image of his face was subsequently imprinted on the cloth.
There are no legends from the period which speak of Veronica either before or after her act of
compassion. We do not know when she was born or when she died. She is literally lost to history. However,
the cloth may still exist today, kept safe at St. Peter's in Rome.
This particular cloth bearing the likeness of Christ's face, although ancient and difficult to distinguish,
is considered one of the most treasured relics in the Vatican. According to legend, it is the original relic,
although throughout the ages many copies were created and some were passed along as genuine.
Most of what we know about the veil was recorded in the medieval period, although it was first
mentioned as being in the hands of Pope John VII in the early eighth century. The veil and the legend
surrounding it became very popular in the thirteenth though fifteenth centuries when the veil was on public
display. Indulgences were granted for people who performed devotions before it.
The fate of the veil was obscured by violence in 1527 by the Sack of Rome in which it may have been
destroyed. Many reproductions were created at this time, and it is unfortunately unclear if the veil still kept by
the Vatican is the original or a reproduction.
In 1616, Pope Paul V banned the production of all copies of the veil, which has become popular. In
1629, Pope Urban VIII went a step further and ordered the destruction of all copies, or that existing copies
should be delivered to the Vatican. Anyone who disobeyed this order was to be excommunicated.
The Veil of Veronica has since been kept from the public and rarely has been seen since. There are six known copies in the world, and there is one kept in St. Peter's basilica which is allegedly the same one from the Medieval period. If true, then it is possible this is the original relic. None of these relics have been photographed in detail or have been subjected to forensic testing.
The relic is kept in a frame, cut to match the outline of the original image on the cloth.
The Vatican's relic is displayed, although briefly, on the 5th Sunday of Lent each year. According to those who have seen the relic up close, there is minimal detail.
As for Saint Veronica, she is honored with a feast on July 12. Her icons show a woman holding a cloth upon which the face of Christ is imprinted. She is the patron of laundry workers and photographers
Prayer to St. Veronica
O My Jesus, Saint Veronica served You on the way to Calvary by wiping Your beloved face with a towel on which Your sacred image then appeared. She protected this treasure, and whenever people touched it, they were miraculously healed. I ask her to pray for the growth of my ability to see Your sacred image in others, to recognize their hurts, to stop and join them on their difficult journeys, and to feel the same compassion for them as she did for You. Show me how to wipe their faces, serve their needs, and heal their wounds, reminding me that as I do this for them, I also do this for You. Saint Veronica, pray for me. Amen.