Saints of the Day – Veronica

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Veronica; confessional of Saint Aloysius Church, Columbus, Ohio; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

1st century; feast day formerly on February 4. Veronica’s story first appears fairly late in the history of the early Church, though it relates to the very heart of the Gospel – Jesus’ way to Golgotha. Veronica is venerated as the woman who wiped Our Lord’s face when he fell beneath the Cross on the road to Calvary. On the cloth was left an image of His divine face.

Scholars have been quick to point out that Veronica’s name may well derive from the story itself and not be historical. ‘Vera’ means ‘true’ and ‘icon’ means ‘image.’ Thus she obtained the true image, or vernicle, of Jesus. Legend tells us that Veronica later went to Rome and cured the Emperor Tiberius with the relic. When she died, she left the cloth to Pope Saint Clement. A ‘veil of Veronica’ is preserved at Saint Peter’s in Rome, probably from the 8th century.

French folklore holds that Veronica was the wife of Zacchaeus, the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and accompanied him to France, where he is known as Amadour. When he became a hermit, Veronica went on to evangelize southern France. Other accounts make her the same person as Martha, the sister of Lazarus, or a princess of Edessa, or the wife of an unnamed Gallo-Roman officer.

If the story of Veronica is a legend, it is a beautiful, simple, and natural one, and one coming down from the first Good Friday itself. Jesus was passing in the street, bent under His Cross, on the way to His death; His head lowered, full of fever from His torments; His step advancing amid mockery, curiosity, groans of those who lined the way. A woman named Veronica or Bernice advanced, wearing the veil common among her people, a piece of white linen like Noah’s cloak.

Perhaps she had seen the Lord before, and maybe even spoken with Him: The Eastern Church, based on the apocryphal Acts of Pilate, identifies Veronica with the woman whom Christ healed of the hemorrhage suffered for 12 years (Matthew 9:20-22). But even if she had not, her story is no more incredible, because she was moved by the simple desire that any human might have had: a wish to soothe this human face where dust and tears and sweat and blood commingled all at once, and which cried out to those who beheld it for relief. Then as the cloth touched Christ’s face, everything became sculptured together until the miracle occurred which was within the Lord’s power to command. Could he who at the moment of strangulation on the Cross cried aloud, not grant to this daughter the beauty of His face at the moment it was scorned by all but a handful of close friends?

Some reject the legend because there are so many false reproductions of the veil; because of the many legends and traditions woven into the story of Veronica throughout Christendom; because of the far-fetched claims made by preachers and writers in the course of time. None of these criticisms have touched the real point of the story of Veronica: whether there could have been a woman different from the other “daughters of Jerusalem” whom Jesus warned to weep for themselves and their children, and whether it was our Lord’s wish to grant this woman the imprint of his face for her good work (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White).

Saint Veronica is depicted in art holding a cloth with Christ’s face imprinted on it. She might also be shown wiping the sweat from His face as He carries the Cross or writing at the dictation of an angel, the sudarium near her (Roeder). She is the patron of linen-drapers and washerwomen (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 July 2020. Web. 27 July 2021. <>