“Face of Christ ,Image of Edessa”
The First Icon (Holy Mandylion)
The first icon, the MANDYLION or The Holy Napkin, sometimes called “Made without hands” is said not only to have been an authentic likeness of Christ, but one which Christ Himself willingly produced. It was thus often cited both as proof of the reality of His Incarnation — as it had been in contact with His body — and as justification for the iconophile position that Christ Himself has endorsed the making of His image.
“The Transfer from Edessa to Constantinople of the Icon of our Lord Jesus Christ Not-Made-by-Hands occurred in the year 944. Eusebius, in his HISTORY OF THE CHURCH (I:13), relates that when the Savior was preaching, Abgar ruled in Edessa. He was stricken all over his body with leprosy. Reports of the great miracles worked by the Lord spread throughout Syria (Mt.4:24) and reached even Abgar. Without having seen the Savior, Abgar believed in Him as the Son of God. He wrote a letter requesting Him to come and heal him. He sent with this letter to Palestine his own portrait-painter Ananias, and commissioned him to paint a likeness of the Divine Teacher.
Eusebius does not mention the Mandylion directly, but he does include the letters exchanged between Christ and Abgar, which have come down from us through tradition (the following is the translation from the Menaia (translation by Fr. Ephraim Lash); for the Eusebius’ quote on Abgar and Christ
The existence of The Holy Napkin is first mentioned in the 6th Century. According to one story, Abgar V the Black, king of Edessa (capital of the Turkish province of Oshroene, important Christian and commercial center of the Islamic world until the 13th Century) had fallen ill and begged Christ to come and cure him. Instead of going to visit Abgar, the Lord asked water and a cloth be brought to Him. He washed His Face, drying it with the cloth, and His Divine Countenance was imprinted upon it. Ananias took the cloth and the letter of the Savior to Edessa. Reverently, Abgar pressed the holy object to his face and he received partial healing. Only a small trace of the terrible affliction remained until the arrival of the disciple promised by the Lord. The image was lost and then rediscovered and it remained in Edesa. In the year 944 Edesa was sieged and the Holy Napkin was demanded as a condition for withdrawal. It was then carried in procession to Constantinople, where it was placed in the Sultan’s chapel in the Great Palace. The event is celebrated annually on August 16. Later it is said to have been purchased by King Louis IX of France, in 1247, and taken to Paris and placed in St. Chapelle. It disappeared during the French Revolution.
The features of Christ’s face on the Holy Napkin are those of the Pantocrator. It is not a bust because it only shows the head and part of the neck; no shoulders are seen. The face is painted as though it is imprinted on a horizontal fringed strip of white cloth, hence the name “napkin.” The earliest surviving example is said to date from the 10th Century and it is at St. Catherine Monastery in Sinai. This icon has no fixed place in the decoration of a church.
The image of the Holy Napkin was also known in the West under the name of The Veil of Veronica. The Veronica story is similar to that of King Abgar: Veronica was a woman who comforted Jesus as He was bearing the cross on the way to Golgotha. She offered Him a piece of cloth to wipe the blood and sweat off His face; later she found that she received a ‘miraculous image. A building along Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem associated with Veronica is today the home of a community of sisters called “The Little Sisters of Jesus.”