My favorite part of the episode was when they talked about the Capuchin monastery's catacombs in Palermo, Italy. These catacombs are well known for their well preserved corpses. In fact, there are over 8000 corpses and 1252 mummies who reside there! Some bodies are seen laying in coffins, while others line the walls. For the record, this is a tourist attraction and you are able to go visit the mummies!
This is also the resting place of the catacombs most popular resident, an Italian child mummy named Rosalia Lombardo (AKA Sleeping Beauty.) This little girl died of Pneumonia in 1920 at only two years old. Her father grieved so much over her death that he sought out embalmer and taxidermist, Alfredo Salafia's aid in order to preserve her remains.
What makes Rosalia so special and stands out is credited to Salafia's supreme embalming techniques. At first glance, one would think the child was peacefully sleeping and not really a corpse. In fact, x- rays were taken of her internal organs and they were still intact! The only signs of decay is the yellowing of her skin. For many years, people wondered exactly what kind of embalming formula did Salafia use. It was only until very recently (2009) his memoir was discovered and we learned about his technique.
|Photo of Rosalia taken from Wikipedia page|
What was not discussed in the episode but after further reading about the child mummy online, I learned that there was a mysterious phenomena surrounding Rosalia. You see, many people have reported seeing the child's eyes open and close shut. Turns out, it was nothing paranormal or mysterious. It was simply temperature changes and the angles of light filtering through a side window that gave the optical illusion. The mummy was also slightly moved and placed into a humidity free coffin. The new position helps you get a better glimpse of her eyelids. In addition, her eyes were never completely closed to begin with! This is only a testament to Salafia's techniques where after all this time, almost a century later, we can still see her blue eyes!