One of the most famous relics the Church venerates today is the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus. Imprinted on the 14-foot-long piece of linen is the image of a man beaten, scourged, and crucified.
Yet how many people know about another shroud with a mysterious image? It is the holy veil of Manoppello, also called the little shroud, that shows the face of Jesus, a man alive, not dead. Revered quietly by the Church for centuries, the cloth is thought to have been discovered by the apostles Peter and John at the tomb of Christ “the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloth, but rolled up in a place by itself.” (John 20:7) The eyes are open, the face slightly disfigured, his mouth parted. This image of Christ has been depicted in art for centuries. Villagers in the tiny hamlet of Manoppello, Italy have venerated the veil for 400 years. Now over the last few decades, Manoppello has become a pilgrimage destination for the faithful, popes, cardinals, and saints.
Saint Padre Pio called it “the greatest miracle we have.” Robert Cardinal Sarah visited the site in 2018 and said, “In Manoppello we encounter God face-to-face. It is such a moving place. One is touched by the gentleness of Christ’s eyes, with their extraordinary penetrating and calming power.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI venerated the Holy Face on September 1, 2006. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines, traveled to Manoppello in 2017 and was overwhelmed with joy. “You gladly have my permission to spread the devotion to the face of Jesus. We hope that through you, so many will find that Jesus is real.”
Two other miraculous images – St. Juan Diego’s tilma that and the Shroud of Turin, have both investigated by scientists, but he Holy Veil of Manoppello has not been subject to scientific study. In September, 2004 Chiara Vigo, a woman who weaves on precious fabrics, examined the veil and determined that the cloth was marine byssus, ancient in origin and incompatible with the paint strokes of artists.
Perhaps in years to come, the Holy Veil of Manoppello will be subject to research by scientists. For now, the Church moves cautiously on its origins, encouraging us all to ponder the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.