The mystery of the “imperishable princess of Rome”

In April 1485, a surprising find was made on the Via Appia, not far from Rome. Namely, the corpse of a Roman girl in perfect condition was recovered – dating back almost to the 15th century.

Bartolomeo Fonzio, who drew this illustration, was a Renaissance scholar and professor of literature at the University of Florence. He wrote the following about this discovery:

“Let me explain in order: a few workers were digging the foundations of tombs in search of marble on the Via Appia, six miles from Rome. They had destroyed an arch, lined on all sides with brick, about ten feet deep, when they came upon a marble box.

When they opened it, they found a corpse lying on its face, covered with a layer of aromatic bark two inches thick; the entire inside of the coffin was also smeared with the same aromatic mixture, as if it were some kind of plaster. When this fragrant bark was removed, the girl’s face was quite pale, as if she had been buried the same day. Her long dark hair, firmly attached to her scalp, was gathered into a knot and girlishly divided into two locks, and the whole was covered by a net of silk woven with gold.

Then came small ears, a short forehead, dark eyebrows, and the eyes underneath were beautiful and bright. The nose was still intact and so soft that if you pressed a finger on it, it would bend and supple. The lips were pale red, the teeth were white and fine, the tongue from the roof of the mouth was scarlet.

His cheeks, chin, and throat, you would have thought they belonged to a living person. Arms dangled down from your shoulders in one piece and followed wherever you led them. The arms were outstretched, the fingers rounded and thin, with translucent fingernails, and so firmly attached that it was impossible to tear them from their joints.

The breasts, abdomen, and buttocks seemed whitish when the fragrant bark was peeled off them. The back of her neck, back, and buttocks retained their position, shape, and graceful appearance. The beauty of her thighs, thighs, shins, and feet also gave the impression of a living person.”

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