Our Lady’s Veil (Sancta Camisia)
The first church at Chartres boasted one of the most venerated relics in Christendom, Our Lady’s Veil, which tradition declares was worn by the Virgin while giving birth to Jesus Christ e also as she stood at the foot of the Cross.
It had been transferred in the early years of the Christian Church from Jerusalem to Constantinople and presented by the Empress Irene to the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne (742-814). In 876 his descendant Charles the Bald gave the relic to the cathedral at Chartres. Our Lady’s Veil is kept in a golden reliquary beside the high altar and has formed the focus of many traditions throughout the centuries. For instance, in 911 when the bandit Rollo and his henchmen were besieging Chartres, local people took the veil from the church and paraded it as a flag of war. Rollo and his men were defeated and the siege was lifted.
The shrine is renowned for pilgrimages made by many of the great doctors and theologians of the Church. Our Lady’s Veil was believed to have protected the faithful down through the centuries from many dangers and evils, including famine and war, outbreaks of the plague, and the worst ravishes of the French Revolution.
The veil itself is more than six metres long and made of silk. Scientific studies have shown that it is of Syrian design, of fine quality and can be traced to the first century. If indeed it was the original Veil of Our Lady it has probably been extended and embellished over the centuries. It had once been depicted as a tunic (Sancta Camisia) but when this was unwound it was found to be a Veil, or a long piece of cloth rather than a tunic.
Every year on 15th August, the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, the Veil is processed through the town of Chartres.
1) SANCTA CAMISIA
2) CATHEDRAL OF CHARTRES