The Roman Hospital of Santo Spirito in Sassia and the symbolic Communication of the Veronica

 Gisela Drossbach



In my paper I will focus on the following aspects:

  1. The genesis of the hospital and the Order of the Holy Ghost in the context of the papal letter of Innocent III concerning the Veronica (1208), as well as
  2. , the image of the Veronica in the “Liber Regulae”, the splendid illuminated Rule of the Order (ca. 1340/50).


  1. As a consequence of the papal decree „Ad commemorandas nuptias“ of the 3th January 1208[1] the church of Santa Maria in Saxia became a liturgical station: on the first Sunday after the octave of the Epihany, the canons of the Cathedral of Saint Peter sang while carrying the icon of the Veronica in procession from the Cathedral of Saint Peter in the Vatican to the new hospital: «effigies Christi… fidelibus populis, qui ad has nuptias celebrandas devote convenerint, desiderabilites ostendenda.»[2] What kind of symbolic communication was the Veronica for the Hospital of Santa Maria in Sassia? What did this mean for the spread of the cult of the Veronica in the City of Rome?
  2. On the basis of the historical facts, I’m able to determine that some motifs in the miniatures of the Liber Regulae do not match contemporary reality. I assume that the divergence of the image of the Veronica was not accidental, but that it is an intentional part of the illumination’s program.

Also I will ask whether the symbolic communication of the Veronica is still alive in the 1400 square meters of painted wall space of the Corsia Sistina, the painted “Vita Sixti IV” of the Hospital of Santo Spirito nel Quattrocento.

[1]       Migne PL 215, col. 1270A-1271B Nr. 179.
[2] Gesta Innocentii III, ed. Gress-Wright, S. 143.

The European Fortune of the Roman Veronica ​in the Middle Ages