The master of eternal sleep
Alfredo Salafia was a self-taught chemist and taxidermist who never completed medical
school. He dedicated his life to research and study how to preserve bodies after death and his principal recognition is displayed in the Capuchin Catacomb in Palermo, Rosalia Lombardo.
Salafia perfected a method of preservation based on the injection of chemicals.
Great importance was given to the aesthetics of death so that the dead could preserve for eternity her/his lifelike appearance.
Salafia died in 1933 and it was thought that he had taken the secret of his embalming process with him to his grave.
However, recently, the study of a few handwritten sheets, kept by the relative, by a biological anthropologist named Dario Piombino-Mascali, tracked down the miraculous formula that had allowed Salafia to embalm Rosalia Lombardo.
He did not remove her organs and X-ray analysis reveals that they are still remarkably intact, but he drained her blood and replaced it with a preserving fluid that was a mixture of formalin, zinc salt, alcohol, salicylic acid and glycerin. Often he could add a treatment of the face with paraffin dissolved in ether, to maintain an aspect of the living face and rounded.
Throughout his life Salafia embalmed over one hundred bodies, including personalities such as Francesco Crispi, the cardinal Michelangelo Celesia, Senator Giacomo Armò, the ethnographer Giuseppe Pitrè and the Cont of Francavilla.
And among those still preserved in the crypt of the Capuchin, in addition to small Rosalia, his brother Ernesto Salafia and the vice consul Giovanni Paterniti.