Several years ago Paul Badde, the Rome and Vatican correspondent for Die Welt, one of Germany’s leading newspapers, was on his way to San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy to report on the new church being built in memory of St Padre Pio. Having heard from Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, a Jesuit professor at the Gregorian University in Rome, about a unique image of Jesus in the town of Manoppello near Pescara, Badde decided, since it was on the way, to make a visit to the shrine in Manoppello where the image is kept. This book began to take shape from that moment. Following in the tradition of Catholic pilgrimage authors such as Dante and Chaucer, Badde draws us along on his journey to meet the people who lead him to deeper knowledge of this sensational image which had been nearly forgotten for centuries. Badde’s wife Ellen plays a crucial role as helper and advisor, at critical moments, as to where he should go or with whom he should speak. The dialogues between Badde and Sister Blandina, a Trappistine nun, lead to the discovery that the fabric of the “Holy Face” is marine byssus, the most precious material of the ancient world, a “silk from the sea” made from the hairs of a Mediterranean sea mollusk. His discussions with Father Pfeiffer shed light on how the image, known since the 11th century as “the Veronica,” was taken from the Vatican during the construction of the new St. Peter’s Basilica in the 16th and 17th centuries only to reappear in Manoppello, where it has remained since that time.
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