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Title: Incorruptibility  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Cuthbert, Mummy, Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Ermesinde), Judoc, Vasyl Velychkovsky
Collection: Death, Incorrupt Saints, Miracles, Saints
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Incorrupt body of Mary of Jesus de León y Delgado, Monastery of St. Catherine of Siena (Tenerife, Spain).

Incorruptibility is a Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief that Divine intervention allows some human bodies (specifically saints and beati) to avoid the normal process of decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness. Bodies that undergo little or no decomposition, or delayed decomposition, are sometimes referred to as incorrupt or incorruptible.

Incorruptibility is thought to occur even in the presence of factors which normally hasten decomposition, as in the cases of Saint Catherine of Genoa, Saint Julie Billiart, or Saint Francis Xavier.[1]


  • Roman Catholicism 1
  • Eastern Orthodox Church 2
  • Instances 3
    • Romans 3.1
    • Saints 3.2
    • Beati 3.3
  • See also 4
  • Footnotes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Roman Catholicism

In Roman Catholicism, if a body is judged as incorruptible after death, this is generally seen as a sign that the individual is a saint. Not every saint, however, is expected to have an incorruptible corpse. Although incorruptibility is recognized as supernatural, it is no longer counted as a miracle in the recognition of a saint.[2]

Embalmed bodies were not recognized as incorruptibles. For example, although the body of Pope John XXIII remained in a remarkably intact state after its exhumation, Church officials remarked that the body had been embalmed[3] and additionally there was a lack of oxygen in his sealed triple coffin..

Incorruptibility is seen as distinct from the good preservation of a body, or from mummification. Incorruptible bodies are often said to have the odour of sanctity, exuding a sweet or floral, pleasant aroma.

Eastern Orthodox Church

Relics found to be Incorrupt by the Catholic Church of Anthony, John, and Eustathios at the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

To the Eastern Orthodox Church, incorruptibility continues to be an important element for the process of glorification. An important distinction is made between natural mummification and what is believed to be supernatural incorruptibility. There are a great number of eastern Orthodox saints whose bodies have been found to be incorrupt and are in much veneration among the faithful. These include:


The saints and other Christian holy men and women whose bodies are said to be or to have been incorrupt have been catalogued in The Incorruptibles: A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati, a 1977 book by Joan Carroll Cruz.[6] Incorruptibles include:


During marble excavations on the Appian Way in Spring 1485, workers found three marble coffins. In one, twelve feet underground, was the corpse of a young woman, said to have looked as if it had been buried that day, despite being about 1500 years old. The corpse attracted 20,000 plus crowds of spectators in the first few days, many of whom believed it to be of Tullia Ciceronis, whose epitaph was on one of the tombs.[7]


The body of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes with wax face and hand coverings, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. January 7, 1844 – d. April 16, 1879).
The new recumbent statue (1987) of Saint Clare of Assisi, with the reliquary below. (b. July 16, 1194 – d. August 11, 1253).
The body of Saint John Mary Vianney wearing a wax mask, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. 8 May 1786 – d. 4 August 1859).
The body of Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina wearing a silicone mask, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. 25 May 1887 – d. 23 September 1968).
The body of Saint Alphonse Mary of Liguori, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. 27 September 1696 – d. 1 August 1787).
The body of Saint Joaquina de Vedruna, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. April 16, 1783 – d. August 28, 1854).
The body of Saint Zita, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (born c. 1218 - d. 27 April 1272).
The body of Saint Catherine Labouré, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. May 2, 1806 – d. December 31, 1876).
The body of Venerable Mary of Jesus of Ágreda, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. April 2, 1602 – d. May 24, 1665).
The body of Saint Louise de Marillac, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. August 12, 1591 - d. March 15, 1660).
The body of Saint Rita of Cascia, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. 1381 - d. May 22, 1457).
The body of Saint Luigi Orione, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. June 23, 1872 – d. March 12, 1940).
The body of Saint Virginia Centurione, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. (b. April 2, 1587 – d. December 15, 1651).


See also


  1. ^ Quigley, Christine (2005). The Corpse: A History. McFarland. p. 254.  
  2. ^ Archived at The Incorruptibles, The bodies of many medieval Catholic saints and martyrs have resisted decay for centuries— just the sort of mystery that begs for scientific inquiry, By Heather Pringle, Discover Vol. 22 No. 6 (June 2001)
  3. ^ Sandri, Luigi (1 June 2001). "Blessed John XXIII's Remains Are Now On View At St Peter's". Christianity Today. Archived from the original on 11 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  4. ^ The Marvelous Wonderworker of All Russia, Holy Venerable Alexander of Svir. St. Petersburg: Holy Trinity Monastery of St. Alexander of Svir, 2002.
  6. ^  
  7. ^ by Rodolfo Lanciani, 1896Pagan and Christian RomeTranslated letters about tombs on Appian Way, from
  8. ^ "Arouca, ainda mal conhecida". Aveiro e o seu Distrito. December 1967. 
  9. ^ Junta de Freguesia de Ermesinde - The Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus (Convent of Sisters of the Good Shepherd)


  • The Incorruptibles: A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati, by Joan Carroll Cruz, OCDS, TAN Books, June 1977. ISBN 0-89555-066-0.
  • Christian Mummification: An Interpretive History of the Preservation of Saints, Martyrs and Others, by Ken Jeremiah, OCDS, McFarland & Co., Inc., 2012. ISBN 0786465190.

External links

  • "Incorrupt Bodies Of the Saints". Archived from the original on 2008-06-14. 
  • St Dionysios of Zakynthos
  • St. Spyridon and other religious traditions on Corfu
  • St Spyridon the Wonderworker and Bishop of Tremithus
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