The Ponte Sant' Angelo, the bridge which leads to the castle of the same name, is lined with ten gloriously gyrating stone angels. The angels, which bear Instruments from Christ's Passion, were designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). Two were carved by the master himself and the rest were farmed out to a variety of fellow sculptors.
The pedestals, on which the angels stand, have inscriptions in Latin. However, the inscription (Respice faciem Christi tui/Look upon the face of your Christ) on the pedestal that supports the angel holding Veronica's Veil has been almost obliterated by a rather large dent.
The dent was made by a stray cannonball, which was fired from the Castel Sant' Angelo during the half-hearted papal defence of Rome on September 20th, 1870. The shot knocked the statue clean into the river. Thankfully, the statue, the work of Cosimo Fancelli (1618-88), was not seriously damaged. The angel was soon fished out of the river and reunited with its pedestal.
The legend of Veronica's Veil comes from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which relates that when Jesus was on his way to be crucified, Veronica, who was a member of the crowd lining the route, took pity on his sufferings and wiped the sweat from his brow with her veil, or handkerchief. The cloth, it is claimed, miraculously retained an imprint of Christ's face.
For centuries what was believed to be Veronica's Veil was kept in St Peter's Basilica, its most prized relic.