On January 13, 1915, a series of four terrible earthquakes struck central Italy. In seconds, the quakes leveled the city of Avezzano and fifteen other neighboring villages, killing more than 30,000 people.
But in the midst of tragedy, the quake also brought forth from the local church’s rubble one of Christendom’s long-lost and precious relics. The earthquakes helped bring awareness to the small cloth that lay over Jesus’ face when he lay in the tomb.
Thanks to author Paul Badde, you can learn of the loss and recovery of this beautiful relic. With dozens of color pictures, you can also gaze on the face of Christ himself within the pages of The Holy Veil of Manoppello.
You should pick up a copy of Badde’s newest book on the Veil of Maoppello. But before you do, here are five amazing stories you should know about the relic:
1. Ancient legend debunked
Manoppello tradition holds that St. Michael, disguised as a pilgrim, brought the delicate veil to Italin town. Ancient Christian iconography traditionally depicts Michael carrying the veil. Even the column of Veronica at Saint Peter’s gives witness to this tradition, as St. Michael appears on the marble pillar holding the veil.
“Here it all fits together,” explains Badde. “The Hebrew name Michael means ‘Who is like God?’ in English, thus referring to the mandate of the bellicose Prince of Heaven, who fights against Lucifer and all the forces of the underworld. What clearer reply could one give the question posted by his name than with this very fine veil in his hand? ‘Look at him! He is like God! Jesus Christ alone, the Son of Man!'”
In 1978, Professor Pfeiffer, a world renowned sindonologists was the first to discredit the pious legend of St. Michael’s involvement with the veil. The German professor discovered that the veil was originally meant to be viewed at St. Peter’s basilica in Rome.
2. The Holy Veil saved this man’s life
When Emidio Petracca was ten years old, he was buried in the ruins of the 1915 earthquake in Cese. The earthquake struck while Emidio was serving at daily Mass.
After long hours, an unknown rescuer was able to to pull Emidio to safety. When the boy turned seventeen, he entered the Capuchin convent, and took on the religious name Domenico da Cese in memory of Saint Dominic.
In 1964, Father Domenico took a pilgrimage to Manoppello. It was there that he first saw the veil with the Holy Face. “It was as if he had been struck by lightening,” Badde writes. “Kneeling again, he stammered: ‘This is the man who pulled me out of the debris fifty years ago! He is the one who saved me! It is he!'”
Father Domenico spent the rest of his life studying the veil, and he soon became known as the Apostle of the Holy Face. “Even decades later, his brothers recounted having seen him pray day and night in front of the Holy Face,” Badde writes.
3. The veil is a witness to the Resurrection
In the days of Christ, Jewish burials used a large number of cloths. These clothes are kept and venerated not only in Manoppello, but all across Europe. Pieces of the burial cloths can be found at Turin in Piedmont, at Oviedo in Asturias, at Cahors in Occitania, in the treasury of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, in an abbey near Aachen, and in the Mainz on the Rhine.
But only two of these burial cloths have images on them – the Shroud of Turin and the veil in Manoppello.
“As John pointed out, the veil had been placed on the head of Jesus and therefore absorbed the first breath of the Risen Lord,” writes Badde. “This might even explain the mysterious expression on that face, which looks at us as if this breath continues to rest in that veil like an everlasting whiff or breeze, the creative breath of God!”
4. Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope to pray before the veil after 479 years
In 2005, Cardinal Meisner of Cologne visited Manoppello. There he prayed a Rosary and wrote in the guest book, “The face is the monstrance of the heart. In the Holy face, the heart of God becomes visible.”
When he came back to Rome, Cardinal Meisner told Joseph Ratzinger, then the dean of the College of Cardinals, “Today I met the Risen Lord.”
When he became Pope, Benedict XVI journeyed to Manopello and on September 1, 2006, he was the first pope to pray before the veil in 479 years. A week later in his general audience, he said, “We can truly say that God has been given a human face, that of Jesus, and henceforth, if we really want to know God’s face, we have only to contemplate the face of Jesus! In his face we really see who God is and how God is!”
5. Sea silk convinced Pope Benedict XVI to visit the veil
The structure of the veil itself was what convinced Pope Benedict XVI to visit. Dorothea Link discovered that the veil was not made of wool or silk, but rather the silky filaments of a fan mussel.
“On July 20, 2004, the term ‘marine byssus’ began to trigger a real chain reaction destined to help bring the Holy Sudarium back into the orbit of human consciousness,” writes Badde. “Only weeks later, Chiara Vigo, from Sardinia, the last and most renowned living expert on marine byssus, paid a visit to Manoppello, where she ascertained that the material of the Holy veil was indeed nothing other than marine byssus, the ancient world’s most precious fabric, on which it is impossible to apply paint.”
Before he was elected pope, Benedict XVI heard of sea silk via a local paper. “Without the term ‘marine byssus’ introduced by Dorothea Link, the pope most probably would have never gone to Manoppello,” Badde explains.
You can pick up a copy of The Holy Veil of Manoppello at your local Catholic bookstore. More of an online shopper? Get a copy through Sophia Institute Press.