INCORRUPT BODIES OF SAINTS

Preserved bodies found in countries around the world can be divided into three classifications: the deliberately preserved, the accidentally preserved, and the incorruptibles.  Specimens of the accidentally or naturally preserved were found even before Egyptian Pharoah times, when the art of embalming originated, producing for the first time the deliberately treated mummies which have survived for as many as three thousand years.  The incorruptibles, however, have existed only since early Christian days.  

1. Accidentally preserved - These type of preserved bodies were determined to be preserved due to accidental means such as having been buried in dry, hot sand, or lava, or having been placed in an area with high radioactivity. As long as air or moisture did not reach these bodies, they can many times be preserved from significant, but not total decay. However, when accidentally preserved bodies are discovered, they are typically discolored, wrinkled, distorted, are skeletal looking and have no elasticity. In addition they always have a bad odor and always decay rapidly once bandaging is removed for scientific examination.

2. Deliberately preserved - Deliberately preserved corpses are those that were purposely embalmed or otherwise treated before burial with the intention of trying to prevent decomposition. As long as air or moisture did not reach these bodies, they can many times be preserved from significant, but not total decay. In most older cases of deliberately preserved human bodies discovered, the body cavities were filled with specific materials like resin or resin-soaked sawdust, or the entire body was submerged in specific materials such as honey, rum, or sand. In more modern methods of attempting to prevent corpse decomposition, the body was typically submerged or filled with resin, tar, salt, alcohol, or a combination of these. Again, when deliberately preserved bodies are discovered, like accidentally preserved bodies, they are typically discolored, wrinkled, distorted, are skeletal looking and have no elasticity. In addition they always have a bad odor and always decay rapidly once bandaging is removed for scientific examination.

3. Incorruptibles - These type of preserved bodies started being discovered back in the early centuries after Christ, though surprisingly, they do not fall into either the accidental or deliberate preservation categories above. The causes for "incorruptibles" remaining free of decomposition have baffled scientists to this day. These bodies are discovered in many different environments, including environments that would typically cause an accidental or deliberately preserved corpse to decompose rapidly. They remain free of decay regardless of manner of burial, delay in burial, temperature, moisture, rough handling, frequent transference, having been covered in quicklime (a decaying agent), or proximity to other decaying corpses. They cannot be explained by science or reason. Some common characteristics of an incorruptible body:

Their preservations since that time have challenged the opinions of skeptics and contradicted and defied the laws of nature, all to the dismay of many examining physicians and the admiration of succeeding generations.

The more carefully we consider the preservation of the incorruptibles, the more baffling does the subject become, for their conservation seems to be neither dependent on the manner of burial nor on the temperature or place of interment.  Nor were they adversely affected by extended delays between the time of death and their burials, by moisture in the tombs, by rough handling, by frequent transferences, by covering with quicklime, or by their proximity to decaying corpses.

The greater majority were never embalmed or treated in any manner, yet most were found lifelike, flexible, and sweetly scented many years after death, in sharp contrast to the specimens of the other two classifications above, who, without exception, were found stiff, discolored, and skeletal. The mystery of their preservations is further compounded by the observance of blood and clear oils—which have proceeded from a number of these holy relics—a phenomenon which again, needless to say, was never recorded with regard to the deliberately or accidentally preserved.

Through history, the bodies of a considerable number of deceased Catholic Saints and other blessed persons, have not undergone the normal processes of disintegration. Without any kind mummification or embalming methods, their corpses have thus remained incorrupt, a few even after 1500 years.  The accounts of incorruptible bodies are a part of Christian history from the first century right through to the 21st.

Many of those, whose bodies have been found incorrupt, had died either by violence or diseases, conditions which normally would encourage the disintegration processes rather than preserve the bodies.  Some had been buried in close proximity to other bodies that decomposed normally.  Some had been consigned to the bare earth.  Others survived burial in such damp conditions that their clothes rotted off their intact bodies.  Some had been lying in lime, water or left in the open.  But apparently unaffected by exterior influences, the bodies were found preserved as if they were still alive. From the beginning, the phenomenon was seen as tangible proof of the sacredness and purity of a saint.  The incorruptible bodies were therefore not buried but placed into sumptuous reliquaries and exposed above or behind the altar for everyone to see.

During the Middle Ages, churches that had one of these incorruptible saints became especially popular among pilgrims.  It therefore became customary to exhume all candidates for beatification and canonization (the various steps on the way to sainthood). Because of the Vatican’s quite strict canonization process, these exhumations have usually been witnessed with oaths and affidavits by ordinary working people as well as respectable doctors and medical specialists.  The phenomenon is therefore among the most thoroughly documented of all alleged miracles.

Disregarding the irrational elements and proven frauds, there is enough evidence of remarkable occurrences surrounding the incorruptibles to take the phenomenon seriously. It hasn’t been systematically examined by science and no rational explanations have yet been offered.  The devout therefore continue believing that the bodies of these individuals have been miraculously preserved by God because of their sacredness and purity - as a reminder of their wonderful deeds.

Other supernatural characteristics usually related to incorruptibles are: an absence of rigor mortis; a persistent pleasant fragrance emanating from the body; in rare cases a bleeding long after death (from stigmata wounds or injuries suffered in martyrdom); in a few cases bodies have been warm long after death; even more rarely there has been some kind of ritualized movement of the limbs (for example, giving a blessing or even talking), which cannot be accounted for by mere contraction of muscles. Secret or long-forgotten burial places of incorruptible saints have often been revealed to the discoverers by dreams or visions.  Sometimes the discovery has been caused by unusual noises or a strange light emanating from the burial place.  Long-dead bodies, or their remaining parts, have sometimes exuded a fragrant, clear oil known as “Oil of Saints” or “Manna Oil of Saints”.  This liquid, as well as any relic related with the incorruptible saints, like blood or clothing, are usually attributed great powers of healing.

Because there have been many impeccable accounts of incorruptibility, many presumed saints were exhumed and re-interred.  It soon became the custom to exhume all candidates for beatification or canonization.  Throughout the Middle Ages, churches vied for possession of incorrupt bodies, as they were a proven magnet for pilgrims (who, of course, brought offerings and donations).  Despite its damp climate, mediƦval Britain has nurtured a good number of saintly characters whose bodies didn’t decay, including Cuthbert, Werburgh, Waltheof and Guthlac.  Amongst them were two royal sisters (Etheldreda and Withburga), a king (Edward the Confessor), a bishop (Hugh of Lincoln) and an archbishop of Canterbury (Alphege).  At the Reformation, all their shrines were destroyed and the incorrupt body parts dispersed.  When her shrine at Ely Cathedral was destroyed, the saintly Queen Etheldreda’s hand was preserved by a devout Catholic family.  The still incorrupt hand was enshrined, some 400 years later, when a little Catholic Church was re-established in Ely.  An apocryphal story relates how the present Queen, on a tour of the cathedral, met the crusty Irish priest of the little Catholic Church. She asked him if it wouldn’t be a ‘nice gesture’ to return the hand of St. Etheldreda to the cathedral; he replied that it would be a nice gesture for her to return the cathedral to the Catholic church.

The accounts of saints’ bodies not decaying despite being buried for years continue to the present day. The two most amazing modern accounts are of St. Bernadette and St. Charbel Makhlouf. St. Bernadette was the shepherd girl who saw the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes.  She died in a convent at Nevers in 1879 and was buried in the chapel crypt. In 1909, a commission investigating her saintliness exhumed her body with the bishop and two doctors as official witnesses.  They were joined by two stonemasons and two carpenters.

All of them swore beforehand to tell the truth of their findings.  They found that the saint’s body was incorrupt.  A nun who had witnessed the burial 30 years before noted that the only change was that  the dead nun’s habit was damp.

Bernadette was re-buried and exhumed again in 1919.  As before, both civil and religious witnesses were gathered under oath.  The doctors who examined the body wrote: “When the coffin was opened the body appeared to be absolutely intact and odourless… there was no smell of putrefaction and none of those present experienced any discomfort.” On a third exhumation in 1923, the body was found still to be in the same condition. At that point, the body was opened and the internal organs were found to be supple. After 46 years, the doctor reported, “the liver was soft and almost normal in consistency.”

St. Charbel Makhlouf, who died in 1898, was a Maronite monk from Lebanon.  In his life, he seemed unremarkable except for his quiet and intense devotion. After his death, for 45 nights, strange lights appeared over his grave.  Because 45 days is the traditional length of time for a body’s decomposition, the monastic authorities called for his exhumation. His body was found perfectly fresh, despite the fact that recent rains had reduced the cemetery to a quagmire and the body was found floating in a muddy pool. Charbel’s body was re-clothed and transferred to a wooden coffin, but a strange blood- like “oil” kept exuding from his body… so much so that the clothes had to be changed twice a week. In 1927 – 29 years after his death – his still incorrupt body was examined and found to be totally flexible.  It was then re-buried in a niche in the ancient abbey church. Pilgrims to the shrine in 1950 noticed liquid seeping from the tomb and the coffin was opened again.

Incorruptibles are typically found lifelike, moist, flexible, and contain a sweet scent that many say smells like roses or other flowers, for years after death. 

Incorruptibles are almost never embalmed or treated in any way due to the religious order's beliefs that the person came from. 

Incorruptibles remain free of decay, some for centuries, despite circumstances which normally cause decay such as being exposed to air, moisture, other decaying bodies, or other variables such as quicklime, which is typically applied to a corpse to accelerate decomposition. 

Incorruptibles many times contain clear, flowing oils, perspiration, and flowing blood for years after death, where accidental or deliberately preserved bodies have never been recorded to have such characteristics. 

Other partial incorruptibles have been found throughout the centuries where certain parts of the body decay normally, while other parts such as the heart or tongue remain perfectly free of decomposition.

The body was still incorrupt but exuding the peculiar oily sweat; many miraculous cures have been attributed to this substance. The body remained incorrupt for 67 years, finally decaying in 1965.




Jacinta Marto - Jacinta Marto was one of the three original visionaries at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. She was born in 1910 and died in 1920. In both 1935 and 1951 her body was exhumed and in each instance, her body was found to be incorrupt. The Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima was built on the site where the three children first saw "a lady brighter than the sun" and Jacinta's tomb has remained there since 1951.



Saint Padre Pio
Padre Pio - Born May 25, 1887 and died September 23, 1968, his body was exhumed nearly 40 years after his death in March 2008, and found to be incorrupt. He is the only priest known to have received the full stigmata (wounds) of Jesus Christ, and known for great miracles such as the odor of sanctity, bilocation, prophecy, conversion, reading of souls, and miraculous cures. He was known to have spoken out against the new Mass introduced by the Second Vatican Council, and never celebrated it. His body is now on display in the church of Our Lady of Grace, in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.



Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini - Also known as Mother Cabrini, she died in Chicago in 1917, and was entombed at that time in West Park, New York. In 1931 her remains were exhumed and found to be partially incorrupt. She was beatified in 1938 and in 1946 was the first US citizen to be canonized a Saint. Her partially incorrupt body covered in wax is now enshrined under the altar in the chapel at St. Francis Cabrini Shrine in New York City.




Pope Saint pius X
Pope St. Pius X - Pope St. Pius X was the 257th Catholic Pope, reigning from 1903 to 1914. He passed away on August 20, 1914 and was buried in the crypt below St. Peter's Basilica. On May 19, 1944, Pope Pius X's coffin was exhumed and was taken to the Chapel of the Holy Crucifix in St. Peter's Basilica for the canonical examination. Upon opening the coffin, the examiners found the body of Pope Pius X preserved, despite the fact that he had died 30 years before and had made wishes not to be embalmed.
Following his beatification, on February 17, 1952, Pope Pius X's body was transferred from its tomb to the Vatican basilica and placed under the altar of the chapel of the Presentation. The pontiff's body lies within a glass and bronze-work sarcophagus for the faithful to see. On May 29, 1954, less than three years after his beatification, Pope St. Pius X was canonized. 





Blessed Charbel Makhlouf
Blessed Charbel Makhlouf - Was a priest in Lebanon who spent the last 23 years of his life in a hermitage, where he lived the monastic life. He died in 1898 at the age of 70 and according to the monastic custom, was not embalmed and was consigned to the grave without a coffin. An extraordinary bright light surrounded his tomb for 45 days afterward, which prompted an exhumation of his body four months later. His body was discovered completely incorrupt and placed in a coffin inside the monastery chapel. in 1950 his coffin was reopened and body was not only still perfectly incorrupt, flexible, and lifelike, but even after 52 years, doctors confirmed sweat and blood still exuded from the body. After the exhumation of the body in 1950, within a 2-year period, over 1200 miracles were documented. After 67 years of being incorrupt, in 1965, during his beatification, it was determined the body had finally complied with the laws of nature, with only reddish-colored bones remaining.


Basilica of Santa Maria Ausiliatrice Turin Turin
Saint Mary Mazzarello - Died in 1881 and was later discovered incorrupt. Her incorrupt body is venerated in the Basilica of Mary Our Help, in Turin, Italy.



Saint bernadette Sobirous
Saint Bernadette Soubirous - St. Bernadette was the original visionary at Lourdes, France and died in 1879 in Nevers, France. Her body was exhumed 30 years later in 1909 and was discovered completely incorrupt and free of odor. The body was again exhumed a second time ten years later in 1919 and again in 1925 and was still incorrupt. Her body is still on display in the Chapel of St. Bernadette in Nevers, France to this day.



Blessed paula Frassinetti
Blessed Paula Frassinetti - Died in 1882 and her body was exhumed and found to be incorrupt in 1906. Her body is on display in the Chapel of the Convent of Santa Dorotea in Rome, Italy


Saint Catherine Laboure
St. Catherine Laboure - Died in 1876 and was exhumed and found incorrupt and completely flexible. She was a sister of the Daughters of Charity and a Marian visionary who relayed the request from the Blessed Virgin Mary to create the Miraculous Medal, which is worn by millions of Catholics and even non-Catholics today. 

The body of Saint Catherine Laboure is displayed in a glass case beneath a side altar in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at 140 Rue du Bac in Paris—the place where she experienced visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary When the saint's body was exhumed in 1933 it was found with its eves open. and they remain open to this day Pilgrims often comment on the intense shade of blue in Catherine’s eyes.


Saint Jean Marie
St. Jean-Marie - Baptiste Vianney (also known as St. John Vianney and the Cure' of Ars) - Died in 1859 and was exhumed and found incorrupt in 1904. His body is on display above the main altar in the Basilica at Ars in France.


The Incorrupt body of St. Vincent in the Church of San Salvatore in Onda, Rome.
St. Vincent Pallotti - Died in 1850 and was exhumed and found incorrupt and sweetly scented in 1906 and again in 1950. His body is on display under the main altar in the Church of St. Salvatore in Onda, Italy.




Blessed Anna Marie Taigi

Bl. Anna Marie Taigi - Died in 1837 at the age of 64 and after 18 years her coffin was opened and body found to be incorrupt. On August 18, 1865 her body was transferred to the Church of San Crisogono in Trastevere (Rome) where it remains to the present day, still incorrupt. 



Saint Veronica Giuliani
Saint Veronica Giuliani (Veronica de Julianis) The remains of St. Veronica Giuliani. Her body remained incorrupt for many years until it was destroyed by the floodwaters of the Tiber River. Her bones remained. Her heart is incorrupt and is kept in a separate reliquary. Other relics of St. Veronica are located in the convent’s museum.




Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque - Died in 1690 at the age of 43. Her tomb was canonically opened 140 years later in 1830 and body found to be incorrupt. She was a French Roman Catholic nun and mystic, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which has become popular among Catholics. The Catholic Church investigated and affirmed the credibility of her visions in 1928. Her body rests under the altar in the chapel at Paray in France. 



Venerable Mary of Agreda
Ven. Mary of Agreda - Died in 1665 and was later discovered incorrupt. She is credited with authoring the "Mystical City of God" through revelation from the Blessed Virgin. Her body has been examined again in later years, including in 1909 and 1989 with no degradation to the body. Her body has remained incorrupt for over 340 years and is kept in a convent in Spain.



Saint Andrew Bobola
St. Andrew Bobola - He was severely tortured and intentionally killed in 1657, and was thereafter buried beneath a Jesuit church at Pinsk. After 40 years his body was discovered incorrupt, despite the body's proximity to other decaying corpses and the excessive wounds on his body that normally would have fostered corruption. His body is still as flexible as a live body and is on display under the main altar in the Church of St. Andrew Bobola in Warsaw, Poland.



Tomb of Don Orione at the Sancutary of the Madonna della Guardia in Tortona.
He lived from 1872-1940.



Saint Francis Xavier
St. Francis Xavier - Died 1552 and was discovered incorrupt, despite the fact that lime was placed in his casket to expedite decomposition. His body was also said to have bled normally one and a half years after death during an examination by a physician. The body is now in the in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, where it was placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket on December 2, 1637.



Saint Angela Marici
St. Angela Merici - Died in 1540 and her body remained intact for centuries. She is buried in the Church of St. Afra at Brescia.



Saint Catherine of Bologna
St. Catherine of Bologna died in 1463 and has been incorrupt and on display in an upright position for over 500 years.


Saint Rita of Cascia
St. Rita of Cascia - Died in 1457. Her body kept a sweet fragrance all of these centuries and is on display in a glass case in the Basilica of St. Rita in Cascia, Italy. It is also publicly known that her body has been seen in different positions in the glass case, as well as eyes having opened and closed unaided.


Blessed Imelda Lambertini
Blessed Imelda Lambertini - Known better as Blessed Imelda, she died as a young girl in 1333 and was later found incorrupt. She was beatified in 1826 and her incorrupt body is on display in the Church of San Sigismondo in Bologna, Italy.



Blessed Margaret of Metola
Blessed Margaret of Metola (Castello) - Died in 1320 and was found incorrupt in 1558. Her body is on display under the high altar of the Church of St. Domenico at Citta-di-Castello, Italy.



Saint Agnes of Montepulciano
St. Agnes of Montepulciano - Died in Italy in 1317 and was later found incorrupt. She remained whole and incorrupt until the 16th century when, due to excessive humidity in her tomb, some of her body decomposed. Much of her body has still remained intact for 7 centuries now, including limbs and bones, which are now enclosed in a figure of the Saint on display at the Sanctuary of St. Agnes in Montepulciano, Italy.



Saint Claire of Assisi
St. Claire of Assisi relics at Assisi (Basilica di Santa Chiara)
Saint Clare (Santa Chiara di Assisi) was an early follower of Saint Francis of Assisi and is best known as the founder of the Poor Clares, the female order of the Franciscans. After a life of piety and labor, including miraculously saving Assisi from attack on two occasions, Clare died in 1253. Seven years after her death, the incorrupt body of the newly canonized saint was interred in the Church of Santa Chiara in Assisi. By the 19th century when a new crypt was built for the Saint’s remains, it was discovered that Claire was no longer officially Incorrupt, yet her skeleton was in perfect condition. Today Saint Clare’s remains lie in a state of repose, covered in a wax figure dressed in the habit of her Order.



Saint Clare of Montefalco
St. Clare of Montefalco - Died in 1308 and though her body was embalmed, her body has still remained perfectly incorrupt (beyond what embalming can provide in over 7 centuries). Her body is still normally flexible and displayed in the church of the Augustinian nuns of Montefalco, Italy.



Blessed Antony of Stroncone
Blessed Anthony of Stroncone died on February 7, 1471, in the eightieth year of his life and his sixty-eighth as a religious. He was buried in a common grave beneath the floor of the church sanctuary at San Damiano. A year after his death, however, a flame burst forth, burning brightly on the floor, which Saint James of the March recognized as a sign from heaven. He had the floor lifted, which revealed the incorrupt body of Blessed Anthony which was exhaling a sweet perfume. His body was removed from the common vault in order to bury it in a separate tomb.

“This is a sign from God,” St James had exclaimed, but this was only the first of such signs; many others followed by way of remarkable answers to prayer, the restoration of health to the sick, and numerous other graces.

The body was examined again in 1599, and then placed in a crystal urn. After that time a new marvel was noted, as distinct knocking could be heard coming from the urn shortly before the death of a member of the community. This was heard by many people.

In 1649 a woman possessed by the devil was brought before the shrine. Blessed Anthony's body, which was reclining, sat up somewhat, with one hand raised above the other. The body, although flexible, remains in this position today.

The veneration of Blessed Anthony, which continually increased, was approved for all time by Pope Innocent XI in the year 1687. On August 21, 1809, the body of Anthony was transferred from the convent of St Damian near Assisi to its native town of Stroncone. It is still incorrupt, and the confidence of the faithful in Anthony’s powerful intercession has in no way decreased.



Brother Crispin of Viterbo
At 2.30 P. M. on the 19th of May 1750, 82 year old Brother Crispin of Viterbo died a holy death at the Immaculate Conception Capuchin Friary located on the Via Veneto in Rome. Immediately a great number of Roman citizens thronged to the Roman Capuchin Friary, seeking to touch his body with their holy objects. Brother Crispin's remains were entombed in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, where Saint Felix of Cantalice's relics are enshrined. Brother Crispin who was Everyone's Friend and Brother of the People, was beatified by Pope Pius VII in 1806 and, in 1982, he was canonized. Around that time, the remains of Brother Crispin of Viterbo were moved to Capuchin church in the city of Orvieto, where they are enshrined. Saint Crispin of Viterbo was the first Blessed raised to sainthood by Blessed Pope John Paul II.


Saint Francis Mary of Camporosso

In 1911 Brother Francis Mary's remains were exhumed and re-entombed in the Capuchin Church of the Immaculate Conception.  On the 30th of June 1929 he was beatified by Pope Pius XI and he was canonized by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962. 



Saint Ignatius of Lanconi
Saint Ignatius of Laconi :  Due to major political events such as the French Revolution and the suppression of religious orders, as well as to internal contentions within the Order, Ignatius‘s beatification process did not begin until 1844. He was beatified by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1940 and finally canonized by the same Pope on the 10th of October 1951.  



Saint Ignatius of Santhia
Saint Ignatius of Santhia : The  Process of his Canonization progressed quickly as it began in 1782 but because of the turmoil of the French Revolution and subsequent suppressions of Religious Orders, it took a long time. It was only after some 180 years, that in 1966, on the 17th of April, he was beatified by Pope Paul VI.  He was canonized on the 19th of May 2002 by Pope John Paul II.



Saint Seraphin of Montegranaro
Saint Seraphin departed from this life on October 12, 1604, in his 64th year. Many miracles occurred at his grave, and Pope Clement XIII canonized Saint Seraphin of Montegranaro in 1767.




Saint Joaquina Vedruna
Saint Joaquina de Vedruna's death was in 1854 at the age of 71. Joaquina was known and admired for her high degree of prayer, deep trust in God and selfless charity. She was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1940 and was canonized in 1959.

She is buried in the Carmelites of the Charity's mother-house in Vic and her body was found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church.



 Saint Virginia Centurione Bracelli
 Saint Virginia Centurione Bracelli's incorrupt body is preserved in the chapel of the Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge in Mount Calvary in Genoa. 




Saint Louise de Marillac
Louise de Marillac was beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 and, on March 11, 1934, she was canonized by Pope Pius XI. Her feast day is March 15. To this day, her remains are enshrined in the chapel of the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity at 140 rue du Bac, in Paris, France. She was declared Patroness of Christian Social Workers by Pope John XXIII in 1960.


Saint Philip Neri
Saint Philip Romolo Neri : Philip died around the end of the day on 25 May 1595, the Feast of Corpus Christi that year, after having spent the day hearing confessions and receiving visitors. About midnight he began hemorrhaging, and Baronius read the commendatory prayers over him. Baronius asked that he would bless his spiritual sons before dying, and though he could no longer speak, he blessed them with the sign of the cross and died.

St Philip Neri was beatified by Paul V in 1615, and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622. His memorial is celebrated on 26 May in the calendars of both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite. His body is in the Chiesa Nuova.