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 who was 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 or the resurrection veil It shows the face of Jesus, a man who is alive, not dead. Venerated quietly by the Church for centuries, the cloth is thought to be the same cloth found in the empty tomb on the first Easter morning. John, the Evangelist described it as “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, face slightly disfigured, and his mouth parted. This unusual image of Christ has been depicted in art for centuries. Villagers in the hamlet of Manoppello, Italy have venerated the veil for 400 years. Over the last few decades, Manoppello has become a destination for pilgrims. Popes, cardinals, and saints have visited the mysterious shroud.
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 piece. 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, 20006. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines traveled to Manoppello in 2017 and was overwhelmed with joy. He said, “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 and the Shroud of Turin-have both been investigated by scientists. These extensive investigations have left scientists scratching their heads. No explanation has ever been uncovered. The Holy Veil of Manoppello has not been subjected intensive study. However, in September 2004, Chiara Vigo, an expert in ancient fabrics studied the veil. She determined that the cloth was marine byssus, ancient in origin and incompatible with the paint strokes of artists.
In one recent study of the veil, scientists did a 3-D analysis of both the Shroud of Turin and the veil. Results indicate the two faces overlap in likeness to a point of great accuracy.
The report concluded:
While the Shroud has been studied in depth, the Veil of Manoppello has still information to be discovered and discussed, including the striking fact that its proportions are so similar to those of the Turin Shroud face, such are the detailed analysis on the cheek’s width has shown.
Perhaps in years to come, the Holy Veil of Manoppello will be subjected to more 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.