Saint Veronica is known as the woman who offered a cloth to Jesus so He could wipe His face on the way to His crucifixion. The cloth is believed to exist today in the Vatican and is considered one of the most treasured relics of the Church.
Saint Veronica is not mentioned in the Bible, but is known by Catholic tradition and at the Sixth Station of the Cross, “Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.”
Tradition holds that as Christ was walking to Calvary, his face dripping with sweat and blood, Saint Veronica, a bystander, was moved with compassion. She approached Jesus and offered Him a cloth which He accepted and used to wipe His face.
The image of his face was subsequently imprinted on the cloth.
There are no stories from the period which speak of Veronica either before or after her act of compassion. We do not know when she was born or when she died.
The veil and the legend surrounding it became very popular in the thirteenth though fifteenth centuries when the veil was on public display. Indulgences were granted for people who performed devotions before it.
The veil may have been destroyed in 1527 by the Sack of Rome. Many reproductions were created, and it is unclear if the veil kept by the Vatican is the original or a reproduction.
In 1616, Pope Paul V banned the production of all copies of the veil. In 1629, Pope Urban VIII went a step further and ordered the destruction of all copies, or that existing copies should be delivered to the Vatican. Anyone who disobeyed this order was to be excommunicated.
The Veil of Veronica has since been kept from the public. There are six known copies in the world, none of these relics have been photographed in detail or have been subjected to forensic testing.
The Vatican’s relic is displayed, although briefly, on the 5th Sunday of Lent each year.
Saint Veronica is the patron saint of laundry workers and photographers. Her feast day is celebrated on July 12.
To learn more about St. Veronica: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=1953