"Incorruptible" bodies?

This has given me a few headaches about my faith. It appears that a few of the “inccoruptible bodies” have wax or silicon masks, or else mummuies partially decayed. See depletedcranium.com/a-skeptical-look-at-incorruptibility for a sceptics explanation of mummification, natural processes causing slow decay, not really incorrupt but decayed often with wax masks etc.

Can someone give a counterexplanation?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Hmm. I am not entirely sure. I think that a body does not have to be entirely free from decomposition to be declared “incorruptible”. If the body has decayed slightly, wax masks are used to hide discolouration or other “unpleasantness”. At least, this is what I’ve heard. Hopefully someone with more knowledge than I will come along :slight_smile:

Try this:


Might help a little, I don’t know :shrug:

There’s a really good book on this entitled The Incorruptibles from TAN Books.

I also am somewhat of a skeptic on the subject of incorruptibility. People before the 20th century had a poor understanding of decomposition and the environmental factors that can delay the process, and they may have been too quick in proclaiming an unusually well preserved body incorrupt. Having said that, there are other phenomenon sometimes associated with it that is not as easily explained, such as the scent of myrrh, roses, etc. I’m no expert on decomposition, but I can’t think of any natural explanation for this. Can anyone else?

Incorrupt bodies are not perfectly preserved, per se, they just show remarkable and unnatural resistance to decomposition. Browning still occurs, but the flesh and the rest of the body is otherwise remarkably preserved, soft, flexible, etc. There are a few cases where the preservation really is as if the saint still looked alive, but I cannot remember which ones off the top of my head. When the Church displays a body for veneration and devotion, church officials sometimes put on a wax face so that the impression of browning does not “creep out” the pilgrims.

So really, it is a misunderstanding of incorruption and the purpose of the wax faces. I wouldn’t let this affect your faith at all.

Now, the article you linked to is a joke. They put up their possible natural explanations with no regard for the actual facts for each case. In many of the cases, the bodies were known and tested NOT to have any preserving agents and were exposed to harsh environments, making the preserved states of their bodies extraordinary. The article is amatuerish stuff.

After reading the article and its comments, I wanted to re-emphasize that the Church does not define incorruption as perfect preservation but as remarkable and otherwise unnatural resistance to decomposition. The Church looks into these matters closely and has always been honest to a fault - when Pope John XXIII was exhumed, his body seemed to be incorrupt, but further investigation revealed that she was exposed to preserving agents.

Might want to edit that :slight_smile:

Oops, too late. :o

Too the question about Incorruptible Bodys, I have read articles about this, and have found that,many Saints, there bodys haven,t change since ther death and look the same,
to this day… This is because ,GOD and OUR LADY, does this ,to show ,that this person was decade body and soul to serving them, for offering there suffering and helping others.
Look under “Incrruptible body of Saints”, You might find out and understand, why certain
bodys don,t decade. :slight_smile:

I haven’t read a lot about this, but from what I have read, there may be a wide variance in the actual degree of incorruption involved.

Some saints may have truly incorrupt bodies. Others may have been examined with less than scientific precision. Sometimes, false modesty prevented even removing clothing to examine the degree of incorruption. Other times the body may have been embalmed when it was thought not to have been.

This is not to say that there are not true examples of incorruptible bodies, just that the degree of certainty varies with the examination techniques.

Here are my suggestions.

  1. On Incorruptible Saints: The Incorruptibles by Joan Carroll Cruz (Don’t have it but its a popular book on the subject, it was highly recommended to me by several people as well)

  2. On the Miracle of the Sun: Meet The Witnesses by John M. Haffert (Have it, irrefutable evidence)

Why would your faith be affected one way or another by the “incorruptibles” and whether there are wax masks or not. None of this is required belief for us and nor is it a consideration for sainthood.

This is one of those questions that I think of as a “color blue” argument. Try to imagine two people who have been blind from birth and who have heard about the color blue. It would be impossible for them to argue about the color blue. This is where we are when trying to understanding what is meant about heaven or the meaning of “incorruptible bodies”

We are blind. We can not even begin to imagine what God has in store for those who love him.

It is interesting to speculate but to argue about these terms… I think that would be a bit silly.


This is one of those wonderful teachings that we are allowed to believe. If we don’t accept that this is possible … well, that is certainly understandable. We don’t have to accept this.

My own thought is, “I don’t know.”

But that doesn’t cause me any problems at all. There are many many things in this world that I don’t understand.

I think I can help you. I consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject, in fact. :wink:

I have read J.C. Cruz’ book on it, and have seen many incorrupt saints’ bodies in person around the world - some with masks on them, and some not.

First of all, the Church does not declare anybody officially to be incorrupt - does that make sense? The Church says nothing about it one way or the other. Many people, though, including me, are free to believe that certain cases of bodies not decomposing are miraculous, but that’s our own opinion; it is a private judgment. Saints bodies are often placed in visible reliquaries in churches, including St. Peter’s in Rome, but this is not a statement about whether or not they are incorrupt. Some have masks on them - realistic ones or not - and some do not. Some saints skeletons are put on display, too, etc. It is not ever used as a miracle for a canonization, etc. etc. So there is no problem from a faith point of view.

Many bodies you see on websites listed as “incorrupt” on websites are not, in fact. They are lifesize dolls - representations of the saints - that have the bones inside of them (whether for modesty, artistic reasons, or whatever other reason).

Some saints are only partially incorrupt, and some were once incorrupt but no longer are (i.e. St. John Neumann, St. Camillus de Lellis).

A silicon mask was placed over the face of St. Padre Pio when he was put on display for veneration, though. I was a little concerned about that because people thought it was really his face. We have to be careful about these things, that people are not confused, and that Catholics don’t appear to be trying to deceive anybody (I don’t think that was anybody’s intention at all, though - they said he was “partially” incorrupt upon opening the tomb). The more unrealistic masks are sometimes placed just for modesty, since sometimes seeing dead bodies can make people uncomfortable.

I have, though, seen at least a couple of incorrupt saints’ bodies that are amazing, and like I said, clearly miraculous (having no scientific explanation).

Oh, by the way, I just looked at the site you gave the link to. Speaking of “bad science,” that site should be included in its own judgment, since it has lots of misinformation about it, poor reasoning, and in fact the entire article is predicated upon statements that are false about Church teaching about saints and their bodies.

Which ones are truly miraculous to you?

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