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Veronica wiping the face of Jesus during his passion is one of the stations of the cross in Roman Catholic tradition. This part of the passion has no basis in the Bible, though.

Where did this originate?

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Luke 23:27-31 tells us that certain women lamented as Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha. At this stage, there is no mention of Veronica or of anyone wiping Jesus' face.

The apocryphal Acts of Pilate (an extant copy of which is contained in the Gospel of Nicodemus, dated at around the fourth century, expanded on Luke's brief passage, saying that one of these women offered a cloth to wipe the face of Jesus. A later eleventh-century story says this resulted in a portrait on the cloth (a reproduction of which is now kept as a relic in Saint Peter's basilica in Rome).

It seems unlikely that the medieval authors, well known for their pious creativity, could have known something that the author of Luke did not know. It is even more unlikely that the woman's name, Veronica (vera + ikon = "true image"), happened to coincide with what she was famous for in this story - wiping Jesus' face and receiving a true image of his face. Nevertheless, St Veronica remains important in Catholic liturgy and she now has a place in the popular devotion of the Stations of the Cross.

  • @KorvinStarmast My familiarity is almost entirely with the R.C. Church, so I'm sorry if I slighted the Presbyterians. I've never heard any of my Protestant friends talk about attending Stations, so I just assumed it was unique to Catholicism. – Yuck Apr 7 '16 at 15:29
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    @Yuck I was surprised myself, I had thought it was just an RCC tradition. There's a formal service from here if you are interested. Also of interest here and there in other forms. – KorvinStarmast Apr 7 '16 at 15:53
  • @KorvinStarmast I was also surprised to learn the Stations of the Cross was a Presbyterian devotion. – Dick Harfield Apr 8 '16 at 7:51
  • @DickHarfield As was I, and I don't know how widespread/universal it is. I tripped over it initially when I went to our local Presbyterian Church to vote ... that's where our voting precinct operates during elections. – KorvinStarmast Apr 8 '16 at 10:51

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