Salafia's embalming technique worked so completely, that the body survived the ravages of time. It was so well preserved that even in 1995, when this photo was taken, she looked merely asleep. Another fascinating aspect is Rosalia's eyes. Some days and nights they will slowly open and close, as if slowly waking from a long sleep...
The Sleeping Beauty of the Catacombs
Upon her death Rosalia's father, General Lombardo, was so grief stricken that he wanted to have his daughter interred in the catacombs, preserved for eternity. He was lucky that they agreed to take her remains, as the catacombs had essentially stopped accepting new bodies, making Rosalia one of the last.
Before she was placed in her spot within the catacombs, Rosalias father sought out renowned embalmer Alfredo Salafia. Salafia was an Italian chemist, who had spent years perfecting his embalming technique. The results of Salafia’s formula were some of the best kept bodies ever preserved.
Salafia perfected his embalming skills on animals, before moving onto humans. His technique greatly differed from traditional embalming. He would simply inject his formula directly into the carotid artery... no other real form of preparation was done, not even draining the blood.
In 1933 Salafia died, taking his secret with him to the grave. Thought long lost, the secret fluid has since been reversed engineered, and the secrets unlocked: Formalin is used to kill bacteria, Salicylic Acid stopped fungal growth, Alcohol dried the body whilst glycerine prevented it from drying out too much (to help prevent the skin becoming brittle and tearing).
However, the big secret was in using zinc salts. These gave Rosalia’s body rigidity, stopping hollows caving in, such as cheeks and the nasal cavity, preserving a life like appearance.
Palermo's Patron Saint
Legend says that St Rosalia was born to a noble family and became devoutly religious. In her later life, she was led to a cave by two angels. It was here she spent her life as a hermit, and died in 1166.
Five hundred years later a plague struck Palermo, and Rosalia appeared to a sick woman and then to a hunter and told him where her remains could be found. The hunter found the preserved body in the cave, and took it on a procession through the city, after which, the plague ceased.
The Dead Eyes Open...
On several occasions people would take photos of Rosalia throughout the day, and yes, at times the eyes did seem to be slightly opened. A time lapse camera was set up, which, over a twelve hour period, caught the eyes slowly opening and closing.
Many believe this is a kind of miracle, a strange piece of paranormal phenomena. Others that it is caused by changes in temperature and humidity.
In 2009 it was noticed that the body was finally starting to show signs of decay. Rosalia is now located in a hermetically sealed glass container.
The images you can see of her eyes were taken after she was placed in this container, some discolouration is visible on her cheeks, with the nose starting to pinch in at the nostrils. Still Rosalia is remarkably well preserved, and in her new home she will remain so for a very long time yet.
So what do you think is happening here?
A kind of miracle - some paranormal activity?
Or just natural environmental processes?