The Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily, holds 8000 mummified bodies. One of the last corpses to be admitted to the Catacombs is the mummy of Rosalia Lombardo who is believed to have died from a bronchial infection/pneumonia. Born on 13 December 1918 she died on 6 December 1920 shortly before her second birthday. Her father is believed to be Mario Lombardo although there are no official documents to confirm this. According to legend Mario was so distraught that he contracted an embalmer named Alfredo Salafia to preserve Rosalia for eternity. The cadaver was injected with a fluid to kill bacteria and fungi, desiccate the body without over-drying, and give the body rigidity.
There are no known photographs of Rosalia when she was alive. Earlier photos of the mummification show a very lifelike Rosalia. However, her skin tone has become discoloured with each passing decade most likely due to the damaging effects from light sources which has also changed her hair colour to blonde (she was born a brunette).
This tiny sleeping beauty whose hair is adorned with a yellow ribbon rests beneath a faded silk blanket in a glass coffin. The casket which has been hermetically sealed within a glass enclosure filled with nitrogen gas to prevent decay is seated on a marble pedestal in a small chapel. On her chest is a faded talisman showing a cherub holding a lamb which represents purity and innocence.
Over the years, speculation was made that the mummy of Rosalia Lombardo had decayed and had been replaced with a wax reproduction. Rosalia’s coffin was x-rayed for a documentary by the History Channel in the 2000s. It revealed a skeletal structure and internal organs that were still intact. Her brain had shrunk 50% due to the mummification process.
No one had ever looked beneath the blanket that covers Rosalia’s body since she was sealed inside her coffin. When National Geographic performed an MRI to produce the first 3D images of Rosalia’s mummified body in 2009 it showed her arms resting at her sides. The MRI also confirmed that all her organs were intact.