Saint Veronica (or Berenice) is the woman of Jerusalem who wiped the face of Christ with a veil while he was on the way to Calvary. According to tradition, the cloth was imprinted with the image of Christ’s face.” Unfortunately, there is no historical evidence or scriptural reference to this event, but the legend of Veronica became one of the most popular in Christian lore and the veil one of the beloved relics in the Church.
According to legend, Veronica bore the relic away from the Holy Land, and used it to cure Emperor Tiberius of some illness. The veil was subsequently seen in Rome in the eighth century, and was translated to St. Peter’s in 1297 by command of Pope Boniface VIII. Nothing is known about Veronica, although the apocryphal Acts of Pilate identify her with the woman mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew who suffered from an issue of blood.
Her name is probably derived from Veronica a Latinisation of Berenice (Greek: Βερενίκη), a Macedonian name, meaning “bearer of victory”. Folk etymology has attributed its origin to the words for true icon (Latin: vera & Greek: icon). The term was thus a convenient appellation to denote the genuine relic of Veronica’s veil and so differentiate from the other similar relics, such as those kept in Milan.
The relic is still preserved in St. Peter’s, and the memory of Veronica’s act of charity is commemorated in the Stations of the Cross. While she is not included in the Roman Martyrology, she is honored with a feast day. Her symbol is the veil bearing the face of Christ and the Crown of Thorns.