Incorruptibility is a belief of the Roman Catholic Church that God intervenes to keep the bodies of those humans who are deemed saints from decomposing. The criteria for being recognized as a saint are three miracles. The miracles would be reported by a person who prayed to the would be saint and asked them to intercede on their behalf. One of these miracles included incorruptibility, but that is no longer the case. The Roman Catholic Church still recognizes, however, a corpse that does not decompose is a divine act of God.
|Pope John XXII|
Strict rules surround the determination of whether a person’s corpse is truly incorruptible. First, the body must not be embalmed. The remarkable state of Pope John XXII’s body when it was exhumed illustrates the effects of an embalmed body sealed in an airtight casket. The chemicals and condition of the casket attribute to the absence of decomposition, which is not a supernatural act.
There are valid scientific arguments that may explain the reason for slow decomposition, both physical and environmental. One possible cause is Saponification which is a process that produces soap from fats and lye. Other possible causes are a cool and dry burial ground or soil that contains compounds that bring the moisture to the surface of the skin. Another theory is that bodies with low fat and muscle content resist decomposition.
Whether or not the cause of decomposition is scientific or spiritual, the bodies of the saints that are on display in cathedrals around the world demonstrate the existence of the Divine. Here are some incredible pictures of the incorruptible bodies of some saints.
|St. Padre Pio|
|Blessed Ildefonse Schuster|
Kerri L. Schultz