Specimens of preserved human bodies or "mummies" have been discovered throughout the centuries, some even from before the Egyptian Pharaoh times when the art of embalming originated. Many of these preserved bodies have survived decomposition for as many as 3000 years. Of all preserved bodies that have been discovered over the centuries, each fall into one of three categories:
1. Accidentally preserved - These type of preserved bodies were determined to be naturally 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 naturally 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 natural 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 incorrupt body:
What is most astounding of all is the fact that for each incorrupt body discovered, after research has been done to determine who the person was, it has always been determined that the person was an extremely devout Catholic. This inevitably leads to the question, How can the process of decay, which has no intelligence, choose which bodies to devour and not to devour, and why do they happen to be devout Catholics? (For claims of incorrupt Orthodox Christians, we could not find proof for them during our research. Please see our page on the subject here.) There is no other way to describe this phenomena than to state that it is supernatural rather than natural, and that it is simply miraculous.
In addition, many unexplainable miracles have occurred throughout history when people have come in contact with these incorrupt remains, and despite regular medical examinations, scientists have not determined why. These incorrupt bodies are on display all over the world to this day (mainly in Europe), and nearly all bodies who have been identified and whose background has been researched thoroughly, have been canonized by the Catholic Church as Saints due to their devout Catholic life.
It is also interesting to note that while only a small number of devout Catholics have been given the gift of incorruptibility, it does appear that some Saints have been specifically chosen to have this miraculous phenomena so as to help confirm significant events involved with them. For example, the supernatural preservation of Jacinta Marto helps confirm the authenticity of the Miracle at Fatima, the incorrupt state of Saint Bernadette Soubirous gives credence to the Miracles at Lourdes, and the incorruptibility of Venerable Mary of Agreda gives credence to her revelations she wrote in the "Mystical City of God". Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque's revelations about the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is also given credence along with Saint Catherine Laboure's apparitions of the Virgin Mary, and Pope St. Pius X's fight against modernism. Other examples are below.
Note that some incorrupt bodies that have been discovered and placed on display have had make up or wax added to them to improve their appearance. This is due to the fact that some bodies, while incorrupt, may not appear as beautiful as others, or may only be partially incorrupt while others are fully incorrupt. To those non-believers reading this page, these minor touch-ups are irrelevant when it comes to the state of a body's incorruptibility; no amount of make up or wax could possibly prevent these bodies (some centuries old!) from decaying once placed on display. The majority of incorrupt bodies remain incorrupt after being put on display, regardless of whether they have been touched up or not.
Also please note that some Saints are mistakenly thought to be incorrect when they are not. For example, when looking up St. Sylvan on the Internet, some websites may say he is incorrupt when his picture is actually a statue. In other cases, such as with St. John Bosco, photos of his body are actually a wax effigy, not an incorrupt body. People often see photos of bodies of saints and incorrectly assume they are incorrupt. Always be sure to research thoroughly first.
Below are specific examples of incorrupt bodies discovered over the past 2000 years (most recent listed first), most of which are still on display today.
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.
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 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. See photo below.
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. See photos below.
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.
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. See the photo.
Saint Bernadette Soubirous(also pictured at the top of the page) - 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. See photos below and body examination testimony here.
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.
St. Catherine Laboure' - Died in 1876 and was exhumed and found incorrupt and completely flexible in 1933. 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. Her body is on display under the side altar in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Sun in Paris. See photo below.
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. See photo below.
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. See picture below.
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. See actual photo below.
St. Teresa Margaret - Died in 1770 and was exhumed and found incorrupt in 1783. Her body is on display in a glass case at the Monastery of St. Teresa in Florence, Italy. See photo below.
St. Veronica Giuliani - Died in 1727 and later found incorrupt. See photo below.
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. See picture below.
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. See photo below.
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.
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. See photo below.
St. Angela Merici - Died in 1540 and her body remained intact for centuries. She is buried in the Church of St. Afra at Brescia. See photo below.
Bl. Osanna of Manua' - Died in 1505. Her body is on display under the altar in Our Lady of the Rosary in the Cathedral of Manua, Italy. In 1965 the relic of her body was examined in depth and still found to be well preserved (460 years old!)
St. Catherine of BolognaDied in 1463 and has been incorrupt and on display in an upright position for over 500 years. See photo below.
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. See photo below.
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. See photo below.
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. See photo below.
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. See photo below.
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. See photo below.
St. Zita - Died in 1278 and her body is on display in a glass reliquary in the Basilica of St. Frediano in Lucca, Italy. See photo below.
St. Sperandia - Died in 1276 her body is on display in the Benedictine convent church of Cingoli, Italy. Her body was exhumed eight different times, the last in 1952. It is still incorrupt to this day and exudes a sweet fragrance.
Saint Alphege - Was Archbishop of Canterbury and was captured, put in prison, and eventually murdered by his captors in 1012. Ten years later his perfectly incorrupt body was discovered.
Saint Withburga - Died in 743 and incorrupt body was discovered 55 years later. Her remains were on display for over 300 more years thereafter until destroyed during the Reformation.
Saint Etheldreda - Died in 679 and was later found incorrupt. Her remains were intact for nearly 800 years until the Reformation when, at the orders of Henry VIII, her relics were scattered and shrine destroyed.
Saint Agatha - Died in 251 and body was discovered incorrupt in the eleventh century. Parts of her incorrupt body are still in existence today.
Saint Cecilia - Died in 177 and her body was discovered incorrupt in 1599. St. Cecilia is known to be the first saint to be incorrupt. Below is a statue of St. Cecilia created during the exhumation of her incorrupt body in 1599. The position is the same as the actual body and is believed to be the position in which she died. The statue is located in the Basilica of St. Cecilia in Rome.
You might also look at the actual photos of the Incorruptibles at Ocean Star Photography at the link below, all taken personally by the owner of that site: http://www.oceanstarphotography.com/Ocean_Star_Photography/Prints_and_Cards/Pages/Incorruptibles.html
** Be sure to read this detailed documented study of Incorrupt Saints called "The Incorruptibles", written by Joan Carroll Cruz. It is the most well known book on the subject and can be ordered through TAN Books by clicking the book below.