Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

Could This be the Face of the Cure d’ Ars?

Several years ago, a photograph of St. Maria Goretti was found. The grainy image depicts a young woman, standing between two boys amidst a flock of what appear to be geese.


The photo was the fruit of what appears to have been a century-long search (the story on how it was identified is found here, but the article is in Italian.)

A priest friend of mine in Ontario, Canada, was intrigued by this find. He writes:

A friend posted an article from a Catholic family-oriented magazine reporting the recent discovery of the only known photograph of the virgin-martyr, St Maria Goretti. And here is what I call an actual photograph of supernatural fraternal charity: the mother of Maria Goretti (or Marietta as she was known) and the murderer of the girl.



This priest had been on a hunt of his own for a photograph of another saint: the Cure d’ Ars:

About three years ago I came across an issue of Inside the Vatican and it had a photograph of St Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney. Since the various biographers say that no such photo exists, but only one taken after death, I thought that perhaps it was really the photo of an actor who had portrayed the Saint. I didn’t get an answer to questions sent to the publication. Then one day I was searching on, the French version, and had the idea to type in “archives” and “Jean Vianney”.

What he found was this:


Father continues:

He sure looks thin enough. The original liturgical prayer, softened for “modern man” in 1969, spoke of his extraordinary “prayer and penance”. For a long time he cooked potatoes once a week and lived off them, until his doctor ordered him to have daily glass of milk. His eyes look gentle yet piercing. Fr Vianney had the gift of cardiognosis: the reading of hearts. It is a gift of Providence that we can look at the saint’s face.

Alas, Father then discovered that the photograph is not exactly authentic. The saintly patron of Parish Priests was, in fact, notorious for not wanting any likeness of himself to be made – such was his humility. He was rumored to have been upset at someone who drew his portrait. As such, he never permitted himself to be photographed.

But on the centenary of his death in 1959, lacking any sure guide to his appearance, a request was made by a “priestly Session” (la Session sacerdotale) to have a composite photo constructed from mortuary photographs, as well as other elements. A forensic science team worked together to accomplish the task, providing the above image.

It is a compelling visage, and one that immediately appears human and authentic. How a composite of photos taken after death could express the gentle kindness and goodness visible in that gaunt face, in those eyes, I suppose will forever be a mystery.

I have been to Ars, and though the Cure’s body is said to be incorrupt, his face has been cast in a wax mask, so it is impossible to see his true features.


What do you think? Could this be the real face of one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church?

Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...