Would you like to hear something surprising, scary or maybe fascinating. This is a story about the beautiful Italian baby named, Rosalia Lombardo, also known as “Sleeping Beauty”, the most beautiful mummy that winks! Born on December 13, 1918 in Palermo, Italy, Rosalia suffered from pneumonia and died on December 6, 1920.
Tucked away in Palermo, Italy’s Capuchin Catacombs lies the final resting place of the world’s most beautiful mummy. They call her ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ and she’s so well-preserved that you might even think she’s alive… especially when she blinks at you.
Little is known about Rosalia’s short life, but after her death, Rosalia’s father, Official Mario Lombardo, was sorely grieved upon her death, so he approached Alfredo Salafia, a noted embalmer, to preserve her. She was embalmed by Salafia, a mortician so skilled that his work not not only looks better than much of the embalming performed today, but it wasn’t until recently that his actual technique was rediscovered and understood. MRIs taken just five years ago show that each of Rosalia’s tiny organs are still intact, a sign that points all the way back to Egyptian methods of mummification.
Thanks to Salafia’s embalming techniques, the body was well preserved. X-rays of the body show that all the organs are remarkably intact. Rosalia Lombardo’s body is kept in a small chapel at the end of the catacomb’s tour 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. 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.
The mummy is one of the best preserved bodies in the catacombs. Recently, the mummification techniques used by Salafia were discovered in a handwritten memoir of Salafia’s. Salafia replaced the girl’s blood with a liquid made of formalin to kill bacteria, alcohol to dry the body, glycerin to keep her from overdrying, salicylic acid to kill fungi, and zinc salts to give her body rigidity. Accordingly, the formula’s composition is “one part glycerin, one part formalin saturated with both zinc sulfate and chloride, and one part of an alcohol solution saturated with salicylic acid.”
While numerous theories about “Sleeping Beauty” and her mysterious winking performances have flooded the internet, from those who believe the little girl’s restless spirit still resides in her pristine body, to those who blame the changing humidity catacombs for the strange phenomena, nearly all who view her can agree that she truly is one of the most beautiful mummies in the world.
One person even took four images of her face two hours apart and put them in a video to show the progress the eyelids make. While some think it is the soul of the child causing this anomaly, there are others who have more practical explanations. In an article from Discovery, Piombino-Mascali stated:
It’s an optical illusion produced by the light that filters through the side windows, which during the day is subject to change.”
He claims her eyes were never really closed in the first place which allowed this phenomenon to appear to happen.
To visit the incredible corpse of Rosalia Lombardo yourself, visit the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Italy, where some 8,000 bodies rest in full view of guests who often find themselves quite shaken by the experience. Be sure to bring your camera…you’ll never know when Sleeping Beauty might give you a wink.
See the Sleeping Beauty’s winking video here: