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
Tour in "Volto Santo Manoppello"
Manoppello: the Volto Santo (Holy
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
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