150-year old lost holy relic was kept in Tennessee trailer home closet
A valuable piece of historic art that had been blessed by a Roman Catholic pope 150 years ago had been kept in a trailer home in Tennessee.
The painting, called the The True Face of Jesus Christ ended up being stolen from a man named Frosty, 73, who lived in a trailer. It was stolen from Frosty by caregiver Kelly Ghormley, who tried to sell it to a Catholic church.
Both Ghormley and Frosty didn’t realize that the painting was far more valuable than they presumed. Ghormley tried to sell the painting to Saint Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Madisonville for $3,000.
The painting however is actually believed to be a portrait of Jesus that was taken from the Veil of Veronica. Although not mentioned in the Bible, Roman Catholic tradition believes Veronica wiped Jesus’ face with a cloth, and the imprint of his face was kept on the veil. The painting contains the seal of Pope Leo XIII.
“We got a call from a resident saying a painting was stolen from his house on Monday,” Bill Bivens, Monroe County Sheriff told WBIR. “Shortly thereafter, a worker at the local Catholic church called and said someone was trying to sell them a painting.”
Ghormley was arrested in a sting operation, when the church agreed to meet with her to discuss the painting and its sale. She is charged with theft of property valued at $60,000 and up.
Seal of pope
The portrait is actually a linen artwork that is believed to be one of a series of reproductions that were made based on the Veil of Veronica. The series is believed to have been commissioned by Pope Leo XIII, blessed and showing the wax seal of his ring.
Father David Boettner of the Diocese of Knoxville told WBIR, “More than likely, the art dates back to somewhere between 1860 and the late 1890s. That wax seal is a seal of authentication that the artwork was part of a devotion attributed to the burial cloth that touched the face of Jesus. The custom was to touch an original veil to these other works of art that were in the spirit of the actual cloth.”
Canvas bag in closet
Frosty had kept the painting in a canvas bag in the closet. When volunteertv.com asked him about it he said, “Ha ha, I’ve lived here for 17 years. It’s been in there … or in my bedroom ever since.” The painting was a present given to him and 20 years before, he used to hang it on his wall.
Boettner is still trying to determine how many portraits were produced and authenticated in the series. He told WBIR, “It may turn out to be a very common work of art. We know there were several, but it is undoubtedly very old and appears to be part of a historic devotion.”
According to Catholic tradition the painting would be considered a third-class relic, meaning that it was made of cloth that touched a first-class relic (eg. something from the life of Jesus, or the bones of a saint), or second-class relic (something that was worn by a saint) during a devotional ceremony.