Discover History: Rosalia, The Sleeping Mummy

When two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo died from pneumonia in 1920, her grieving father wished her body to be preserved in death. Rosalia, one of the world’s best-preserved mummies, has become the most famous of the 8,000 mummies in the catacombs (below grown passages that are used as a burial place) of the Capuchin convent in Palermo, Sicily.

While most of the bodies in the catacombs are naturally dried. Little Rosalia was embalmed by Alfredo Salafia, a Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer, never revealed the chemicals used in his preservative. Salafia did his job so well that Rosalia, with blonde curls and blue eyes, appears sleep wrapped in a blanket.

rosalieIn 2009 Salafia’s formula was discovered. It contains: “one part glycerin, one part formalin saturated with both zinc sulfate and chloride, and one part of an alcohol solution saturated with salicylic acid.” The formalin kills bacteria, glycerin keeps her body from over-drying, salicylic acid kills fungi, and zinc salts petrified Rosalia’s body.

Recently, Rosalia was placed in a new glass coffin which will further protect her body from the ravages of time. As for little Rosalia’s eyes opening and closing throughout the day, scientists claim that it’s an illusion created as light moves through the catacombs through vents. Judge for yourself.

Read more about the Capuchin mummies and see more pictures HERE.

Tomorrow, Voltaire Misquoted.

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