Almost 95 years ago on December 6, 1920, a little girl named Rosalia, the daughter of Official Mario Lombardo, died of pneumonia at only 2 years old. Having her simply laid to rest wasn’t enough for Lombardo, so he sought out Alfredo Salafia, a Sicilian professor of chemistry, to embalm and preserve her. After he worked his magic on the young body of Rosalia, she was placed in the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily where she rests to this day.
Because of her almost perfect preservation, she has been dubbed “Sleeping Beauty” as she appears to be a living child simply taking a nap. The embalming methods used to preserve her body were unknown for years until Salafia’s handwritten memoir was uncovered decades later. The memoirs revealed that her blood was replaced with a concoction that prevented her body from drying out and aslo killed bacteria. The misture translates to: “one part glycerin, one part formalin saturated with both zinc sulfate and chloride, and one part of an alcohol solution saturated with salicylic acid.”
Her almost perfect embalming isn’t even the strangest part of young Rosalia’s story. Being the most famous mummy in the catacombs, visitors reported that her eyes appeared to be opening and closing. One guest to the catacombs took four separate photos of her face two hours apart and created a video to show the progress the eyelids make. While some folklore claims it is the soul of the Rosalia causing this anomaly, there may be a more practical explanation. In an article from Discovery, Piombino-Mascali states: “It’s an optical illusion produced by the light that filters through the side windows, which during the day is subject to change.” He goes on to say her eyes were never really completely closed to begin with, which allowed this phenomenon to appear to happen.
Humans seem to be fascinated by mummies, whether it’s for their amazing appearances, or maybe their stimulating histories. Of the many mummies that have been discovered, Rosalia seems to be one with more of interesting story. Her memory didn’t end with her untimely passing or interesting preservation as the mystery behind her opening eyes brought her to the public’s attention. Even though there is an explanation for this, she still remains one of the most mysterious and beautiful mummies ever found. Watch the video to get a closer look at her and more information surrounding her origin.