Manoppello Holy Face

Every year innumerable pilgrims visit the Church of the Volto Santo (Holy Face) in Manoppello, to admire that image which, according to tradition, but also to long and thorough research, may have been the impression of Christ's face on a shroud.


In 1640 Padre Donato from Bomba wrote a "Relazione Istorica" where he told the story of the Holy face, the Veil representing the Face of Christ. In his report, which is preserved in the Capucine Provincial archive in L'Aquila, he told how a mysterious stranger brought the veil to Manoppello in 1506, and gave it to a gentleman of the place, Dr. Giacomo Antonio Leonelli. Volto Santo

The precious veil was kept in the family for over a century, until it was included in the nuptial gifts for Marzia Leonelli. But the gift was never delivered so that in 1608 Marzia's husband, Pancrazio Petrucci, stole it from his father-in-law's house. Later on, in order to have her husband released from prison in Chieti, Marzia sold the veil to Dr Donato Antonio De Fabritiis who placed the relic between two glasses and presented it to the capucine convent in 1638.

In 1646 the Holy face was offered to public cult in the hurch of San Michele Arcangelo, but was still preserved in private quarters for another forty years. In 1686, when the lythurgical feast of the transfiguration was established on 6 August, the Volto Santo was moved to a chapel inside the church.

The Veneration

The veneration of the Holy Face increased enormously following the 1703 earthquake that hit Abruzzo, Umbria and Sannio. On the second Sunday in May theHoly Face was carried in a procession through the places affected by the natural disaster. In 1750 the celebration was moved to the third Sunday in may, so that it would not coincide with the celebrations for San Giustino, the patron of Chieti, and this date has been kept up to our times.


According to some scholars the Holy Face of Manoppello took form in Jesus' tomb, in Jerusalem, when it was placed over the Shroud. It may have stayed with the Shroud for a period of time, and later got separated. In 574 an image called "acheiropoietos" (Greek= not made by human hands) was transported from Camulia, in Cappadocia, to Costantinople, where its presence was recorded for over two centuries, but then disappeared.

The Volto Santo of Manoppello has the same features described for the Camulia image: it is completely transparent and the image almost disappears if placed against the sky light; surely the image is not painted or woven. It is likely that the Camulia image was then transported to Rome. As a matter of fact, in 753 a procession was recorded with Pope Stephen II carrying an "Acheropsita", that is an icon on which a painted veil was placed, known at the time as the Holy Face of the Sancta Sanctorum Chapel in the Popes' Palace in Laterano; it was very likely the Holy Face now in Manoppello.

With the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire (which ended in 1456 A.D.), the Veil was detached from the Icon and its veneration was established by Pope Innocenzo III, who called it "Veronica" (meaning True Image). From the Chapel in St, Peters, Rome, the Volto Santo then came to Manoppello, along unknown routes.