Portrait of St. Veronica. c. 1430. Oil on wood. Stadelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
St. Veronica, or Berenice, was probably purely fictitious. According to legend, she was a pious woman of Jerusalem who moved to offer Christ her handkerchief as he bore his cross to Calvary, so that he could wipe his forehead. After using it, Jesus handed the handkerchief back to her, an image of his face miraculously impressed upon it.
The name Veronica is a latinisation of the Macedonian name Berenice, meaning ‘bearer of victory’. Folk etymology has ascribed the name to the words ‘vera’ (Latin for ‘true’) and ‘icon’ (Greek for ‘image’), referring to the image of Christ imprinted on the cloth.
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