Most of us can agree that the concept of eternal life/dwelling forever in some species of paradise sounds appealing. However, not many people think of the physical body, itself, as being death-proof - which is why the image of the "incorruptible" saint is so enduringly fascinating. For centuries, the Catholic church (and some Buddhist temples, as well) have housed the remains of icons who are supposedly immune to decomposition and decay as we know it. The preservation and display of these bodies represents a holy tradition, even though incorruptibility is no longer considered a miracle by the Vatican.
"Incorruptibility," itself, is an increasingly fluid term that can encapsulate any number of definitions. A corpse that's initially uncannily preserved can start to decay with time, as bodies are wont to; or only certain parts of the mortal remains (like a heart or an isolated hand or limb, for example) may be left intact. In any and all cases, a saint, once canonized, is always a saint, whether their mummified remains are reposing amid splendid settings or they're little more than a bejeweled skeleton. Read on to find out more.
Dashi Dorzho Itigilov
Born in Palermo, Italy, in 1918, Rosalia died of pneumonia at age two, and her devastated father, unable to accept her death, commissioned "master" embalmer and taxidermist Alfredo Salafia to preserve her. With her wavy hair, perfect features, and porcelain skin, she still appears (more or less) as she did in life ... as long as you don't look too closely. (There's also reports that her eyes have occasionally opened, though that proposition seems dubious.)
MRI scans of Rosalia's form eerily resemble footage of alien autopsies, but, astonishingly, most of her organs are still intact. She rests in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo in Sicily, and her beauty and peaceful expression have led to her being popularly dubbed “Sleeping Beauty."
However, Victoria's golden curls, alabaster brow, and perfect features aren't what they seem to be.
This figure, one of the city's least known but most macabre sights, appears to be a statue. But closer inspection reveals something far more spine-chilling ... when you look into the slightly open mouth, you see through the open lips of a skeleton ... indeed, this is the body of the saint herself, very much "touched up" with wax, human hair, and clothing.
In other words, Victoria is an initially radiant figure who gradually deepens into a decaying ghoul, the longer you look at her - an image to inspire a thousand horror novels, if there ever was one.
Ultimately, several of Bernadette's ribs were removed and shipped off to Rome as relics. The rest of her now reposes in the Chapel of Saint Gidard at the Sisters of Charity in Nevers, France.
However, officials still feared that the "'blackish color' of the saint's face might be off-putting to pilgrims." Hence, a "light wax mask" was installed; its porcelain composure now hides the patchy mildew beneath.
Inocencia nonetheless continued her religious studies in secret. When she confessed to her father that she'd chosen to continue with her mission despite his disapproval, he exploded into a full-on Shakespearean-bloodbath-level psychosis, and stabbed her to death.
Inocencia's earthly remains rest in the Cathedral of Guadalajara in Mexico. Her "uncorrupt" corpse, preserved in wax, appears to be flaking off bit by bit, but she's still been know to wink at the occasional onlooker.
St. Luigi Orione
St. Anna Maria Taigi