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The eternal sleep of Rosalia Lombardo

3 min read

Rosalia Lombardo was born on December 13, 1918 in Palermo, in Sicily region in Southern Italy. At the tender age of 2 she died due to a bacteria pneumonia. Her father, official Mario Lombardo, destroyed by pain, decided to contact Dr. Alfredo Salafia, a noted embalmer, to undertake the task of preserving her beloved daughter.
Salafia was a great expert in post-mortem conservation, and it seems that he carried out the embalming of little Rosalia free of charge. The little girl was embalmed and was one of the last corpses to be admitted to the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo.


Since then, 100 years have passed, and the little Rosalia Lombardo is still there, lying, her body covered with a drape and the hair wrapped in a ribbon. Her corpse is perfectly preserved and shows no sign of decomposition: this has contributed to making Rosalia the main attraction for visitors from all over the world.
Every day dozens of tourists visit the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo to pay homage to the little girl, and almost everyone says, “It looks like she’s sleeping.” The mummy remains one of the best preserved bodies in the catacombs.
In southern Italy and especially in Sicily, the souls of the deceased were believed to protect families, which is why the custom of treating corpses by embalming was always alive: this despite this practice was already prohibited at the time of Rosalia’s death.
The little girl, in fact, is together with other bodies, many of which have been preserved in a natural way: after draining from the cadaveric fluids by draining and drying indoors for seven to eight months, they were washed with vinegar, arranged in the open air and eventually were dressed.

About 10 years ago, Capuchin catacombs curator discovered a manuscript written by Salafia, wherein he lists the ingredients used to mummify Rosalia, accompanied by illustrations and saved by a descendant, which highlight a great innovation for that period.
The embalming formula is described as “one part glycerin, one part formalin saturated with zinc sulfate and zinc chloride, and one part of an alcohol solution saturated with salicylic acid”, and was entered into the body through a single-point injection, most likely into the femoral artery.
There is also a mystery that surrounds the mummified body of Rosalia Lombardo.
Even if the little girl’s eyes are tightly closed, as if she is resting, thanks to the surveillance cameras installed inside the catacombs, the insiders noticed a truly singular fact: her eyes appear to open and close several times a day, revealing her intact blue irises.
There are, of course, those who shout at the miracle even thinking that death had never happened, but also those who consider the phenomenon only a macabre publicity stunt, and those who claim that after 100 years the girl is still alert.
And there is also a possible logical explanation: according to some, in fact, the movement of the eyelids is due to changes in the humidity of the room, or an optical illusion produced by the light that filters through the side windows, which during the day is subject to change. To support this theory, her eyes are not completely closed, and indeed they have never been….with all due respect to believers!

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