Thursday, February 12, 2009
Rosalia Lombardo, or "Sleeping Beauty" of the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy
Today, waiting to get my haircut, I picked up an issue of National Geographic featuring a story on the famous mummies of the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo, Italy. Now, I had long been familiar with the epic array of mummies in this catacombs, but somehow I had not been aware of one of the crypts more enchanting residents --Rosalia Lomnbardo, or the"Sleeping Beauty" of the catacombs.
As National Geographic tells it, Rosalia Lombardo was a two-year-old Sicilian girl who died of pneumonia in 1920. She's is considered one of the world's best-preserved bodies, and has resided in a glass fronted coffin in the crypt since her death. For many years, the formula that preserved her so magnificently was considered a mystery, but it has recently been discovered that her preparator--Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer Alfredo Salafia--injected her with a mixture of formalin, zinc salts, alcohol, salicylic acid, and glycerin. Apparently, its the zinc salts that kept her so well preserved, in effect petrifying her body.
You can read the entire National Geographic article on the Capuchin Crypts here (and look at all the wonderful photos--be sure to check out the photo gallery!); you can read more about the mystery of Rosalia Lombardo here.
Photograph by Vincent J. Musi, as seen in National Geographic.