Saint Veronica and the veil miraculously imprinted with the face of Jesus. Hans Memling, about 1470 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Vindicta Salvatoris, sometimes known by its translated title The Avenging of the Saviour, is a legendary text which, like other supplements to the Gospel of Nicodemus, is grouped among the New Testament Apocrypha. It includes the story of Saint Veronica's miraculous veil, imprinted with the face of Jesus, which also featured in the slightly earlier Cura sanitatis Tiberii.[1] Two Latin versions of the Vindicta Salvatoris exist, both dated to the 8th or 9th centuries and thought to have been composed in southern France.

The shorter version was published by Constantin von Tischendorf in Evangelia apocrypha, a collection of Greek and Latin texts.[2] It relates that Titus was a local ruler under the emperor Tiberius "in the region of Equitania in the Libian city called Burdigalla" or "Burgidalla". Titus, suffering from cancer of the face, hears from Nathan, an Arab trader from Judea, about the miracles of Jesus. Accepting Jesus as Lord and condemning the Jews who executed him, Titus is immediately cured. He sends for Vespasian, and together they set out for Judea where they destroy Jerusalem to avenge Jesus. They report to Tiberius, also incurably sick, who sends his minister Velosianus to Judea for more information. He learns of Veronica's veil, and also hears the full story of the crucifixion and resurrection, including Pontius Pilate's part in the story, from Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph and Veronica accompany Velosianus to Rome. Tiberius is cured by Veronica's veil and accepts Christianity. Pilate is imprisoned.[3]

The longer version was not fully published until 1996,[4] but a summary appeared in 1932. In this version Titus is sub-king of Bordeaux and Pilate is eventually imprisoned in Vienne (both cities in modern France), where he is kept in darkness and is forbidden any cooked food. Eventually he asks for an apple and a knife with which to peel it, and commits suicide by stabbing himself with the knife. The people of Vienne, after several failed attempts to rid themselves of his body, manage to do so by floating it down the Rhone in a barrel. It strikes a rock, which opens to engulf Pilate's body.[5]

The story became widely known in medieval western Europe. There are Anglo-Saxon[6] and Old French translations.[7] The Vindicta Salvatoris was also the main source for two religious epics, La Destruction de Jérusalem, a chanson de geste in Old French,[8] and The Siege of Jerusalem, an alliterative poem in Middle English.[9]

References and further reading

  1. ^ Remi Gounelle, "Les origines littéraires de la légende de Véronique et de la Sainte Face: la Cura sanitatis Tiberii et la Vindicta Saluatoris" in A. Monaci Castagno, ed., Sacre impronte e oggetti « non fatti da mano d’uomo » nelle religioni (Turin: Edizioni dell’Orso, 2011) pp. 231-251
  2. ^ Constantin von Tischendorf, Evangelia apocrypha. 2nd ed. (Leipzig: H. Mendelssohn, 1876) pp. 470-486
  3. ^ Walker (1870); Cowper (1881)
  4. ^ J. E. Cross et al., eds, Two Old English Apocrypha and Their Manuscript Source. The Gospel of Nichodemus and The Avenging of The Saviour (Cambridge, 1996) pp. 248-292
  5. ^ E. Kölbing, Mabel Day, eds., The Siege of Jerusalem (London: Early English Text Society, 1932) pp. xvi-xvii
  6. ^ Charles Wycliffe Goodwin, ed., The Anglo-Saxon Legends of St. Andrew and St. Veronica (Cambridge: Deighton, 1851) pp. 26-47 Text
  7. ^ A. E. Ford, ed., La Vengeance de Nostre-Seigneur. 2 vols. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1984; Turnhout: Brepols, 1993
  8. ^ Arturo Graf, Roma nelle memoria e nelle immaginazioni del medio evo. 2 vols. (Turin: Loescher, 1882-1883) vol. 1 pp. 429-460
  9. ^ E. Kölbing, Mabel Day, eds., The Siege of Jerusalem. London: Early English Text Society, 1932
  • B. H. Cowper, The Apocryphal Gospels and Other Documents Relating to the History of Christ. 5th ed. (London, 1881) pp. 432-447
  • Z. Izydorczyk, ed., The Medieval Gospel of Nicodemus : texts, intertexts, and contexts in Western Europe (Toronto, 1997) p. 60
  • A. Walker, Apocryphal Gospels, Acts and Revelations (Edinburgi, 1870. Ante-Nicene Christian Library, 16) pp. 245-255
  • A. Westcott, The Gospel of Nicodemus and Kindred Documents (Londinii, 1915) pp. 146-159

External links