May 1, 2016

Rare Footage of Pope St. Pius X's Incorrupt Body

St. John XXIII and Monsignor (now) Cardinal Loris Capovilla with
the incorrupt body of St. Pius X. 

In 1913, Pope Pius X suffered a heart attack from which he never fully recovered. On the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, [August 15, 1914] he became ill for the final time. His condition was exacerbated by the outbreak of World War I. Following a second heart attack, he went to his eternal reward on August 20, 1914.

Pius X was buried in an unadorned tomb in the crypt beneath St. Peter's Basilica. Papal physicians customarily removed organs from the deceased pontiff's corpse as part of the embalming process. Pius X prohibited this practice in his burial, as have successive popes. Forty years after his death, Pius X's body was exhumed as part of the beatification process and found intact. Below is rare footage of St. Pius X's incorrupt body in which his face is adorned with a bronze mask. St. John XXIII is seen venerating his predecessor's earthly remains along with various princes of the Church among others.


Kevin Symonds said...


The unidentified priest is (now) Cardinal Loris Capovilla, still alive at 100!

Matthew Coffin said...


I've corrected the caption. Thank you.

Joe said...

If his body is incorrupt, why do they put a bronze mask on his face to cover his natural appearance? I believe a similar practice is done with the incorrupt bodies of other saints, except they might cover their bodies with wax.

Patrick J said...

Joe: While the body does not decay, the very outermost layer of skin, which is dead while we are alive, tends to oxidize. Therefore, a cover of wax is often used to prevent this. Of course, a wax cover over a body that is not incorrupt doesn't help, as the decaying process is internal.

Unknown said...

In the Eastern Churches the bodies of incorrupt
saints ooze fragrant oil which is collected and
given to the faithful. Too bad Western saints do
not seem to do this so that we can know what is
under the "wax cover over a body."

Unknown said...

When I visited the Russian Church
"Outside of Russia" in San Francisco
some decades ago, next to the body
of (now) Saint John Maximovitch was
a collection of vials filled with "his"
oil. I actually bought one. They did
not worry about simony, I gather. Of
course I could not "prove" in the chapel
there, being watched by a stern monk,
where the oil had actually come from.

Unknown said...

Rather than Unknown
you can put "Brian V.H." ...
I am not good with computers.

Catharine said...

There have been any number of examples of Roman Catholic and Eastern-rite Catholic saints, found incorrupt, who have exuded fragrant oil and/or other bodily fluids for many years. One such example is St. Charbel Makhlouf (also sometimes spelled Sharbel), 1828-1898, who was a Maronite Catholic monk and priest. He was found incorrupt after his death, and a mysterious fragrant fluid, said to appear to be composed of a combination of sweat and blood, with healing properties, exuded copiously from his body for some years after his death (67 to be precise).
It would appear that there are several "types" or "classes" of incorrupt saints--some are found incorrupt 40, 60 or even more years after their death, and then at some time after their bodies are found, the natural decay process sets in. One such example is Venerable Jacinta Marto, one of the children who saw the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima. She was found incorrupt approx. 30 years after her death (I believe she died c. 1920 and was found incorrupt c. 1950), but at some time after that, her body went through the normal decom-position process, as did St. Charbel Makhlouf at some point c. 1965 (67 years after his death).
For more information about these saints, please refer to the excellent websites "mystics of the church" and "miracles of the saints"
From reading about very many of these saints, it would appear that the ones who eventually do go through normal decomposition are those whose lives and heroic examples speak to certain times, places, and/or issues. Those who remain incorrupt often tend to, in addition, leave a large body of writings, or a very important body of writings (not necessarily large in number), which speak to all ages. However, in all instances, those saints whose bodies are/were incorrupt lives lives of heroic virtue, heroic penance, often surviving extraordinary opposition during their lives not only from enemies of the Catholic faith, but often from their own religious orders and/or superiors.
Such saints are an inspiration to all of us.

Tracy Tucciarone said...

Unknown, the "Oil of Saints" happens all the time in the Western Church. See, for ex., St. Walburga: