24 May 2017

A veil in the margins

As is well known, one's Twitter feed can be filled with much that is ugly in this world, but what is less well known is that one's Twitter feed can also be filled with much that is beautiful in this world. This is why I follow, among others, a number of medievalists who tweet out images from some of the great manuscripts. Among these is Kathleen McCallum, who enjoys "life in the margins" and tweets images of what are known marginalia, images found in the margins of medieval texts.

Yesterday, she tweeted a beautiful image of the legendary Saint Veronica holding her famous veil, which, as Paul Badde has shown, is in reality what is now called the Veil of Manoppello, the Volto Santo, the cloth that covered Jesus' face in the tomb (cf. John 20:6-7):

Detail, Yates Thompson MS 27 f. 44
The image comes from what is called the Hours of Yolande of Flanders, made somewhere between 1353 and 1363 and now housed in the British Library. The image is found in the left margin of a page principally depicting the Visitation, which you can view here.

If you look closely at the veil held in the hands of Saint Veronica, you can see the face of Jesus bears a rather striking resemblance to the face of the Veil of Manoppello, the Holy Face:

If you compare these two images to the image of Saint Veronica as depicted in your parish church's Stations of the Cross, the face on her veil will more likely show Jesus' eyes and mouth as both closed, which is not what we see in the above images. In fact, in nearly every depiction of the Veil of Veronica before 1527, the eyes and mouth of Jesus are shown to be open because the artists clearly used the Veil of Manoppello as their model. After 1527, when the Volto Santo was taken from Rome during the sack by the German emperor to Manoppello, artists began to use the image of the Shroud of Turin as their model for the face of Jesus, hence the eyes and mouth of Jesus began to be depicted as closed in artistic renderings of Saint Veronica. Every now and again you'll find an image of her veil made after 1527 that shows Jesus' eyes and mouth as open, a sign the artist knew something of the Volto Santo.


  1. From 1300's--Amazing! The abundant art history evidence for the Veil of Manoppello as the "Veronica" continues to grow! Thank you for sharing this news!

    1. You're welcome! It's not uncommon to see them come through my Twitter feed. I'll try to remember to post them when I see them.