“It was a country . . . that he and his people had known how to use and abuse, but not how to preserve.” – Wendell Berry, Remembering

Rosalia Lombardo, born in Italy on the 13th of December 1918, was an Italian child and the daughter of official Mario Lombardo. Unfortunately she was diagnosed with pneumonia and later lost her life to it in 1920. Her father remained unaccepting of his daughter’s death and could not bear to let go of her, met with Alfredo Salafia who was a notable embalmer, in order to have her body preserved.

The technique that Salafia used formed a combination of chemicals including formalin- to kill bacteria, zinc salts to- petrify the body and its organs, alcohol, salicylic acid and glycerin, the result of his embalming was remarkable and remains commendable to this day. X rays revealed that the little girl’s organs have remained intact to this day however now that the effect of the chemicals is wearing off such that the corpse has started decomposing by showing signs of discoloration. Alfredo’s embalming technique did win the preserved body of little Rosalia Lombardo the title of ‘sleeping beauty’. The body remains to be preserved in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo.

Reflecting even slightly over the fact that someone out there, almost a century ago, was able to preserve a young girl’s body to have her intact to this day, not only highlights the successful attempt of the past, but also our failure to preserve our culture, heritage and monuments today in 2017.