Vol. 126 No. 1 (2022)
Original Article

What lies behind the embalmed body of Rosalia Lombardo (1918-1920)?

Raffaella Bianucci
Department of Cultures and Societies, University of Palermo, Palermo
Francesco M. Galassi
FAPAB Research Center, Avola (SR)
Tiziana Lanza
Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Rome
Grazia Mattutino
Legal Medicine Section, Department of Public and Pediatric Sciences, University of Turin, Turin
Andreas G. Nerlich
Institute of Pathology, Academic Clinic Munich-Bogenhausen, Munich

Published 2022-09-20


  • modern embalming,
  • anatomy,
  • mummification,
  • wax,
  • restorative arts,
  • history of medicine,
  • mummy
  • ...More

How to Cite

Bianucci, R., Galassi, F. M., Lanza, T. ., Mattutino, G. ., & Nerlich, A. G. . (2022). What lies behind the embalmed body of Rosalia Lombardo (1918-1920)?. Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, 126(1), 5–13. https://doi.org/10.36253/ijae-13771


Mummy studies help scientists to reconstruct both the evolution and manifestation of past diseases as well as the lifestyles and the habits of the ancient populations. They also help to gain insights into their funerary rites, which are a reflection of the community spiritual beliefs. Last but not least, the study of embalmed corpses reveals the evolution of the mortuary practices. After the 1840’s, new embalming methods were developed; these coupled the use of chemical solution and arterial injection thus allowing the corpses to maintain their integrity (no external lacerations) together with a life-like appearance. An extremely interesting case of modern chemical embalming is that of Rosalia Lombardo (1918-1920), a two years old girl who died in Palermo. Her cadaver is housed in the Capuchin Catacombs of the Sicilian capital. Both her cause of death and the procedure used in her embalming are still enigmatic. Her embalming has been allegedly attributed to Alfredo Salafia, a renowned Palermitan embalmer. This paper addresses the most recent findings emerged from our re-analysis of Rosalia’s case; furthermore, the cosmetic treatment of Rosalia’s mummy is compared with those of Ernesto Salafia Maggio and Giovanni Paterniti, two individuals whose bodies were embalmed by Alfredo Salafia. 


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