Mummified body of two-year-old who died 100 years ago is said to be ‘most beautiful’ preserved person in the world


Mummified body of two-year-old who died 100 years ago is said to be ‘most beautiful’ preserved person in the world

The body of a young girl who died more than 100 years ago has been dubbed the ‘world’s most beautiful mummy’ due to how well she’s been preserved. 

Rosalia Lombardo sadly passed away just before her second birthday back in 1920 due to a case of pneumonia, which experts suggest was likely caused by the Spanish flu pandemic. 

Thousands of people come to visit her preserved body each year in the catacombs beneath the Capuchin convent in Palermo, Sicily, where she rests amongst 8,000 other mummies. 

No one is entirely sure how she was kept in such perfect condition before being placed in a protective glass coffin, with her blond hair and skin still fully intact. 

Thousands of people visit the preserved body of Rosalia Lombardo each year. Credit: Boaz Rottem/Alamy Stock Photo
Thousands of people visit the preserved body of Rosalia Lombardo each year. Credit: Boaz Rottem/Alamy Stock Photo

As is often the case with the strange and unexplained, a number of theories have emerged over the years, with some claiming her to be a fake wax replica. 

Looking to debunk the claims, various tests were carried out on the body for a History Channel documentary in the 00s. 

Not only did they confirm the mummy to be the body of Rosalia, but through x-ray scans they discovered that her skeletal structure and organs were still intact, including her brain – although it had shrunk to 50 percent its original size. 

An urban legend was also circulated by people who had claimed to have seen the young girl blink, another theory that was unsurprisingly proven to be incorrect. 

The toddler's body is so well preserved, some have accused it of being a wax replica. Credit: Hemis/Alamy Stock Photo
The toddler’s body is so well preserved, some have accused it of being a wax replica. Credit: Hemis/Alamy Stock Photo

In a statement made back in 2014, Dario Piombino-Mascali – a bioarchaeologist and scientific curator of the Capuchin Catacombs – said: “It’s an optical illusion produced by the light that filters through the side windows, which during the day is subject to change.”

Speaking about her eyes, he added: “They are not completely closed, and indeed they have never been.”

While the true origin of Rosalia is unknown, she has become the subject of Sicilian lore over the years. 

Her namesake is due to the belief that she was the daughter of the wealthy noble, General Mario Lombardo, who is said to have been so grief-stricken when she died that he refused to bury her and instead chose to have her body preserved. 

Though the true history of Rosalia’s short life are unclear, the facts about the embalming process were confirmed in a manuscript found by Piombino-Mascali in 2009.

The note revealed that the toddler was mummified by Alfredo Salafia, a Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer, who used a formula of ‘one part glycerin, one part formalin saturated with both zinc sulfate and chloride, and one part of an alcohol solution saturated with salicylic acid’.

Alfredo Salafia was a Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer. Credit: Creative Commons
Alfredo Salafia was a Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer. Credit: Creative Commons

Rosalia is now kept in a glass case filled with nitrogen in order to protect her body from environmental factors that could cause her to deteriorate. 

According to Gizmodo, Piombino-Mascali explained: “It was designed to block any bacteria or fungi.”

He continued: “Thanks to a special film, it also protects the body from the effects of light,” adding that he hoped visitors would stop making up ‘totally unfounded stories’ about Rosalia’s backstory. 


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