the Bling Mummy
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The Mystery about the Bling Mummy – Little Rosalia Lombardo

Deep in the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily, the body of a young girl died in a wooden and glass coffin. The girl’s name was Rosalia Lombardo, who tragically died of pneumonia in 1920, at the age of two. Rosalia’s heartbroken father sought the help of an embalmer named Alfredo Salafia to preserve his daughter’s body. The body was so well preserved that Rosalia’s body remained intact for more than 100 years. Nicknamed the “sleeping beauty”, Rosalia Lombardo has gained the reputation of being one of the world’s best preserved mummies.

Rosalia’s perfectly preserved body is just one part of the attraction. Visitors who come to see her swear she really blinked here. This sequence of photos shows her eyelids eerily opening and closing by a fraction of an inch. Her blue eyes were still intact, like the rest of her body, and could be seen sparkling in the low light inside the crypt.

The Mystery about the Bling Mummy - Little Rosalia Lombardo

Perfectly preserved

The Mystery about the Bling Mummy
The “sleeping beauty” is one of eight thousand mummies in the Capuchin Catacombs of Sicily. It was one of the last corpses to be admitted to the catacombs.
The Mystery about the Bling Mummy
The Capuchin catacombs of Palermo

Rosalia, an Italian child born on December 13, 1918, died of pneumonia as a result of the Spanish flu less than two years later, on December 6, 1920. 

Her father, Mario Lombardo, was so sad that he asked for help. an embalmer to preserve Rosalia’s remains. 

Alfredo Salafia, a taxonomist, and an accomplished embalmer, later embalmed Rosalia Lombardo’s body with impressive skill, preserving her so well that her internal organs were preserved.

A century has passed, but her body still resembles a little girl dozing under the glass of a coffin. 

Indeed, looking at the small body lying in the glass coffin and still not believing that the girl will wake up at any time is quite difficult. 

Rosalia’s skin still looked very smooth, as if it were made of porcelain. Her golden blonde hair was tied neatly with a beautiful silk bow.

In 2009, an MRI scan of the girl was performed to see the state of preservation inside the body. The first 3D image of Rosalia shows all of her organs are still completely intact despite the decades.

The Mystery about the Bling Mummy
Image: Fabrizio Villa
The Mystery about the Bling Mummy
A century has passed, but her body still resembles a little girl dozing under the glass of a coffin.
The Mystery about the Bling Mummy
A team of researchers performs an X-ray on Rosalia’s body. Photo credit: Nat Geo
The Mystery about the Bling Mummy
The X-ray of Rosalia showing her brain and liver intact. The grid is of the coffin beneath the body. Photo credit: Owlcation
The Mystery about the Bling Mummy
This X-ray clearly shows Rosalia’s arms and feet. Photo credit: Owlcation

Furthermore, her striking crystal blue eyes are also visible beneath her golden lashes. Rosalia’s look is what has drawn viewers to Palermo for a hundred years. 

Thousands of tourists from all over the world came to see the girl, attracted by many reports that the corpse’s eyes were blinking.

People have witnessed that her eyes slowly opened, and the eyes seemed to sparkle due to the low light in the crypt. These blue eyes, like the rest of her body, were very intact. 

Not only do visitors swear her eyes are blinking, but multiple photo sequences seem to confirm that her eyelids can open and close slightly. The mystery of her unblinking eyes and well-preserved body is what makes Rosalia’s mummy so fascinating.

Mystery solved

The Mystery about the Bling Mummy

The mystery of the blinking mummy has become famous around the world. People were curious to know what caused the corpse to blink. 

Some believe that some supernatural force is at work and that the mummy actually blinked. Others have suggested that her eyes may be blinking due to the change in temperature inside the catacombs causing her eyelids to contract and thus creating a blink-like effect.

It remained a mystery until the curator of the Capuchin catacombs, Dario Piombino-Mascali, proved a new theory. The Italian biological anthropologist was able to debunk the myths about Rosalia Lombardo.

According to Piombino-Mascali, Rosalia’s blinking eyes are just an optical illusion, caused when light from the window hits her eyes at different angles. 

The change in direction of light during the day made Rosalia’s eyes appear to open and close several times.

Piombino-Mascali made this amazing discovery in 2009 after some workers in the museum moved her coffin, which caused her body to shift slightly. 

This body change allows Piombino-Mascali to see her eyelids from a new angle. Then the anthropologist realized that her eyes had never actually closed, and it was just a trick of the light that made them appear that way.

How is she so perfectly preserved?

The Mystery about the Bling Mummy
Alfredo Salafia

The blinking mystery was not only solved by Piombino-Mascali, but he also found the mummification recipe that Alfredo Salafia used to preserve Rosalia’s body in such perfect condition. 

In 1933, when the Sicilian embalmer died, he wrote down the secret recipe for preservation. Piombino-Mascali, in an attempt to find the recipe, tracked down the living relatives of the embalmer.

There he finds the surviving records of Salafia. When he discovers this mummy’s papers, he stumbles across documents where the embalmer records all the chemicals that have been injected into Rosalia’s body.

Typical embalming procedures include the complete removal of organs. Then, the hollow body is filled with natron salt, which has a hygroscopic effect. But Salafia did something different. 

He makes a small incision and injects a mixture of zinc salts, formalin, glycerin, and salicylic acid. The combination of these ingredients has a conserving effect on the body.

Formalin wiped out all the bacteria, and the salicylic acid helped get rid of any fungus present in the meat. Glycerin prevents her body from being desiccated or drying out. 

But the magic element is the zinc salt that strengthens Rosalia’s body. The salts perfectly protected her appearance, even preventing her nasal cavity and cheeks from going deep.

Rosalia’s body is now preserved in a new glass coffin, designed to prevent the growth of fungi or bacteria. 

The glass box also protects the body from all effects of light. Piombino-Mascali hopes that visitors will stop coming up with any new stories about little mummy mummies.