Chapel of the Holy Face

By the Editors of the Madain Project

It is a small chapel, known as the Chapel of the Holy Face, or the House of Saint Veronica traditionally, regarded as the home of St. Veronica and site of the miracle, when Veronica paused to wipe the blood and sweat off Jesus face with her veil, his image was imprinted on the cloth. The church was restored in 1953 by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi.

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The current sixth station of the Via Dolorosa commemorates this legendary encounter between Jesus and Veronica. The Christian tradition recounts that Saint Veronica from Jerusalem encountered Jesus along the Via Dolorosa on the way to Calvary. When she paused to wipe the blood and sweat (Latin sudor) off his face with her veil, his image was imprinted on the cloth. The event is commemorated by the Sixth Station of the Cross.

The main entrance to the chapel (left), it leads to a stair case to the crypt. On the right is a souvenir shop (peek inside) which also offers access to the crypt.

The Tradition of the Veronica's Veil

circa 1200 CE

The cloth Veronica uses to wipe Jesus' face is often identified with the Manoppello Image. The cloth has been claimed to be made of a rare fiber called byssus, which is a natural fiber coming from a bivalve mollusc Pinna nobilis, woven into sea silk, and used by ancient people mainly around the Mediterranean coasts. Pfeiffer claims that the image is the Veil of Veronica. He suggests that it was stolen from the Vatican during rebuilding that took place in 1506, before the Sacking of Rome. He further suggests the cloth was placed over Jesus' face in the tomb and that the image was a by-product of the forces unleashed during Jesus' resurrection – forces, he believes, that also formed the image on the Shroud of Turin.

circa 1200 CE

However, there is no reference to the story of Veronica and her veil in the canonical Gospels. The closest is the miracle of the woman who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment (Luke (8:43-48); her name is later identified as Veronica by the apocryphal "Acts of Pilate." The story was later elaborated in the eleventh century by adding that that Christ gave her a portrait of himself on a cloth, with which she later cured Tiberius. The linking of this with the bearing of the cross in the Passion, and the miraculous appearance of the image was made by Roger d'Argenteuil's Bible in French in the thirteenth century

Church of the Holy Face

circa 1200 CE

Identification of the Site
The location was identified as the site of the encounter in the 19th century; in 1883, Greek Roman Catholics purchased the 12th-century ruins at the location, and built the Church of the Holy Face and Saint Veronica on them, claiming that Veronica had encountered Jesus outside her own house, and that the house had formerly been positioned at this spot. Today a replica of the Holy Mandylion, is placed inside the Chapel of Holy face.

circa 1200 CE

Byzantine-era Remains
The small pillar embedded in the wall of the chapel, commemorating the spot of the encounter between the Vera and Jesus. Here the Via Dolorosa now becomes a narrow, stepped street as it wends its way uphill. The column-shaped stone to the left of the entrance bears the Latin inscription 6 ST PIA VERONICA FACIEM CHRISTI LINTEO DETERCI, “the sixth station where the pious Veronica wiped the face of Christ with a veil.”

circa 1200 CE

Crusader-era Remains
The church includes some of the remains of the 12th-century buildings which had formerly been on the site, including arches from the Crusader-built Monastery of Saint Cosmas. The present building is administered by the Little Sisters of Jesus, and is not generally open to the public. The Little Sisters of Jesus are a Catholic community of religious sisters inspired by the life and writings of Charles de Foucauld, founded by Little Sister Magdeleine of Jesus (Madeleine Hutin).

circa 1200 CE

Greek Inscription
Greek inscription with an old incense burner in the background to the right (inspect). The narrative is based on Luke 23, 27: “And he followed a great company of men and women, who wept and wept.” His name, Veronica, may have been based on the Latin words “Vera Icon”, or “true image” – the face of Jesus on the woman’s handkerchief.

Memorabilia Workshop

circa 1200 CE

At the entrance to the church, there is a small workshop where nuns paint and sell icons. Folk etymology has attributed the name’s origin to the words ‘vera’ (Latin for true) and ‘icon’ (Greek for image). Some believe that Veronica’s Veil is now kept by the Pope in Rome while others believe that there are fragments of it in various churches. The church at this station marks the site of Veronica’s home.


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