Saturday, December 22, 2012

"The Macabre and Little Known Sight of Saint Victoria of Rome" : A Mystery Revealed, Thanks to the BBC

Regular readers might remember the enigmatic and gorgeous Saint Victoria (or Saint Vittoria; seen above), a life-sized saint I stumbled upon in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria directly across from Bernini's tourist-drawing Ecstasy of Saint Theresa on a recent trip to Rome. This rose-crowned and slashed-neck lady had caused me no little consternation; Was she waxwork? Effigy? Reliquary? Or some combination of the above? Sadly, churches do not have informational panels explaining such things, and I was left only to wonder as to her history and makeup.

Then, very recently, a few comments popped up on my blog from folks who had seen this mysterious figure discussed at length on the "Divine Gamble" episode of the new BBC TV series "Rome--A History of the Eternal City." I finally was able to locate a copy on You Tube and at about 12:47 minutes in, here is what I learned:
This figure, one of the cities least known but most macabre sights, appears to be a statue. But closer inspection reveals something far more spine chilling. When first you look at this, you think it must be a waxwork. But when you look a little closer, into the slightly open mouth you see, through the open lips of a skeleton. And if you look at the hands on the outside, they appear to be wax. But look inside. You can see not just the skeletal bones of the real hand of the human body but actually the dry skin there too. This is the body of Saint Victoria.
What the host does not mention explicitly is that it is, indeed, the body of the saint herself, but very much "touched up" with wax, human hair, and clothing. You can watch this segment--or the entire episode--by clicking here. You can read the former blog post by clicking here. Thanks so much to posters Cheryl, Josh and Allan for alerting me to this!


thorne garnet said...

well, that's creepy.

Sandy said...

Very very interesting and very cool!

Thanks and happy new year!


Anonymous said...

thanks, i also had the exact same curiosity like you did. now i figured it out