From Jerusalem to Rome, up to Manoppello. Here’s the long journey of the Holy Face
The Way of the Holy Face retraces the history of the route – especially the last part of this long path – through which the achiropita image (not made by human hands) of the Face of Christ was brought from Jerusalem to Rome and then, up to Manoppello.
A path that runs along the ancient Roman road Tiburtina Valeria (that links Rome and Abruzzo) up to Manoppello (in Pescara), where the Basilica of the Holy Face is.
How did the Holy Face get in Manoppello?
According to the authoritative scholar Father P. Heinrich Pfeiffer, “The Holy Face has made its journey [...] from Jerusalem to Ephesus, from Ephesus to Camulia in Cappadocia, from Camulia to Constantinople, from Constantinople to the Sancta Sanctorum chapel of the Lateran Palace, from the Lateran Palace to the Chapel of Veronica in St Peter's in the Vatican and finally to the Manoppello Shrine.”
According to our hypothesis, during these travels the same object has changed names several times. From “acheiropoietos” image of Camulia, to “prototypos”, to “acheropsita” and “Holy Face”of the Sancta Sanctorum Chapel, to “Veronica” – a compound name composed by the Latin word Vera (Truth) and the Greek word icon (image) – and finally back to “Holy Face” in Manoppello. This is just a well-founded assumptions, but the identity between the Holy Face and the Roman Veronica is a certainty.
Several assumptions about the last part of the journey from Rome to Manoppello of the Veronica’s veil have been also made. But the well-established history to date is the one told in the “Relatione Historica” by Fra’ Donato da Bomba in 1640. That story was later confirmed by a notarial deed (1646), which certifies the donation of the Veil to the Capuchin fathers by the doctor Antonio de Fabritiis. According to this version, the Veil was given to a notable of Manoppello, the doctor Giacomo Antonio Leonelli – while standing in front of the church of St. Nicola – by an unknown wanderer in 1506.
The Leonelli family kept the relic until Marzia Leonelli sold it to Antonio de Fabritiis. The new owner immediately thought to give a more suitable accommodation to the Veil, reduced at that point in poor condition. Therefore, he prayed the Father Clemente da Castelvecchio to entrust the conservation of the Veil to the mastery of Friar Remigio da Rapino who placed it in a frame. At the end, in 1638, the Capuchins put the relic in their church, the place where it is still held today.
The story of the Holy Face is full of events that have an extraordinary importance for Christianity and, for this reason, it is worshiped in many countries in the world. Its reputation has grown even more after the visit of Pope Benedict XVI who went to Manoppello on September 1, 2006 to venerate the image of the Holy Face held by the Capuchins. On that occasion, the Pope upgraded the Shrine to Minor Basilica.
The Holy Face to the origin of the Jubilee
A very important aspect of the history of the Holy Face is that it is tied to the origin of the Jubilee. Specifically, in 1207, the Holy Face gained notoriety because Pope Innocent III showed and exhibited it publicly, begging the indulgence for all those who prayed in front of the relic (the Holy Face indeed).
This exposition took place in a procession from St. Peter's Basilica to the church (that is also a hospital) of Santo Spirito in Sassia, located a few hundred meters away, and it became an important annual event. In 1300, during one of these processions, Pope Boniface VIII was inspired to proclaim the first Jubilee in history.
During this Jubilee the Veil of Veronica was publicly showed and became one of the “Mirabilia Urbis” (wonders of the City) for pilgrims who visited Rome. For the next two hundred years, The Veronica was considered as the most precious of all Christian relics.
A journey through the Christian History, Culture and Spirituality
The Way of the Holy Face runs along 300 km through a territory of highly valuable environmental quality, but also of extraordinary historical and artistic interest.
In the Apennines, between Lazio and Abruzzo, traditions and religious culture are strongly linked to the presence of spiritual places, especially shrines. These are all strengths able to attract tourist flows motivated by cultural and/or religious purposes.
Specifically, Abruzzo has been one of the first Italian regions which experienced the impact of Christianity and Benedictine monasticism, a phenomenon linked to the presence in the region of many historical, artistic, religious and cultural sites of interest such as the splendid medieval religious architectures located along the Way. Worthy of mention are: S. Clemente a Casauria (Castiglione a Casauria); S. Maria Arabona (Manoppello), the Church of San Giovanni Battista (Celano), Santa Maria della Vittoria (ruins in Scurcola Marsicana); the Church of San Francesco (Tagliacozzo); the Church of Santa Maria di Cartignano (Bussi sul Tirino), the Church of San Nicola (Pescosansonesco).
Abruzzo still holds precious architectural and documentary evidence that narrate the early years of the expansion of the Franciscan message as visible along the Way, through the churches of San Francesco in Avezzano, Carsoli, Celano, Pescina Tagliacozzo, Alanno, Castiglione a Casauria, Popoli and in the Church of San Domenico (formerly San Francesco) in Tocco da Casauria.
During the early Middle Ages, the immemorial “sanctity” of rocks, water and caves connected with a typical example of the religious culture in Abruzzo, the hermitic life. Worthy of mention are the numerous caves dedicated to Sant'Angelo (Carseldine, Castiglione a Casauria, Lettomanoppello), and the Hermitages: San Marco alla Foce (Celano); the Hermitage of San Venanzio (Raia); the Hermitages of Santa Croce al Morrone, Santa Maria al Morrone and Sant’Onofrio (all near Sulmona).
The Abruzzo region is also characterized by a widespread and deep presence of castles and fortresses spread over its landscape.
Along the Way it is possible to see architectures that represent the history and power of the most important feudal families who lived in the region as the Orsini, whose name is linked to the castles of Avezzano and Scurcola Marsicana. But also the Castle of Sangro in Anversa degli Abruzzi, the Piccolomini Castle and the Castle of the counts in Celano. Moreover, the Castles of Cantelmo in Ortona dei Marsi; the De Sanctis Castle in Roccacasale; the Carsoli castle that belonged to the counts of Marsi and then to the Orsini and the Colonna; the Castle of Musellaro (Bolognano); the Cantelmos Castle in Popoli; the Castle of Tocco da Casauria.