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.

14 comments:

rvitelli said...

Spooky. I've been to the Capuchin monastery in Rome with its awesome crypt but none of the bodies were so well-preserved.

Anonymous said...

Is "Sleeping Beaty" in any way related to Warren Beatty?

Ann Van de Velde said...

Just wanted to write there's an 'u' missing in the title and then I read this funny last comment...:)
btw this is an impressive 'work of art', I've seen it many years ago in fascinating Palermo. Beautiful!
Ann

JE said...

I am a terrible speller. Thanks, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday this story came on tv..the unknown substance and the amounts have been discovered with a distant family member of the embalmer. Eventhough it looks like a doll it is not, last night they xrayed her right through the coffin and it is a real mummy. The coffin is layered with lead, has two layers of glass, and is sealed with various coats of wax. These are the secrets of Rosalia Lombardo...

Anonymous said...

it is true i watched it too but whenever i see rosalia she makes me wanna hold her close and cry she will always have a place in my heart

cindy said...

she looks so precious. i heard that she was Saint Rosalia. and a very beautiful saint she is. god bless her soul.

Lillian Newman said...

I had become mesmerized by this picture and others of her and read everything I could on Rosalia. One of the sites I visited was findagrave.com and someone had done a memorial for her. After I read it, something within me just wanted to look for my little brother, who died in 1968 after living for only a few minutes after birth. A complete stranger on the other side of the country had taken a picture of his gravestone. I set out looking for information on Rosalia, and it led me to my little brother. Yes, I think she's a saint too...

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous said...
Is "Sleeping Beaty" in any way related to Warren Beatty?

February 13, 2009 2:31 PM

Her name is not Sleeping Beauty it's a nickname that they gave her, her real name is Rosalia Lombardo(as they mention in the article) she was born in Italy. Warren Beatty is spelled completely differently than Beauty. He was Born in Richmond Virgina. They have no relation to eachother.

Anonymous said...

its amazing isnt it when i look at her she doesnt creep me out like some of the mummies do, she looks like she can just open her eyes, shes beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I too wanna hold her and cry, beautiful babygirl. RIP Rosalia...

Anonymous said...

such a pretty child. has anyone discovered any portraits or photos of rosalia when she was still living

Kira said...

do her relatives still come to see her?

jonathan_k80@yahoo.com said...

Saint Rosalia lived from 1130 to 1166. She is the patron saint of Palermo, Sicily.

This little girl was named after her.