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The Holy Face Miracle of the Year 1849

Hugh O’Reilly

Street uprisings organized by Masonry broke out throughout Europe in 1848

The year 1848 was one of revolutions as uprisings broke out throughout Europe aiming to remove the monarchies and install democracies. On November 24, 1848, riots organized by the Freemasonry broke out in Rome; the prime minister of the Papal States Pelligrino Rossi was murdered, eventually leading to the establishment of the Roman Republic under Giuseppe Garibaldi. Pope Pius IX was forced to flee in disguise from Rome, taking refuge in the fortress of Gaeta, 75 miles south of Rome.

In fact the Carmelite nun Ven. Mary of St. Peter (1816-1848) had predicted these revolutions in her revelations granted her by Our Lord, Who had told her the devotion to the Holy Face would be an important remedy for the Communism that was emerging.

pius ix in exile in gaeta

In exile in the fortress of Gaeta, right, Pius IX orders prayers said throughout Rome

In January of 1849, from his exile in Gaeta Pope Pius IX ordered that public prayers should be offered in all churches in Rome to implore God’s mercy on the Pontifical States and his return to Rome. As part of these public prayers, he ordered that the wood of the True Cross and the Veil of Veronica – which displays the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Way of Calvary – should be exposed for public veneration for three days.

Holy face

A replica of the 1849 Miracle, authenticated with the red seal of a Cardinal in the lower right hand corner

On the third day of the exposition, January 6, 1849, a miracle occurred. Normally the exposed Veil is covered with a thin silk cloth which prevents the precious cloth from any damage, but also it keeps the Face from being distinguished. In fact, the impression on the Veil is so faint as to be scarcely visible, therefore under the veil of silk the features are completely indistinguishable.

As the Canons of the Vatican Basilica knelt reciting the prescribed prayers for mercy, they suddenly noticed that the Holy Face had became very distinct and was glowing with a soft light. The Divine Face appeared clearly, as if living; the features had taken on a death-like hue and the deep-sunken eyes wore an expression of great pain.

The Canons were stupefied, and immediately tried to check if it was a play of lights or caused by some other natural phenomenon. They changed positions, moving closer, then further away. The image remained the same, clearly distinct and as if alive.

holy face

The two Vatican copies of the Holy Face given to Leo Dupont; the red seal of a Cardinal in the lower right hand cornfirms its authenticity as a relic touched to the veil

The bells were rung to call the people to witness the miracle, and crowds of people filled the Basilica to marvel at the changed Veil.

The miracle lasted for three hours and became the sole talk of Rome and beyond. It was attested to by an apostolic notary and his testimony was copied and placed in the official daybook of the Vatican Basilica.

Of course, a report of the miracle was sent immediately to Pope Pius IX in his exile to console him as an indication that Heaven had heard the call to prayers for his delivery. In fact, one year later on April 12, 1850, the Pope returned to Rome.

Copies are made

On that same evening of the Miracle, several veils of white silk with detailed replicas of the Holy Face were placed on the holy relic of Veronica’s veil. Then these veils were touched to a relic of the True Cross and to the lance which pierced Christ’s side, and sent to France and other places abroad.

For the next 75 years, this custom was followed in the Vatican where further copies of the image on Veronica’s veil were created in the same manner and sent to churches, convents and personages.

Two of these Vatican copies were sent to the Holy Man of Tours, Ven. Leo Dupont (1797-1876, who hung one of these images in his parlor and kept a continuously lit crystal oil lamp in front of it. Soon afterward miracles of healings started to occur on behalf those who said special prayers with Leo Dupont (the “Golden Arrow Prayer” and the “Litany of the Holy Face”) and who were anointed with oil from his lamp.

These miracles continued for 30 years and were so numerous that Pope Pius IX declared Leo Dupont to be one of the greatest miracle workers in the history of the Church.

leo dupont oratory

The nobleman Leo Dupont and his modest drawing room in Tours where thousands of miracles took place with the oil of the lamp burning before the Holy Face picture

These wonders, undoubtedly played a part in the full approval of the Holy Face devotion, which was established by Pope Leo XIII in 1885 as an Archconfraternity for the entire world. Pope Pius XII formally declared the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus for all Roman Catholics as Shrove Tuesday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Another Carmelite influenced by the Holy Face

Another Vatican copy of the Holy Face from the 1849 Miracle reached the Carmelite Convent of Lisieux where a nun named Thérèse was practicing her “Ltttle Way.” Her devotion to the Holy Face is less known, but quite as intense – and perhaps even more so – as her dedication to the Christ Child.


St. Therese of the Child Jesus and Holy Face

St. Thérèse wrote this touching prayer to honor the Holy Face of Jesus on Veronica’s Veil before her death:

"O Jesus, who, in Thy cruel Passion didst become the 'reproach of men and the Man of Sorrows,' I worship Thy Divine Face. Once it shone with the beauty and sweetness of the Divinity; but now, for my sake, it is become as 'the face of a leper.' Yet, in that disfigured Countenance, I recognize Thy infinite love, and I am consumed with the desire of making Thee loved by all mankind.

“The tears that flowed so abundantly from Thy Eyes are to me as precious pearls that I delight to gather, that with their worth I may ransom the souls of poor sinners. O Jesus, whose Face is the sole beauty that ravishes my heart, I may not see here below the sweetness of Thy glance, nor feel the ineffable tenderness of Thy kiss, I bow to Thy Will. But I pray Thee to imprint in me Thy divine likeness, and I implore Thee so to inflame me with Thy love, that it may quickly consume me, and that I may soon reach the vision of Thy glorious Face in heaven. Amen.”


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Posted January 20, 2024

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