06 April 2007

The Veil of St Veronica c.33-2007

St Veronica's Veil in ManoppelloMembers of the Catholic church, along with the veil-sellers of Abruzzo, are today mourning the passing of St Veronica's Veil, following the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to remove any reference to it from the Stations of the Cross.

The tale of St Veronica's Veil begins in the 6th century AD, at a time when churches across Europe were all letting it be known that they were stuffed to the rafters with holy relics, which they would be more than happy to allow pilgrims to gawp at or fondle for the price of a small, "well, I say small but, let's not beat about the bush, we're talking about improving the chances of avoiding your soul's eternal confinement in the lowest pits of Hell here" donation to the Church restoration fund.

It was surely a happy coincidence that at exactly this time the tale of St Veronica, a pious woman of Jerusalem in 33AD who wiped the face of Jesus with a cloth as he struggled under the weight of the cross, instantly imprinting a perfect image of Jesus's face upon the cloth ("only three groats a touch, keep the queue moving please"), arose.

The tale of the Veil soon spread throughout Christendom. By now hundreds were willing to asseverate that Veronica had travelled to Rome and used her Veil to heal the ailing Emperor Tiberius (a particularly miraculous event given the fact the Emperor was living on Capri at the time). Veronica's Miraculous Veil was now said to be able to quench thirst, restore sight and even resurrect the dead, though unlike Jamie's Magic Torch it was unable to create a magical helter skelter allowing one to go "over and over, faster and faster to Wonderland".

By the early 8th Century the shroud was so popular that it was given its own Chapel at old Saint Peter's in Rome by Pope John VII. For centuries it moved about Rome (presumably with human aid but who can tell with miraculous objects) until it was brought to Saint Peter's in 1297 by order of Pope Boniface VIII, who was outraged that the Chief site of the Western Church should be facing competition in the relic stakes from several hundred saints bones, enough splinters from the one true cross to build a fleet of ships and all three "one true" holy grails.

During reconstruction work on the basilica in 1506 the Veil disappeared, causing outrage in the Vatican and ensuring the Pope would never use that firm of cowboy builders ever again, however low their quote for the work be. Happily there were on hand many artists with an amazingly exact memory of the appearance of the Veil, all of whom were willing to make copies of it for the Church to sell. Unfortunately the industry reproductions of the Veil for the use of sincere pilgrims soon got out of hand, with so many copies being made that by 1616 Pope Urban V was forced to ban the practice altogether ... unless made by a canon of St Peter's Basilica, of course.

For centuries, the whereabouts of the miraculous Veil remained in question. In 1999, however, Father Heinrich Pfeffer announced that he had rediscovered it in a Capuchin monastery in Manoppello in Italy. All who saw the image were immediately struck by its miraculous nature - particularly as none had expected the true image of their Lord to look so exactly like a bog-standard Mediaeval forgery. Even more miraculous was the fact that St Peter's in Rome, Jaen and Alicante in Spain and the basilica of Sacré Coeur in Paris all claimed that they had the one true version of the Veil locked up in their own churches. Indeed, Pope Benedict was so moved by the sight of the Manopello Veil in 2006 that he went off straight away to have its role in the commemoration in the sixth station of the cross expunged as part of a move to remove the apocrypha from the "authentic" story of the Gospels.

The Veil of St Veronica was buried on Good Friday. It is survived by a new set of Stations of the Cross stripped of their Mediaeval traditions, a modernising Pope who speaks in Latin and thousands of distraught sellers of genuine reproduction Veils of St Veronica (guaranteed 100% natural rayon).


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Well done, Dodo!

MuseinMeltdown said...

An enlightening piece - well written and researched. Thank you so much for sharing.