Manoppello: Volto Santo
- The Volto Santo (Sacred
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.
Manoppello: the Volto Santo (Sacred 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.
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
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.
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
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
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