Thursday, July 2, 2015

Preserved Saints

'Incorruptible' bodies of saints whose remains are displayed around Italy for the faithful to worship.While some are mere fragmented bones, other corpses appear staggeringly well-preserved despite dying hundreds of years ago. The saints supposedly belong to the world of the incorrupt - a Roman Catholic belief that Divine Intervention allows some humans to avoid decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness. Incorruptible bodies are often said to have the odour of sanctity, exuding a sweet or floral, pleasant aroma. 

To qualify as incorruptible, traditional belief dictates that the body should not have been embalmed or mummified to achieve preservation but should remain in tact naturally. Despite this, many of the saints have been preserved through other trickery since being taken from their original resting places - and many are encased in wax, silver or bathed in carbolic acid. It was once thought incorruptibility was permanent but many of the saints belonging to the so-called group have become little more than skeletons over the years.The Church no longer counts incorruptibility as a miracle but sees it more like a favourable, if fading, sign from God.

All photos credit: Elizabeth Harper

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