The Sleeping Beauty

The lifeless girl who winks at visitors since 1920

Every year, thousands of visitors from all around the world pay visit to Capuchin Catacombs to see the sleeping beauty - Rosalia Lombardo lying in her glass coffin. Visitors bring their mobile phones and camera’s to take pictures of this timeless sleeping beauty of Sicily. The strangest thing about this lifeless girl is that she blinks her blue eyes several times a day. In 1920, at two years of age Rosalia Lombardo died of pneumonia. Rosalia’s father, even after her death was unwilling to let the little girl perish hence he approached embalmer Alfredo Salafia to preserve her till eternity. The history of embalming can be traced back to the ancient Egypt. According to Barton funeral.com, the ancient Egyptians would preserve their dead bodies due to their religious beliefs and for sanitation. The Egyptians are believed to have mummified approximately 400,000,000 bodies from 6000 BC to 600 AD. Herodotus, a Greek historian maintained that the ancient Egyptians preserved the dead bodies because they believed in the immortality of soul.  The Egyptians further believed that the soul would return to the dead body if the body remains intact. During the American civil war, bodies of dead soldiers were preserved using the vascular embalming technique so that the bodies could be sent to their hometowns for burial.

How Salafia embalmed Rosalia’s body had remained a mystery for many years. Dario Piombino Mascali, funded by National Geographic Society Expeditions Council in the recent past discovered Salafia’s formula. Salafia died in 1933 but Piombino Mascali managed to track down Salafia’s living relatives, who had embalmer’s handwritten memoir documenting the chemicals such as formalin, Zinc salts, alcohol, Salicylic acid and glycerin. Salafia’s embalming formula has preserved the lifeless little girl for nearly a hundred years. According to Melissa Johnson Williams - executive director of the American society of Embalmers, if one takes Rosalia’s body out of the coffin and prop her, she would stand without support.

One mystery regarding Rosalia, which has come down to modern times from an earlier period is the movement of her eyes. One cult believes that Rosalia’s spirit returns to her body and causes her eyes to move but in 2009, a Mir of Rosalia’s body revealed that all her organs are superbly intact. The first ever 3D images of the dead body revealed that the little girl’s blue eyes are still undamaged. The room temperature and humidity in catacombs has been described by embalmers as one of the reason for the movement of Rosalia’s eyelids.

The Sleeping beauty Rosalia is considered to be one of the biggest mysteries of all times. If one gets the opportunity to visit Capuchin Catacombs, one must go near Rosalia’s coffin to see how often she blinks.



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