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Rosalia Lombardo

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Rosalia Lombardo
Lombardo's embalmed body in 1982
Born(1918-12-13)13 December 1918
Died(1920-12-06)6 December 1920 (1 year, 359 days)
Palermo, Sicily, Kingdom of Italy
Other namesSleeping Beauty of the Capuchin Catacombs
Known forBeing in an especially well preserved state in her tomb, in the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo

Rosalia Lombardo (13 December 1918 – 6 December 1920)[1] was a Palermitan child who died of pneumonia, resulting from the Spanish flu,[2] one week before her second birthday. Rosalia's father, Mario Lombardo, grieving her death, asked Alfredo Salafia, an embalmer, to preserve her remains.[3] Sometimes called "Sleeping Beauty", hers was one of the last corpses to be admitted to the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily.


Lombardo's body in 2012.

Thanks to Salafia's embalming techniques, the body was well-preserved. X-rays of the body show that all the organs are remarkably intact.[4] Rosalia Lombardo's body is kept in a small chapel at the end of the catacomb's street and is encased in a glass covered coffin, placed on a wooden pedestal. A 2009 National Geographic photograph of Rosalia Lombardo shows the mummy is beginning to show signs of decomposition, most notably discoloration. Her body is starting to take on a yellow waxy skin texture.[5] To address these issues, the mummy was moved to a drier spot in the catacombs, and her original coffin was placed in a hermetically sealed glass enclosure with nitrogen gas to prevent decay.[6] The mummy remains one of the best preserved bodies in the catacombs.

While there are claims that Capuchin catacombs curator Dario Piombino-Mascali and his associates were the first to discover Salafia's unpublished manuscripts, Professor Umberto Di Cristina and co-author were the first to discover the unpublished manuscript in their book La Dimora delle Anime, which was published in February of 2007, two years before Dario Piombino-Mascali and his colleague's published their work. An English translation by the author's of "The discovery of the Salafia handwritten manuscript and formula. Chronological and biological considerations" note 21, p. 90 from the book La Dimora delle Anime by Di Cristina et al., 2007:"Alfredo Salafia studied the process of mummification of the bodies and dedicated his life to the research of the methods to preserve the corpses by the use of pharmacological substances and chemical preparations. He wrote a treatise entitled Nuovo Metodo Speciale per la conservazione del cadavere umanointero alla stato permanentemente fresco (New Special Method for the Preservation of the Entire Human Cadaver in the State of Permanent Freshness). It consists of around 30 handwritten pages where Salafia performs a concise description of the mummification techniques from the Egyptians to the Capuchins, and provides information on the European and American studies in the first years of the twentieth century; in his treatise he describes his own (embalming) method and describes the history of the embalming procedures of some illustrious personages, (whose bodies were) well-preserved thanks to his method: among those (are), Francesco Crispi, the cardinal Michelangelo Celesia, Archbishop of Palermo, and the Senator Giacomo Armò»." The author's state that "there are no published documentary, archival or photographic sources which support the claim that Alfredo Salafia embalmed Rosalia Lombardo" [7]The embalming formula, as stated by Dario Piombino-Mascali et. al, 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 via a gravity injector.[1][8] Rossella Lorenzi of Discovery News reported that the formalin was used to kill bacteria, the glycerin used to prevent desiccation, and the salicylic acid used to eliminate any fungi within the flesh, with the purpose of the zinc salts being petrifaction.[8]

The mummy has achieved further notoriety for a phenomenon in which her eyes appear to open and close several times a day, revealing her intact blue irises.[9] In response to speculation about her moving eyelids, Piombino-Mascali stated that "It's an optical illusion produced by the light that filters through the side windows, which during the day is subject to change ... [her eyes] are not completely closed, and indeed they have never been".[10]

In 2021 a German heavy metal band Under The Night Sky released an EP called Rosalia (1918-1920).[11][12][13]


  1. ^ a b Panzer, Stephanie; Gill-Frerking, Heather; Rosendahl, Wilfried; Zink, Albert R.; Piombino-Mascali, Dario (2013). "Multidetector CT investigation of the mummy of Rosalia Lombardo (1918–1920)". Annals of Anatomy. 195 (5): 401–408. doi:10.1016/j.aanat.2013.03.009. PMID 23725823.
  2. ^ Wiesner, Janika; Baumjohann, Kristina; Benecke, Mark; Scheidt, Jörg (May 2, 2013). "In the Catacombs of the Capuchin Monastery in Palermo" – via www.leica-microsystems.com.
  3. ^ National Geographic. February 2009. p. 124.
  4. ^ National Geographic. February 2009. p. 150.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on 2021-02-28. Retrieved 2019-12-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "The Girl in the Glass Casket". National Geographic Channel. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  7. ^ Glassi, Francesco; Lanza, Tiziana; Mattutino, Grazia; Sine, Luca; Nerlich, Andreas; Donell, Simon; Bianucci, Rafaella. "The discovery of the Salafia handwritten manuscript and formula. Chronological and biological considerations". Research Gate. Archivio per l’Antropologia e la Etnologia - Vol. CLI. Retrieved 22 May 2024.
  8. ^ a b "Why Does This Child Mummy Appear to Open And Close Her Eyes?". ScienceAlert. 22 September 2014. Archived from the original on 17 July 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  9. ^ Reuben Westmaas (16 October 2017). "This Mummified Two-Year-Old Appears to Blink Every Day". Curiosity.com. Archived from the original on 17 July 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  10. ^ Rossella Lorenzi (20 June 2014). "Why Does This Mummy Appear To Open And Close Her Eyes?". io9. Discovery News. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Under the Night Sky - Rosalia (1918-1920)". Discogs.
  12. ^ "Rosalia (1918-1920), by Under The Night Sky". Under The Night Sky. Retrieved 2021-12-21.
  13. ^ "Rosalia (1918-1920)". Spotify.


  • Dario Piombino-Mascali, 2020. Lo spazio di un mattino. Storia di Rosalia Lombardo, la bambina che dorme da cento anni. Dario Flaccovio, Palermo.

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