Rosalia Lombardo, who died just before her 2nd birthday in 1920, was suffering from pneumonia. Experts believe that this was probably due to the Spanish flu pandemic.
Every year, thousands of people visit her preserved body in the catacombs below the Capuchin convent, Palermo in Sicily. She rests with 8,000 other mummies.
It is not clear how she was kept in such a perfect state before she was placed in a protective glass coffin with her intact blond hair.
While some experts claim it to be a fake replica, there are many theories about the mysterious and unsolved theories about the coffin.
To discredit the claims, several tests were performed on the body in order to produce a documentary for History Channel in the 00s.
Through tests they confirmed that the mummy was Rosalia’s body. However, by the help of X-ray they also discovered that Rosalia’s skeletal structure and organs, including her brain, were still intact. Her brain was shrunk to half its original size.
People also circulated an urban legend that a young girl had been seen blinking, another theory which was proved wrong.
Dario Piombino–Mascali, a bioarchaeologist who is also the scientific curator of Capuchin Catacombs, stated that it’s an optical illusion created by the light which filters through the side windows. Which during the day can change.”
He said that her eyes were not closed completely, but they never have been.
Rosalia’s true origin is not known, but she has been the subject of Sicilian legends over the years.
Her name is due to the belief she was the daughter a wealthy nobleman, General Mario Lombardo. He is said to be so distraught when she died, he decided to preserve her body instead of burying her.
Although Rosalia’s true story is not known, facts regarding Rosalia’s brief life were confirmed by Piombino Mascali in 2009.
According to the note, Alfredo Salafia (a Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer) mummified the toddler using a mixture of glycerin and formalin. The latter was saturated with both zinc Sulfate, chloride, salicylic acid, and one part alcohol.
Rosalia is now protected from any environmental factors that could lead to her deterioration by being kept in a nitrogen-filled glass container.
Gizmodo reports that Piombino Mascali stated that the device was made to “block any bacteria or fungi.”
He also added, that thanks to special film, it also protects the body from the effects of light, and he hoped that visitors would stop creating ‘totally unfounded’ stories about Rosalia’s past.