The Rediscovered Face. The unmistakable features of Christ
The exhibit wants to document how the desire to see the Face of God that characterized the Old Testament has remained present in the Church. Starting from the 5th century, it retraces the events of the most ancient portraits of Christ, called acherotypal (not man-made), authoritative models of a Face with unmistakable features, recognizable throughout history, in the West as well as the East.
Particular attention is given to “Veronica”, the veil on which, according to tradition, Christ himself left an imprint of his face and which was once Rome’s main relic, destination, and recompense of medieval pilgrimages: “at the time when many people go to see that blessed image which Jesus Christ left us as an imprint of his most beautiful countenance” (Dante, La Vita Nuova). At the end of his long journey, a pilgrim on the way to Rome not only venerated the tombs of the Apostles, but also met the face of Christ through contemplation of the veil, that is of his “true image” (vera-eikòn). Devotion for what Dante called “our Veronica” is testified by the numerous reproductions found along the pilgrimage routes which are presented and ordered historically and geographically through an interactive map realized through Google Earth.
Starting from the 16th century, the memory of that Face began to fade, yet modern man’s profound nostalgia for it has continued: “Mankind has lost a face, an irretrievable face, and all have longed to be that pilgrim who in Rome sees the Veronica and murmurs in faith, ‘Lord Jesus, my God, true God, is this then what Thy face was like?’” (Borges, Dreamtigers).
During our times, the Veil of Manoppello, a Face of Christ on a thin veil that has been preserved for four centuries on the side altar of a chapel in the Maiella region of Abruzzo, has resurfaced. The image, faint and semitransparent as in a negative slide, is all one with the fabric and is comprised of the variations of only one color which, depending on the different light conditions, appears either red or gray-green.
The exhibit, in collaboration with the Capuchin custodians of the Face of Manoppello, presents the inedited Relatione Historica, the account written by Father Donato da Bomba in 1648 on the arrival of the Veil in Abruzzo.
A day trip to Manoppello is schedule for Thursday, August 22.