Rosalia Lombardo The Blinking Sleeping Beauty

Rosalia Lombardo (Born December 13, 1918 and Died December 6, 1920) was a Palmerian toddler who died one week before her second birthday from pneumonia caused by the Spanish flu.

Rosalia’s father, Mario Lombardo, was distraught by her death and asked embalmer Alfredo Salafia to preserve her remains.

The mummy has gained further attention for the reason in which her eyes appear to open and close multiple times per day, showing her intact blue irises.

Rosalia Lombardo body placed inside a glass box
Rosalia Lombardo body placed inside a glass box

What Makes Rosalia Lombardo’s Body So Unique?

When Rosalia died, her father was so distraught that he sought the help of an embalmer and taxidermist to preserve his daughter’s body.

The embalmer, Alfredo Salafia, a renowned Sicilian professor of preservation, then mummified Rosalia Lombardo so entirely that her internal organs are still intact a century later.

Indeed, it’s difficult not to imagine that the small body in the glass casket will awaken at any minute.

Her skin remains smooth and porcelain, and her golden hair is pulled back perfectly with a giant silk bow. Her crystal blue irises are visible beneath her blonde eyelashes, which are eerie.

Rosalia Lombardo’s body was so well kept that it is still entire after more than a century. It is regarded as one of the world’s best-preserved mummies.

Among the 8,000 remains housed in these catacombs beneath the Capuchin monastery is the body of Rosalia. Rosalia’s dead body has attracted everyone’s interest since people have spotted her eyelids frequently moving as if she is blinking. The eyelids expand slightly, revealing intact blue irises.

A picture taken by National Geographic in 2009 photograph of Rosalia Lombardo shows signs of degradation, most notably discoloration.

To address these concerns, experts relocated Rosalia to a drier catacombs section. Her original coffin was put in a hermetically sealed glass room with nitrogen gas to avoid degeneration.

The mummy is still one of the best-preserved bodies in the catacombs.

Image of Capuchin Catacombs
Image of Capuchin Catacombs

Rosalia Lombardo’s Family

There are no known images of Rosalia Lombardo alive or formal documentation verifying her parents’ identities. Her father, however, is reported to be a general in the Italian military named Mario Lombardo, and her mother’s name is Maria Di Cara. They also had a daughter named Rosalia.

The sibling of Rosalia Lombardo was born in 1925, although Rosalia (the first one) died in 1920. Rosalia (1925) was obviously named after her deceased sister. Rosalia’s parents took her to visit her sister in a glass casket among the other occupants of the tombs since she was a child.

They would sit with her and talk for hours on end. She is supposed to have continued her travels on her own, traveling from Rome to the Palermo catacombs every day.

This story is tough to believe because it takes over ten hours to drive or an hour to fly from Rome to Palermo in our modern era.

Another, more realistic tale claims that Rosalia visited her deceased sister every other weekend from Rome, forming bonds not just with her but also with the monks who lived there.

The MRI & X-Ray Scans on the Body

An MRI scan of Rosalia Lombardo was performed in 2009 to determine the state of preservation of the body’s inside. Even after decades, the first 3D picture of Rosalia revealed that her organs are totally intact.

This resulted in extensive testing and analysis, which found that her organs were still intact and her brain had only shrunk to half its former size.

The blanket that covers her has apparently never been pulled back out of respect, yet x-rays confirmed her legs and limbs to be intact and still present.

Close inspection reveals that her eyes are not entirely closed, which was most likely done by Alfredo Salafia to make her appear more alive. Moreover, according to an X-ray of the mummified corpse, Rosalina’s organs appear to have been perfectly preserved.

Rosalia Lombardo opening and closing eyes
Rosalia Lombardo opening and closing eyes – Picture taken from different angels compiled together – Credits Public Domain

What Makes Rosalia Lombardo to Blink?

Dario Piombino-Mascali, curator of the Capuchin Catacombs where Rosalia is interred, uncovered two exciting finds.

Rosalia’s flickering eyes, according to Piombino-Mascali, were only an optical illusion generated by light from windows striking her eyes at different angles. The changing direction of the light during the day causes Rosalia’s eyes to appear to open and close often.

Piombino-Mascali discovered this incredible discovery in 2009 after some museum personnel shifted her casket, causing her body to slip slightly. This movement of her torso allowed Piombino-Mascali to see her eyelids from a different perspective. The anthropologist suddenly realized that her eyes were never closed and that it had all been a trick of the light.

Dario Piombino-Mascali
Dario Piombino-Mascali

Alfredo Salafia’s Secret Formula

Alfredo Salafia was a nineteenth-century Sicilian embalmer and taxidermist.

Piombino-Mascali uncovered the formula that Salafia used for Lombardo’s conservation as his second fantastic discovery.

Many assumed that when Salafia died in 1933, he took the secret embalming formula to the grave with him. Piombino-Mascali tracked out the embalmer’s living relatives and unearthed a collection of his papers.

He discovered a handwritten narrative in which Salafia videotaped the chemicals he put directly into Rosalia’s body: zinc salts, salicylic acid, formalin alcohol, and glycerin.

He injected the carcass with a fluid containing formalin to kill germs, alcohol to dry the body, glycerin to keep her from drying out too much, salicylic acid to kill fungi, and zinc salts to stiffen her body. 

As a result, the recipe is made up of “a single part of glycerin, a single part of formalin saturated with chloride and zinc sulfate, and a single part of an alcohol solution mixed with salicylic acid.”

Alfredo Salafia
Alfredo Salafia

Formalin combines formaldehyde and water, which embalmers commonly use to eliminate microorganisms. Salafia was among the first to utilize this chemical to embalm remains.

Lombardo’s body was dried up by alcohol and the arid atmosphere of the catacombs. Glycerin kept her skin from drying out too much, and salicylic acid kept fungus at bay.

According to Melissa Johnson Williams, executive director of the American Culture of Embalmers, the zinc salts were the secret to her exceptional condition of preservation. Zinc, a substance no longer employed by embalmers, tightened her tiny body.

“Zinc gave her strength,” said Williams. “You could take her out of the casket and prop her up, and she’d undoubtedly wait for you.” The embalming procedure was extremely straightforward, consisting of a single point shot with no drain or cavity treatments.

The only drawback of this discovery is that the exact procedure or the chemical percentages are not being mentioned in the handwritten paper.


After the 1840s, new embalming methods were created, which combined chemical solution and arterial injection, allowing corpses to retain their integrity (no external lacerations) while also having a life-like look.

Rosalia Lombardo (1918-1920), a two-year-old girl who died in Palermo, is an exceedingly remarkable case of modern chemical embalming. Her remains are kept at the Capuchin Catacombs in the Sicilian capital. 

Her cause of death and the procedure utilized in her embalming remain unknown as of date. Only the chemicals used for the procedure were discovered.