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veronica(vərŏn`ĭkə) [Lat., probably connected with Greek Berenice], relic preserved in St. Peter's Church, Rome. It is said to be a veil that a woman used to wipe the face of Jesus as he was on the way to Calvary. The cloth retained the print of his face. The woman, often called Veronica, is not listed in official calendars of saints. The relic is commonly called Veronica's veil.
veronica,in botany: see figwortfigwort,
common name for some members of the Scrophulariaceae, a family comprising chiefly herbs and small shrubs and distributed widely over all continents. The family includes a few climbing types and some parasitic and saprophytic forms.
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The story of Veronica and her handkerchief does not appear in the Bible. Scholars believe that it got its start several centuries after Christ's death, when various stories concerning actual images of Jesus' face, supposedly made during his lifetime, circulated among Christian communities. Naturally such an image would be eagerly sought after by Jesus' followers. As the centuries rolled by many Christians raised their hopes even higher. They dreamt of finding what they called a "true image" of the Savior, not simply a likeness of Jesus created by an artist, but rather an exact replication of his features miraculously impressed upon a material object by the power of God (see also Shroud of Turin). By the Middle Ages a legend arose about just such an image which came into the hands of the woman we call Veronica.
History and Relics
The legend of Veronica developed during the Middle Ages. Several variations of the tale circulated throughout Europe. The version of the story told above can be traced back to fourteenth-century France. This version eventually became the most popular telling of the tale. In another variation of the story Veronica was said to have convinced St. Luke to paint her a portrait of Jesus. The likeness was good, but not exact, and Veronica was not satisfied. Later she acquired a true image when Jesus came to her house for a meal. Before eating he washed his face and dried it upon a towel. The towel retained a perfect impression of his features. Jesus told her to keep the miraculous portrait which could work miracles. Several years after Jesus' death Veronica traveled to Rome at the request of the emperor Tiberius (42 B.C.-37 A.D.). The Emperor touched the image imprinted on Veronica's towel and was instantly cured of a disease.
A cloth said to bear a "true image" of Jesus'face was known in Rome as early as the eighth century. Veneration of this relic of the life of Christ reached its height in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Several other cities and cathedrals also claimed to possess pieces of cloth bearing true images of Christ's face. These cloths were referred to as "veronicas," from the Latin phrase vera icon meaning "true image."
From Berenice to Veronica
How did the woman with the cloth image of Jesus come to be called Veronica? Many writers have supposed that legend dubbed this woman "Veronica" because the name means true image. The actual origins of Veronica and her cloth are somewhat more complicated, however. The legend of Veronica identifies her as a woman who appears in a biblical story concerning Jesus' career as a healer. It claims that she is the hemorrhaging, or bleeding, woman who was cured by touching Jesus' robe (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48). As early as the fourth century, Christian literature identified this woman as Berenice, a version of the Greek name Pherenice, meaning "bearer of victory." Eventually western Europeans began to refer to her by the Latinized form of this name, Veronica. In the Middle Ages Christian lore began to assert that this same woman also possessed a cloth that bore a true image of Jesus.
Interpreting the Legend
How is it that the bleeding woman became the subject of the Veronica legend? No certain proofs exist, but scholars speculate that the meaning of the name "Veronica" in Latin suggested to many people that she possessed the much-sought-after true image of Christ's face. Also, the selection of the hemorrhaging woman as the one who later comforts Christ with her handkerchief gives the story of this woman's encounters with Jesus a certain symmetry. The Bible tells that the woman we call "Veronica" once reached out to touch Jesus'clothing in the hope of stopping her bleeding. The legend reverses this image. It suggests that on the day of the crucifixion Jesus' reached out to accept the cloth offered to him by Veronica so that he might staunch the sweat and blood of his own injuries.
The legend focuses our attention on the miraculous appearance of a true image of Jesus' face on Veronica's handkerchief. Indeed this legendary handkerchief was considered a priceless relic of the life of Christ during the Middle Ages. This miracle almost overshadows the appearance of another likeness of Christ also depicted in the story. Veronica's act of compassion itself might also be said to be a "true image" of Christ, wrought in the living flesh of one of his followers. Viewed in this way the legend depicts several "true images" of Christ, the first image presented in the person of Jesus himself, the second appearing in Veronica's heart when she was moved by Jesus' suffering, the third in her act of mercy, and the fourth upon the cloth.
For hundreds of years Christians found the legend of Veronica a meaningful and moving tale. Many old churches throughout Europe display paintings or carvings from the legend of Veronica on their walls. Moreover, many famous European artists painted Veronica and her miraculous cloth, including El Greco (1541-1615), Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516), Rogier Van der Weyden (1399?-1464), and Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664).
Degert, Antoine. "Veronica, St." In Charles G. Herbermann et al., eds. The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Appleton, 1913. Available online at: Hackwood, Frederick W. Christ Lore. 1902. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1969. Kuryluk, Ewa. Veronica and Her Cloth: History, Symbolism and Structure of a "True" Image. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1991. Meagher, P. K. "Veronica." In New Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 14. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967. "Veronica, St." In E. A. Livingstone, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Third edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997.
a genus of plants of the family Scrophu-lariaceae. They are annual, biennial, and perennial herbs, and sometimes semishrubs. The corolla may be light blue, dark blue, white, or other colors, usually four-lobed, and often spike-shaped; there are two stamens; the fruit is a double-nidus boll. There are approximately 300 species, inhabiting mainly the temperate and cold regions of the northern hemisphere, often in high mountains. In the USSR, there are over 140 species, found everywhere.
Several veronicas are cultivated as ornamentals. Species of the genus Hebe are often included in the genus Veronica;, these comprise over 100 species of shrubs and low trees that grow mainly in New Zealand (about 90 endemic representatives) and also in Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and temperate areas of South America. Evergreen species of Hebe with attractive flowers are often cultivated—in the Caucasus and the Crimea in the USSR.
M. E. KIRPICHNIKOV
veronica1 RC Church
To try Veronica, select it from the "Other Gophers" menu on Minnesota's gopher server, or point your gopher at:
Name=veronica (search menu items in most of GopherSpace) Type=1 Port=70 Path=1/veronica Host=gopher.scs.unr.edu