Christian Mummification

An Interpretative History of the Preservation of Saints, Martyrs and Others


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About the Book

A mention of mummification immediately brings to mind the ancient Egyptians—but the Roman Catholic Church has long used the practice to preserve notable members of its faith. In Italy alone, more than 300 preserved bodies appear on display in churches and cathedrals—the mummified remains of saints, priests, martyrs, and other high-ranking Roman Catholic officials.
This study explores the history of Roman Catholic mummification, which continues to this day in the use of New Kingdom Egyptian mummification procedures on popes. It explores various types of mummies, the connections between the Catholic Church and Egyptian religious practices, the treatment of the dead by other faiths, and the veritable cult that has arisen in Italy surrounding the saints whose bodies are preserved.
By examining this unusual practice from both scientific and cultural perspectives, the book sheds light on a relatively unstudied aspect of the Roman Catholic faith.

About the Author(s)

Ken Jeremiah has written extensively about spiritual and religious phenomena. He lives in Narragansett, Rhode Island, and runs tour groups to Japan, Italy, and other countries yearly.

Bibliographic Details

Ken Jeremiah
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 272
Bibliographic Info: 56 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6519-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8979-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

Preface      1

Introduction      3

I. World Mummification

1. Mummification and Critical Thinking      9

2. The Science of Mummification      12

3. Natural Mummies      15

4. Artificial Mummies      18

5. Other Forms of Mummification      22

6. Relic-Bodies            26

7. Death and the Unknown: The Allure of Mummies      32

II. Mummies in Italy

8. Critical Thinking, Self-Reflection, and Mummy Studies      37

9. The Roman Catacombs      40

10. The Cult of the Martyrs      43

11. The Catacombs in Palermo      49

12. The Chapel of the Dead and the Skull Cathedral      53

13. Mummies of Ferentillo and San Domenico Maggiore; Papal Funerals      57

14. Polytheistic Elements of the Faith      64

III. Saints and Relics

15. The Enigmatic Catholic Saint      73

16. The History of Saint Making      78

17. Stigmata and Other Miracles      82

18. Modern Saints      88

19. Asceticism in the Catholic Faith      92

20. The Importance of Physical Remains      96

21. The Cult of the Dead      100

IV. Incorruptible Bodies

22. The Incorruptibles      107

23. Miraculous Preservation      111

24. The Preserved Bodies in Rome, Assisi and Mantova      116

25. Mummies in Florence, Naples and Sicily      122

26. Mummies in Other Parts of Italy      125

27. The Importance of the Incorruptibles      128

28. Preservation in Christianity      132

V. Influences from Other Cultures

29. Mummification in Roman Society      141

30. The Old Testament      148

31. Historical Evidence      151

32. Immaculate Conception and the Resurrection      161

33. Mithra: The Zoroastrian God of the Sun      167

34. Pythagoras and Dionysus      170

35. The Cult of Osiris      174

VI. The Egyptian Influence

36. Egyptian Influences in Italy      181

37. Alexandria and Coptic Christianity      188

38. Early Egyptian Religious Beliefs      192

39. Burial Practices      196

40. The Holy Trinity: Isis, Horus and Osiris      199

41. Religious Rituals and Practices      204

42. Integration and Assimilation      209

VII. The Reasons Behind Christian Mummification

43. The Bodily Preservation of Jesus      215

44. The Rapture      217

45. Early Concepts of the Soul      223

46. The Power Inherent in Bodily Remains      226

47. Foreign Influences      229

48. Enduring Virtuosity      233

49. Symbols of Life and Death      236

Appendix: Locations of Select Mummies or Bodily Relics in Italy      241

Chapter Notes      247

Bibliography      253

Index      261