- fem. proper name, a variant of Greek Berenike (see Berenice). The popular "Saint Veronica" (not in the Roman Martyrology) traditionally was a pious woman who wiped the face of Christ when he fell carrying the cross to Calvary. The image of his face remained on the cloth, and the "veil of Veronica" has been preserved in Rome from the 8c. Her popularity rose with the propagation of the Stations of the Cross. Some also identified her with the woman with the issue of blood, cured by Christ, as in the East this woman was identified from an early date by the name Berenike.
In sum, it seems likely that the story of Veronica is a delightful legend without any solid historical basis; that Veronica is a purely fictitious, not a historical character, and that the story was invented to explain the relic. It aroused great interest in the later Middle Ages in the general devotional context of increased concern with the humanity of Christ, especially the Holy Face, and the physical elements of his Passion. [David Hugh Farmer, "The Oxford Dictionary of Saints," 1978]
Hence vernicle (mid-14c.) "picture of the face of Christ," from Old French veronicle, variant of veronique.