The Holy Face of Manoppello

Volto Santo ManoppelloThe Holy Face is a fragile veil, it’s undulating horizontal threads are of a simple structure, the warp and weft of the fabric interlace in a normal weave. The measurement of the cloth is 17 x 24 cm. and the image is one of a male face with long hair and a beard divided into bands. It is the only case in the world in which the image is identically visible from both sides.

The color tones are somewhat brown, the lips are slightly red, and seem to cancel out every material aspect. As a result of research carried out by Prof. Donato Vittore of the University of Bari and Prof. Giulio Fanti of the University of Padova, there are no traces of color residuals or pigments found on the cloth.

The two cheeks are unequal: one is more rounded than the other, showing a considerable amount swelling. The eyes gaze intensely up and to one side. Because of this, it is possible to see the white of the eyeball under the iris. The pupils are completely open, but in an irregular way. In the middle, above the forehead, there is a lock of short curly hair, in a vortex shape wave.

The Holy Face of Manoppello - Edited by Heinrich Pfeiffer

In 1618 Marzia Leonelli sells an object very similar to the Veronica of Rome to Donatantonio de Fabritiis in Manoppello for 4 shields, in order to redeem her husband Pancratio Petrucci from the prison of Chieti. This important fact can be read in a "historical relation" that was begun around 1640 and finished in 1646. It was written by Cappuccino Donato of Bomba to Manoppello. Two copies of this "historical relation" exist in the Cappuccino order’s provincial archives – one in L’Aquila and one in the convent of Manoppello. In this same "Relation" it is said that the Veil with the image of Christ was brought to Manoppello in 1506 by a stranger and that it was delivered by this stranger to an ancestor of Marzia Leonelli, the physicist Giacomo Antonio Leonelli. The cloth, no longer in good condition, was likely owed as a dowry to Marzia, but her brother didn’t want to give her the precious object, therefore her husband, soldier Pancratio Petrucci, was forced to remove the precious image from his brother-in-law’s house by means of violence. It is clear that the historical nucleus of all of this "Relation" is reliable; it only remains to be seen the accuracy of the decree of its sale of 1618. All the events carried out prior to this date are, more or less, invented. All of that which is narrated in the first pages of the "Relation" has the characteristics of a legend. Already the deed of 1646 alternatively defines the "Relation” as “historiam et legendam” (Latin for “history according to legend”). After 1506, the year in which, according to the "Relation," the Veil reached Manoppello, no further date is indicated until the following century.Only in the copy sent to the general Minister is there found, in the margin, the mention of the violent appropriation of the Veil on the part of soldier Pancratio Petrucci, the date of 1608, written by another hand and with a different ink; the date of demolition of the chapel of the Veronica in Rome. The torn relic at Saint Peter’s is a document that speaks with much clarity: the Veil containing the image of Christ, the Veronica, was embezzled by means of violence. All of that which later becomes shown as the Veronica in Rome is yet a piece of non-transparent cloth, while the relic of 1350, with its two glass panes made of rock crystal, was said to have been a transparent cloth, with an image that could be seen from both sides. Moreover, these crystal panes are documented as having been broken back in 1618, the year in which the relic was sold. The Holy Face of Manoppello meets all of these requirements. The cloth with the miraculous image was not taken with violence from a house in Manoppello, but from the very same Saint Peter’s Basilica or from its nearby archives. All of that which is reported in the "Relation" with a date later than 1618 has but an historical value. Donatantonio de Fabritiis made the Cappuccino order come to Manoppello and entrusted them with the cloth containing the image of Christ. P. Clemente di Castelvecchio cut it around the contour and Brother Remigio di Rapino placed it between two glass panes in a walnut frame. It is those glass panes and the frame that can still be seen today. In 1638 the relic containing the image of Christ is donated by Donatantonio de Fabritiis to the Cappuccino order at which time was headquartered in Manoppello. In 1646, with the deed, both the donation as well as the "historical Relation" is authenticated in the town hall of Manoppello. For the first time the relic is exhibited at public worship. Just 40 years later, a chapel of a Cappuccino church is dedicated to the Holy Face. During the reign of Pope Paul V special measures were taken in order to at least limit the coping of the Veronica. Under his successor Gregory XV (1621-23) only two copies were made and any further attempts were forbidden, the penalty being excommunication. Under Pope Urbano VIII (1623-44) all copies were not only forbidden, but were destroyed. The Cappuccino order waited for two years after the death of Urbano VIII to authenticate both the donation of the relic as well the "historical Relation" through a public act in 1646.