The Mysteries of Rosalia Lombardo’s Blinking Mummy


Known as the “girl in the glass coffin” or “Sleeping Beauty,” Rosalia Lombardo is widely considered one of the best-preserved mummies in the world.

The girl died of pneumonia at the age of two in 1920. Rosalia’s father was so deeply grieved upon her death that he approached Dr. Alfredo Salafia, a noted embalmer and taxidermist, to preserve her.

Dr. Salafia performed the procedure that would preserve Rosalia. For about a century, the exact formula remained a mystery, lost to the grave with Salafia. In 2009, a biological anthropologist named Dario Piombino-Mascali tracked down the eternal formula through Salafia’s living descendants.

According to this miraculous formula, the chemicals included formalin, zinc salt, alcohol, salicylic acid, and glycerin. The combination of alcohol and the climate conditions within the catacombs would have dried Rosalia’s body. Glycerin would have allowed the body to mummify, and salicylic acid prevented the growth of mold.

The magic ingredient was zinc, which gave the body rigidity, essentially turning it into wax. She was one of the last corpses to be admitted to the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily, where about 8,000 mummies are being kept. She soon became one of the most well-known.

Her preservation is such that it appears as if she were only sleeping. Today, thousands of visitors visit the Sicilian Catacombs to take a look and admire this little girl that never had the chance to enjoy life.

According to the Peruvian journal El Comercio, scientists interested in learning more about the embalming techniques employed in Rosalia’s body put a camera inside her sarcophagus, capable of taking pictures every 60 seconds.

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