About Names: “Cleveland Evans: Like Elvis Costello asks, has Veronica gone to hide?”

St. Veronica with the Holy Kerchief (ca. 1420 CE, Public Domain)

St. Veronica with the Holy Kerchief (ca. 1420 CE, Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his February 26th column, he discusses the name “Veronica”.

Veronica is bringing ancient Greece to the far future.

“Arch-Conspirator,” latest novel by Veronica Roth, author of the bestselling “Divergent” dystopian science fiction series, debuted Feb. 21. It retells the legend of Antigone in a far-future desolate Earth where an Archive stores human genes from which our species can be recreated.

The name Veronica also reshapes an ancient Greek source. Berenike, Macedonian form of Greek Pherenike, “bringing victory,” became well-known throughout the eastern Mediterranean after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the fourth century B.C.

The Gospels of Mark and Luke tell of an unnamed woman with “an issue of blood” who’s healed simply by touching Jesus’s robe. Around 400, the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus named her Berenike.

Soon after, stories of the crucifixion were elaborated to include a woman who wipes Jesus’ face with a cloth while He’s on His way to Golgotha. The cloth retains an image of His face. By 900 A.D. the cloth was displayed as a relic in Rome, and Berenike was identified as the woman.

“Vera icon” is Latin for “true image.” Latin versions of the story changed Berenike to “Veronica” to link the name to the relic.

Though St. Veronica’s legend spread the name throughout western Europe, it was never common in England. Puritans avoided it along with other non-Biblical saint names. The 1851 census found only 74 Veronicas in Britain.