Mummification in Christianity: The Incredible Exploding Pope

Mummification in Christianity: The Incredible Exploding Pope

Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) exploded in 1956.  To understand why this occurred, it is necessary to explore the (Catholic and Orthodox) Christian practice of mummification, which is rarely discussed, even though it is an important aspect of the faith that has been performed for hundreds of years.  Especially when it comes to clergy members and those individuals deemed holy, such as beati, venerables, or saints, mummification was an important rite, and elaborate procedures were often used.  Even today, popes are mummified using New Kingdom Egyptian mummification techniques before being entombed. 

His Holiness Pope Pius XII (Public Domain)

Revolting Rotting Bodies

If the bodies were not embalmed, autolysis and putrefaction would carry out their natural processes, and the bodies would rot.  When autolysis occurs, internal acids destroy bodily tissues.  Putrefaction causes the bodies to stink, the flesh to turn various shades before blackening, and eventually, the flesh pulls away and then disappears, revealing a skeleton alone.  Untreated bodies are revolting and being around them could cause sicknesses.  This is one of many reasons why Christians are typically mummified after death.  In modern times, bodies are generally embalmed without removing the internal organs, but historically, various types of mummification were used. 


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