The Miracle of the Volto Santo or the Cross of Nicodemas
The Miracle of the Volto Santo
And while Saints Gemma Galgani and Zita are both products of the town of Lucca, there is another important reason for us to come to this place.
This other most important Shrine to visit came to Lucca by way of Jerusalem. It is called the Volto Santo, or Holy Visage.
It is a priceless treasure, which, tradition tells us, was sculpted by Nicodemus.
He etched the image of Our Lord Jesus from his first-hand knowledge of the Savior on a large piece of Lebanese cedar.
It is pointed out more strongly in the tradition of the Crucifix, that the image of Jesus was actually sculpted by the Angels.
It is also recorded that the Angels protected the Crucifix through the centuries of persecution by the Turks and Moslems until the Middle Ages, when an Italian bishop, named Gualfredo, came to the Holy Land on Pilgrimage.
The Lord instructed the Angels to have him discover the revered Image in an equally miraculous way.
He was so impressed with this superb treasure, that he virtually smuggled it out of the Holy Land.
He brought the Volto Santo back to Italy on a boat with neither crew nor sails, in an effort to be inconspicuous.
He actually floated to Italy, leaving the navigation of the boat to the Lord.
There had to be a tremendous amount of faith on the part of the bishop to be willing to make this treacherous journey, depending completely on the Lord for his safe passage.
Also, the treasure he was carrying to Europe was of such immense value pirates would kill to steal it from him.
Even the routing the boat took showed a complete abandonment on the part of the Bishop. He had no way to know what path the boat would take.
It had to be guided by Angels, very similar to the voyage the Holy House of Nazareth took on its way to Europe and finally, Italy. Whereas in the case of the Holy House, it was transported by the Angels by air, in this instance, the Volto Santo went by sea.
It had to go all the way out into the Mediterranean sea, around the tip of Greece, around Sicily, up the Tirrenian Sea, past Sardinia and Corsica, until the Angels finally floated It to land near the coast of La Spezia, to a little town called Luni.
We're not sure where the bishop would have prayed would be the final destination of the Miraculous Volto Santo.
Perhaps he desired to have as its home, the town of Luni, where it landed. At any rate, a battle ensued between the diocese where Luni was, and the diocese of Lucca. Each felt that the Volto Santo should be venerated in their diocese. But again, Divine Providence was given the lead.
Another bishop took over; he would determine how the voyage of the Sacred Cross would progress, to wherever it was the Lord wanted it to stop. Bishop Giovanni I, of Lucca, was inspired by the Holy Spirit to let Divine Providence determine where the Cross would go.
The Cross was placed on a cart, driven by untamed oxen.
They were not guided in any direction, but allowed to wander as the Lord would dictate.
The oxen with the Miraculous Crucifix were followed by the Bishop of Lucca, and various dignitaries from the towns of Luni and Lucca. There have been reports of the sounds of Angels singing heavenly chants, in honor of the Son of God, whose miraculous Image they were guarding, as they followed the cart. Obviously, there had to be a Heavenly cortege surrounding and protecting the Image of Our Lord Jesus.
The convoy traveled down the coast of Italy from La Spezia, almost to Pisa, whereupon the oxen moved inland. At last, the cart brought the miraculous Crucifix to the town of Lucca, where it stopped in front of three churches before it finally halted at the doors of the Cathedral.
It was reverently placed in the Cathedral where it has stayed to this day.
It became a major Shrine of pilgrimage throughout all of Europe. It was almost obligatory for a pilgrim to stop at Lucca at the Shrine of the Volto Santo before continuing to Rome. There was even a certain road they were to travel in the Middle Ages, called the Ria Romea or Francigena.
Miracles attributed to Our Lord Jesus through the Volto Santo occurred almost immediately after the Miraculous Cross was placed in the Cathedral.
Word of the miracles spread throughout Italy and, consequently, all over Europe. Lucca is a corridor city bringing wagons and carts from the Mediterranean Sea to Florence.
The first miracle attributed to the Volto Santo was given to a man to save his life. A minstrel from France had sailed to La Spezia and wandered through the Italian countryside, playing for his room and board, to anyone who was willing to listen to him.
When he arrived at Lucca, and beheld the beautiful Volto Santo, he was completely taken back by the elegance and spirituality emanating from the Miraculous Cross.
He had no gift to give to Our Lord Jesus, so he played his lute in front of the Cross. Our Lord, who will not be outdone in generosity, rewarded the man by dropping one of His silver slippers from the Cross.
It fell in front of the man, who was elated at this obvious gift from the Lord.