An Eastern Orthodox Historical Overview
and Liturgical Service
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Passage from this book:
St. Veronica’s Wonderworking Veil
In the case of St. Veronica, both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches have iconic representations of St. Veronica holding a cloth or napkin with the image of Christ on it. How did St. Veronica obtain this cloth?
Written tradition, in the Catholic Church, says she wiped the face of Christ, as He carried His Cross. The wiping of Christ’s face by St. Veronica is also remembered in the Stations of the Cross in the Catholic Church, [i] which is a relatively new tradition that started in the 18th century. However, the written account that follows states that St. Veronica sought out Christ to obtain His image, and that Christ, Himself impressed His image on a cloth she gave Him[ii]. Which is accurate? We do not know.
“In written texts, her first appearance is in The Avenging of the Savior [iii], from possibly the 7th or 8th century: She explains to an envoy from Rome that during his ministry Jesus had imprinted His face onto a cloth for her. The envoy takes Veronica and the cloth to Rome, where it cures the Emperor Tiberius of leprosy.
What then happened to the cloth is not explained in The Avenging of the Savior nor in the retellings in The Death of Pilate and the Golden Legend. But a cloth with a face purporting to be Christ's was an object of veneration in Rome from at least the beginning of the 8th century, when John VII had an altar constructed for it in St. Peter's.[iv] In the 13th century, Innocent III organized a procession with the cloth and had a hymn written to honor the "Holy Face…impressed on a kerchief whiter than snow and given to Veronica as a sign of love."
Did the veil of St. Veronica really exist?
Yes! A document from the Iconoclast Period (see endnote for this) has been found pertaining to her veil being transported from Byzantium to Rome by St. Germanos I in 708.[v]
Where is St. Veronica’s Veil now? Good question!
Herein lie some of the complexities surrounding the current existence of the Veil of St. Veronica. There are eye-witness accounts made by pilgrims visiting the Vatican in Rome where the Veil of St. Veronica was kept inside the old St. Peter's Basilica (which was built by the Emperor Constantine) until the year 1600 A.D when construction began on the new basilica.
According to one Orthodox article, the cloth known as Veronica's Veil, is still the precious property of the Roman Catholic Church and “…has been placed in a hallowed corner of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, where it is put on display the second Sunday after Epiphany, four days during Holy Week, Easter Sunday, the Monday after Easter, Monday of Pentecost, February 22, May 3, and November 18 of each year, as well as on other special occasions.” But others disagree with this and say that The Veronica, as the Catholics call the veil, is in the Capuchin Church in Manoppello, Italy.
However, by the providence of God, my husband and I found proof that the Greeks in Jerusalem had possession of the Veil of Veronica in 1867! In an Orthodox book published in 2011 entitled, Holy Fire (read the following endnote for more information about the Holy Fire)[vi], The Miracle of Holy Saturday at the Tomb of Christ,[vii] there is a documented, witnessed account of the Veil of Veronica being used by Bishop Meletios in 1867 on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem as follows: (not included in this passage)
Footnotes and Endnotes:
 Taken from St. Veronica in Art, http://www.christianiconography.info/veronica.html
 The Veil of Veronica, Fact or Fiction? © 2009 John Iannone
 George Poulos, Orthodox Saints, Vol. 3, Pg. 29, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline Mass. 1991
 The Veil of Veronica, Fact or Fiction? © 2009 John Iannone
[i] The Stations of the Cross - Number of Stations has varied
While scholars disagree on the path Jesus took on Good Friday, processions in the 4th and 5th centuries from the Mount of Olives to Calvary followed more or less along the route taken by modern pilgrims (but there were no stops for Stations).
The practice of following the Stations of the Cross appears to have developed in Europe among Christians who could not travel to the Holy Land. The number of Stations varied from 7 to 18 or more.
Today’s Via Dolorosa route was established in the 18th century, with the present 14 Stations, but some of the Stations were given their present location only in the 19th century.
Nine of the 14 stations are based on Gospel references. The other five — Jesus’ three falls, His meeting with His Mother, and Veronica wiping His face — are traditional.
Station VI: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
The Via Dolorosa has now become a narrow, stepped street as it wends its way uphill. About 100 meters on the left, a wooden door with studded metal bands indicates the Greek Catholic (Melkite) Church of the Holy Napkin, which is pictured on the cover of this book. Taken from See the Holy Land, hhtp://www.seetheholyland.net/tag/veronica/
[v] “Later history confirms that, during the Iconoclastic debates in the 8th century, when icons were threatened with destruction, the veil of Veronica was sent to Rome in 708 A.D. by Byzantine Patriarch Germanus I for temporary safe keeping, but remained there with the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The same information stripped of its legendary characteristics is furnished by the Byzantine chronicler Giorgio Monaco in his Chronikon published in 842. In this document, it states that Saint Germanus I, Patriarch of Constantinople...exiled by the Emperor Leo III Isaurico (717-741) for his firm opposition to the Iconoclasts, carried the relic with him into exile and later sent it to Rome to Pope St. Gregory II (715-731). These facts are related also in some Greek codices of the Vatican dating from the 11th century…”
The Veil of Veronica, Fact or Fiction? © 2009 John Iannone
[vi] The Holy Fire
The descent of the Holy Fire at the Church of the Resurrection – or Church of the Holy Sepulcher as it is known – each Holy Saturday is a magnificent and highly venerated event that has been taking place for more than a millennium.
Each year, at noon on Holy Saturday, a supernatural light descends on the Tomb of Christ, the Holy Sepulcher, and lights the so-called ever-burning oil lamp in the Tombs interior, while at the same time a blue incandescence from the same light defuses throughout the Church of the Resurrection, illuminating the entire area and spontaneously igniting other lamps and candles around the church.
This event has been recorded for at least 12 centuries… this light is identified with the supernatural light that radiated inside the Tomb of Christ during the Resurrection.
The Holy Light appeared for the first time during the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, after midnight on Holy Saturday a few hours before the dawn of Easter Sunday, most likely on the day of 5 April AD 33.
Holy Fire, The Miracle of Holy Saturday at the Tomb of Christ, written by Haris Skarlakidis.
[vii] First English Edition published by Elaia Editions
Back Cover Text:
St. Veronica is one of the most beloved saints in both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches. She is the 'woman with an issue of blood' presented in the Gospels, who was instantly cured by Christ when she touched the hem of His garment:
"And behold, a woman which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years came behind him and touched the hem of his garment, for she said within herself, `If I may touch hip garment I shall be made whole.' But Jesus . . . when he saw her said, 'Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole." Matthew (19.20)
I began my research into the life of St. Veronica when I became Orthodox in 1996 and chose her for my saint. Initially, most of what I found was legend. Then at the request of my spiritual father to write a service for her, my research revealed some remarkable things. Based on these historically documented truths about St. Veronica, I have written an overview of what is documented about her life, Veronica's Veil and Statue and an Orthodox liturgical service in honor of her. Holy St. Veronica, pray to God for us!