By the 12th century, western Christians believed that Veronica's Veil, also known as the Holy Face -- kept in St. Peter's in Rome and periodically exposed for the veneration of the faithful (as at right) -- was the true image of Jesus Christ. Today, the relic is encased above the statue of Veronica on one of the four great pillars at each corner of the main altar of the church.
Accounts differ about the origin of the image. The 2nd century Acts of Pilate states that Jesus gave Veronica an image of himself and she later brought it to Rome where it healed the Emperor Trajan. 12th century accounts report that the veil was impressed with the blood of Jesus during his agony in the garden. Only from the 14th century do we have accounts that Veronica wiped the face of Jesus on his way to Calvary and an image of his face remained on her veil.
Early Eastern Christians also claimed to possess an image of Jesus, which he sent to King Abgar of Edessa in Syria and healed the king of leprosy. Various icons of Jesus Christ -- called "Not Made by Hands" or the "Holy Napkin" -- have been painted over the centuries and honored in the eastern churches. The two traditions, based on legends, have had a great influence on the way Jesus has been portrayed in art. See also: Martin Schongauer's "Christ Carrying the Cross", a print which depicts Jesus' encounter with Veronica; 51 K image