Saint Veronica or Berenice, according to the "Acta Sanctorum" published by the Bollandists (under February 4), was a pious woman of Jerusalem who, moved with pity as Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead. Jesus accepted the offering and after using it handed it back to her, the image of his face miraculously impressed upon it.
The name "Veronica" itself is a Latinisation of Berenice, a Macedonian name, meaning "bearer of victory" (corresponding to Greek: phere-nikē). Folk etymology has attributed its origin to the words for true (Latin: vera) and image (Greek: eikon). The Encyclopaedia Britannica says this about the legend:
Eusebius in his Historia Ecclesiastica (vii 18) tells how at Caesarea Philippi lived the woman whom Christ healed of an issue of blood (Matt ix 20). Legend was not long in providing the woman of the Gospel with a name. In the West she was identified with Martha of Bethany; in the East she was called Berenike, or Beronike, the name appearing in as early a work as the "Acta Pilati", the most ancient form of which goes back to the fourth century. It is interesting to note that the fanciful derivation of the name Veronica from the words Vera Icon (eikon) "true image" dates back to the "Otia Imperialia" (iii 25) of Gervase of Tilbury (fl. 1211), who says: "Est ergo Veronica pictura Domini vera."
The Catholic Encyclopaedia of 1913 had this to say about the growth of the legend (translations in italics added):
The belief in the existence of authentic images of Christ is connected with the old legend of King Abgar of Edessa and the apocryphal writing known as the "Mors Pilati" ("the Death of Pilate"). To distinguish at Rome the oldest and best known of these images it was called the vera icon (true image), which in the common tongue soon became "Veronica." It is thus designated in several medieval texts mentioned by the Bollandists (e.g. an old Missal of Augsburg has a Mass "De S. Veronica seu Vultus Domini") of ("Saint Veronica, or the Face of the Lord"), and Matthew of Westminster speaks of the imprint of the image of the Savior which is called Veronica: "Effigies Domenici vultus quae Veronica nuncupatur" ("effigy of the face of the Lord which is called a Veronica"). By degrees, popular imagination mistook this word for the name of a person and attached thereto several legends which vary according to the country.
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