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  • Day115

    In a pickle

    February 19, 2019 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Nearly 8000 desiccated corpses have been shelved by category under the Capuchin Monastery.
    Each one is dressed in their Sunday best and pinned to the walls, sitting on benches and shelves or lying in open coffins rigidly maintaining class distinctions. The priests of course have their own corridors / rooms, and so do for professionals, such as doctors. Women are segregated and children have their own space. The 1st class lounge is reserved for virgins all in white.
    It is believed that the particularly dry atmosphere allowed for the natural mummification of the bodies.
    Some say that the priests would lay the dead on shelves and allow them to drip until they were completely depleted of bodily fluids. After a year in the very dry atmosphere of the catacombs, the dried-out corpses would be rinsed with vinegar before being re-dressed and sent to their proper station for ever.
    More probably a recently found description of an embalming process, which was lost for decades, was employed. It consists of “formalin to kill bacteria, alcohol to dry the body, glycerin to keep her from overdrying, salicylic acid to kill fungi, and the most important ingredient, zinc salts to give the body rigidity.”
    The oldest corpse in the macabre collection is that of Silvestro da Gubbio, a friar who passed in 1599. The most recent is that of 2 year old Rosalia Lombardo, embalmed in 1920. She has been so well preserved that people call her “Sleeping Beauty.”
    Photos are officially forbidden but I couldn't resist taking a couple for you.
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