Klaus Berger, Professor of New Testament Theology in the Department of Evangelical Theology of the University of Heidelberg, is one of Germany’s best-known modern biblical scholars and author of numerous books. Apropos of the Veil of Manoppello, he states in the German-language publication Focus, that the image of Christ’s face represents “the first page of the Gospel. If the Gospel is the text, then this image of the Resurrection is its frontispiece….Jewish tradition required two witnesses to come forward before a matter could be brought to court. In this instance, we have two witnesses–Peter and John–but we also have two fragments of cloth: the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello. They constitute two pieces of material evidence attesting to the Resurrection. The Resurrection is a fact; it is not a theological metaphor. The Resurrection is a reality, and [the] Manoppello image attests to this.”
On being removed from the cross, Christ’s body was first wrapped lengthwise in a long linen cloth (sindon). Custom required this for two reasons: to keep the body from being defiled by bare hands and to prevent further spillage of blood. Once so wrapped, the body was bound laterally with broad linen bands (othonia). Throughout this process, generous quantities of aromatic oils were poured in and outside the wrappings. The body of Jesus was then laid like a cocoon in the tomb; and there, a costly napkin made of marine byssus (sea silk) was placed over His head. This very napkin can be seen displayed in the Church of Manoppello in Italy.
He saw and he believed
(Jn 20: 8)
Having learned from Mary Magdalene early in the morning of the first day after the Sabbath (Sunday) that Jesus’ body had vanished from the tomb, the apostles Peter and John ran straight to the burial site. For John, the sight of the tomb containing nothing but the sunken winding sheet and linens was sufficient proof of the resurrection. The burial cloths lay unwrapped, exactly as they had been left when the Body was interred, and yet there was no body inside. Since the linens lay undisturbed (and that therefore no one had rifled their contents), the astounded apostle concluded that the Body had in some mysterious way “passed through” the material. This was the circumstance of his “seeing and believing” (Jn 20: 8). Seeing the empty linens, he believed Jesus had risen from the dead.
This very burial shroud, which ran the entire length of Christ’s body, top and bottom, has been preserved to this day and reposes now in Turin, Italy. Upon it, Jesus has left a striking imprint of his lifeless body. An image of His face has also been preserved on the veil of byssus, which covered His shrouded face.
Silent witness of death and resurrection
Commenting on the Shroud of Turin and the many years of intensive research devoted to it, John Paul II observed: “In accepting the findings of so many scientific experts, we accept the Holy Shroud of Turin as a special witness to the Paschal Mystery: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection. A silent witness, yes, but at the same time, a strikingly eloquent one!” “To a believer, what is most important is that the Shroud provides a mirror to the Gospels….By contemplating it, every person of delicate feeling experiences an inner movement of the heart and a deep shock….The Shroud is truly an extraordinary sign, pointing us back to Jesus, the true Word of the Father, and calling upon us to follow the example of Him, Who gave Himself up entirely for us all” (Turin, May 24, 1998).
Projected with striking precision on the Shroud of Turin (it measures 4.36 meters by 1.10 meters) is a three-dimensional photographic negative of Jesus’ dead body. Numerous bloodstains of the AB group appear on it in the form of a positive print. The image of the Crucified One is anatomically perfect. Clearly visible are the wounds sustained as a result of scourging, the imposition of a crown of thorns, crucifixion, etc. Modern science is unable to replicate the image. Scientists speculate that the imprinting was caused by a mysterious burst of radiation from within the Shroud, causing a yellow “searing” of the surface of the cloth fibers. The image is indelible; no known solvent will remove it.
Based on their knowledge of the blood coagulation process and the fact that the Body showed no signs of decay, forensic medical experts have ascertained that the Body was wrapped in the Shroud some two and a half hours after his death, and that it remained inside for thirty-six hours. Since there are no traces of tearing and the blood clots remain intact, the Body could not have been removed from the Shroud. How then did the Body pass through the linen without disturbing its structure? Whence came that “burst of radiation,” which caused the extraordinary three-dimensional image of the whole Body to be imprinted on the Shroud? Only Faith provides the reasonable answer. All this took place at the moment of the Christ’s resurrection.
The second artifact
Standing on display in a silver reliquary on the main altar of the Church of Manoppello is a diaphanous veil measuring seventeen by twenty-four centimeters. It bears the impress of the face of the Rising Christ. Saint Padre Pio called it the “greatest miracle in our possession.” After more than twenty years of intense investigation, experts are still unable to account for the existence of the Divine Face of Manoppello. They are forced to conclude that, like the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and the imprint of Christ’s dead body on the Shroud of Turin, no human hand could have painted it. The same state-of-the-art techniques used to examine the Shroud of Turin have been applied to the Veil; despite this, no one has been able to determine how the image came into exist, or whence came those mysterious hues which cause the Holy Face to come to life with such striking beauty and radiance. Quite simply, there is nothing like it in the world. An examination of the linen fibers with a high-definition digital scanner shows that there is not the slightest trace of paint in the gaps between the fibers. The outlines of the eyes and mouth are so clean as to preclude the use of oils or even watercolors.
The most striking feature of the Face of Manoppello is its transparency and the fact that, like a photographic slide, it can be seen perfectly well from either side. Another striking feature is the changeability of the Face. Its aspect changes according to the lighting conditions; vary the light and the Face changes as though it was alive. If you view it under a bright light, you cannot see it, since it becomes transparent. This extraordinary image has the qualities of a painting, a photograph, and a hologram; and yet it is neither a painting, nor a photograph, nor a hologram. The shading of the portrait iis so subtle as to be beyond the capability of even the greatest of masters; indeed, the image reveals so many inexplicable features that science stands powerless before a great mystery. The tissue is so sheer you could fold it up inside a nutshell. Called marine byssus or sea silk, it was the most expensive fabric in the ancient world. The tissue is transparent and as fire-resistant as asbestos. Technically, it is impossible to paint anything on sea silk; paints will not adhere to the delicate tissue. The experts agree that man could not have painted the image of the Divine Face of Manoppello. It is what tradition has always claimed it to be–acheiropoietos–i.e. not painted by the hand of man.
The many years of research devoted to the Shroud and the Veil have led to a stunning discovery: namely, that the Dead Face of the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Face of Manoppello overlap perfectly. When the one is superimposed over the other, the faces conform in every respect–graphic proof that the two images represent one and the same Person. Given this 100% conformity of facial structure and dimensions, we can rightly speak of mathematical proof. The image of the dead Body on the Shroud of Turin and the Divine Face on the Veil of Manoppello are without doubt the greatest enduring miracles in the world. From a scientific point of view, neither image has a right to exist.
A miraculous record of the Resurrection in progress
No direct contact between body and cloth accounts for the image of the Face on the Veil of Manoppello and the imprint of the front and back of the dead body on the Shroud of Turin. Only a miraculous intervention by God can explain it. The result is a marvelous record of the stages by which the humanity of Jesus was glorified. The Shroud of Turin captures a glimpse of His dead body at the very start of the process of glorification. The body was already beginning to emanate that mysterious energy which caused it to be projected with such precise detail onto the cloth in the form of a photographic negative. The Veil of Manoppello, on the other hand, bears a positive print of Christ’s living face. The process of glorification is not complete, as the face is still marked by bruises and swelling.
At first glance, the Face of Manoppello may cause disappointment. It lacks the beauty we would expect of it. We must remember, however, that it is the face of Jesus while still in the process of transformation–i.e. not yet fully glorified. The splendor of the Risen Jesus is infinitely beyod imagining. Only in heaven will we be able to gaze on it to our heart’s content.
The Face of Manoppello is the face of the Rising Christ–caught at the very moment of its transition from death to life. Only subsequently did the full transformation of the mutilated and crucified Jesus take place–the same Jesus who freely chose to ‘bear our infirmities’ and ‘endure our sufferings.’ “There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem” (Is 53: 5; 2b-4).
The Veil of Manoppello reveals the face of the resurrecting Christ–still bearing the marks of His passion. It captures the face an instant before the “corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and [the] mortal clothes itself with immortality” (1 Cor 15: 54).
The Divine Face of Manoppello seems to have been limned with light; its expression changes according to the angle from which it is viewed and the quality of light. Only in the sunlight does it assume its full expression and beauty.
The oldest name for the image of Manoppello is acheiropoietos–not painted by the hand of man. If, then, it is not the work of man, it must be the handiwork of God Himself. It reveals the true Face of God, who left us a visible image of the truth of His Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection. It tells us unequivocally that God became man; that He took upon Himself all our sufferings and sins; that He died a real death and then rose again to free us from sin and death, and lead us to perfect happiness in heaven.
The Divine Face of Manoppello is truly an extraordinary artifact of the Risen Lord. In giving it to us, God wished to convince us of the Real Risen Presence in the mystery of the Eucharist. St. Thomas Aquinas referred to the Eucharistic Host as “bread in the form of a shroud” in which “God conceals Himself.” The Eucharist is our most precious treasure, for it is Jesus Himself, who wishes us to partake of His risen life and be healed of all our spiritual and physical infirmities.
“I desire,” said Jesus to St. Faustina, “to unite Myself with human souls; My great delight is to unite Myself with souls. Know, My daughter, that when I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces, which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not pay attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things. Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize Love! They treat Me as a dead object” (Diary, 1384).
The Face of Jesus as seen on the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello, and unseen–yet infinitely more present–in the Eucharistic Host, invites us all to persevere in daily prayer and adoration. Servant of God John Paul II reminds us that “we cannot attain to a perfect contemplation of the Lord’s face by our own efforts. We can do so only by yielding to the promptings of grace. Only silence and prayer can create that suitable basis on which a more substantial, adequate, and coherent understanding of the mystery can mature and develop, and which is most sublimely expressed in the famous words of John the Evangelist: “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn 1: 14) (Novo millennio ineunte).
In giving us His image on the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello, Christ calls us all to conversion. He calls us to form a personal relationship with Him in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, in daily persevering prayer, and living in accordance with the Ten Commandments and the Gospel values. The Risen Christ bseeeches us: Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the immeasurable depths of My mercy (Diary, 1059); It suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there were no hope of restoration and everything were already lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full (Diary, 1448).
Fr. Mieczysław Piotrowski SChr