The preserved remains of a 2-year-old girl who died more than a century ago has been described as the “world’s most beautiful mummy” due to how lifelike she still appears 100 years later. Rosalia Lombardo died after contracting pneumonia in 1920 and is now on display in the catacombs beneath the Capuchin convent in Palermo, Sicily along with 8,000 other mummies.
It’s unclear how she’s still in such good condition. Rosalia’s body is in a protective glass coffin, but while other mummies are down to skeletons, Rsoalia’s blond hair and fair skin are still completely intact as if she’s simply sleeping.
Some believe she can’t possibly be a real mummy. Conspiracy theorists have questioned whether perhaps Rosalia’s body has been replaced with a fake wax replica. However, tests performed by the History Channel in the ’00s proved that Rosalia is real and her skeletons and organs are still intact, though her brain had shrunk to 50% of its original size.
Many people who’ve seen Rosalia thought they saw her blink. However, given that she’s not alive, that’s not actually possible. Bioarchaeologist and scientific curator of the Capuchin Combs explained the phenomenon back in 2014, saying: “It’s an optical illusion produced by the light that filters through the side windows, which during the day is subject to change.” However, he did say that Rosalia’s eyes are “not completely closed, and indeed they have never been.”
The truth about how Rosalia came to the catacombs is unknown. We do know that she was the daughter of General Mario Lombardo, and lore claims that he was so overwhelmed with grief when she did that he refused to have her buried and instead wanted her body preserved. A note discovered in 2009 found that she was mummified by Alfredo Salafia, a Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer, who used a formula consisting of “one part glycerin, one part formalin saturated with both zinc sulfate and chloride, and one part of an alcohol solution saturated with salicylic acid.” The glass case containing her body is now filled with nitrogen to further preserve her.