As many of you may have seen; Netflix is showing a program entitled: "Mysteries of Faith", showcasing many relics of the Catholic faith. While I personally do not watch Netflix, I do wish to make known the scientific details of the Volto Santo also known as the Holy Face of Jesus, the precious relic kept at the Basilica of the Volto Santo in Manoppello, Italy since 1635. This feature can be seen:
First let us understand what exactly is marine byssus, the material used to weave this special cloth. In 2004, Dorothea Link was the first person to identify the cloth as sea-silk. Confirmed by Chiara Vigo, a master weaver of sea-silk for many, many generations. There can only be one female master weaver at any given time. According to Chiara, the skill of weaving this precious cloth was brought to Sant' Antioco by Princess Berenice, a great-granddaughter of Herod the Great, during the later part of the first century.
Above is a close up view of the actual weaving. Once the secretion from the mollusks hits the salt water it becomes keratin. The thickness is that of a woman's hair. Chiara has stated in interviews that due to the fragile nature of this material, it can not be painted. Original testing in 1974, the "Wood's Lamp", examination was performed which emits an ultraviolet light which the presence of color could be detected. The examination showed there was no trace of color on the Holy Face. In 1998-1999, at the University of Bari, Professor Donato Vittore undertook extensive research on the Volto Santo, again confirming, no traces of paint. If this delicate cloth had been painted with oils, the oils would appear between the fibers. If it had been painted with water colors, the image would not be so defined.
The following pictures will show the fibers as well as the Pina Noblis Mollusk, from which the fibers are obtained.
Now that you have seen what this precious cloth is made from, let's do some research. Many books have been written about a "Veronica's" Veil, first let us keep in mind that "Veronica" actually is Vera Icona which means true image. Others more knowledgeable than myself, such as Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner- Vita Communis or Paul Badde - many of you may know as an EWTN correspondent and author, who has written books on this subject matter. I personally over the years, can now refer to both of them as my friends. However, for the purpose of this article, I will also rely on a book written by Fr. Eugenio Di Giamberardino, entitled, " The Holy Face of Manoppello".
If you open your Bible to John, Chapter 20; you will see the first reference to this precious relic of the Volto Santo. John was the only apostle at the foot of the cross and saw first hand the wounds of our Lord's Face. In the Gospel, due to Jewish custom, he could not enter the tomb. However, in his gospel, he states and I quote, "He observed the wrappings on the ground and saw the piece of cloth which covered the head not lying with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the disciple who arrived first at the tomb went in. He saw and believed." Why? In other Bibles it may say the linen cloths. Why does John specify this? Because, only he could recognize not only the wounds but the words of our Lord regarding the Resurrection.
When the cloth kept in Orvieto, Spain (Good Friday - which captured the blood coming from the Mouth of our Lord.) Then, the Shroud of Turin - the death shroud, Holy Saturday. Top it with the Volto Santo, the Resurrection Veil on Easter Sunday all three line up exactly!
Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner in August, 2023, did a wonderful lecture on the Volto Santo from the very beginning. I am beginning my comments to when it arrived in Rome, Italy in 704 to St. Mary of the Martyrs (Pantheon). Then transferred to St. Peter's in 705. In 1208, Pope Innocent III carried this image in procession to Santo Spirito Sassia. If anyone visits San Giovanni in Laterano, the early Papal Palace, please go into the garden, there you will see a fresco in the wall of an "open eyed image" of our Lord. During the work on St. Peter's Basilica in the 1500s and then the sack of Rome, this image of our Lord, disappeared. On September 7, 1616, Pope Paul V issued a letter prohibiting under the pain of excommunication any further copies of the "Veronica". Manuscripts dated 1616 by Msgr. Franceso Grimaldi archivist at St. Peter's - the eyes were opened. Only in 1635, Msgr. Francesco Speroni , Sacristan at the Vatican - now the eyes are closed.
Why has the "Veronica" shown in the Basilica of St. Peter's during Lent not been allowed to be tested or photographed up close?
Padre Domenico da Cese was the first person to recognize Jesus in the Volto Santo as the living image of our Lord. If you exam the image closely, you will see some of the wounds from the crucifixion beginning to heal. Especially note, the eyes. When a person is just opening their eyes, their pupils are small. In the Volto Santo, one pupil is larger than the other. Only light can change a pupil. Is this the very moment when our Lord is opening his eyes in the tomb???
Close up of the eye area on the Volto Santo.
Hundreds of images of answered prayers or miracles attributed to the Volto Santo. In this picture there are only a few.
Padre Domenico da Cese pictured in adoration with the Volto Santo. If it were not for his work; Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, Professor of the History of Christian Art at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome nor Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer an iconographer, would have ever heard of the Holy Face relic. Let us continue to pray for the intercession of Padre Domenico. While he was alive, Padre Pio even referred pilgrims to go and see Padre Domenico stating, "He is just like me." Ask yourself, why?
For anyone wishing to have prayer requests placed in the notebook kept on the tomb of Padre Domenico; then once filled, it is taken to the Basilica of The Volto Santo. Please write to PadreDomenicoVoltoSanto@gmail.com.
Article written by: Tamara Klapatch