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JennRose

The Body of Saint Bernadette

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Posted (edited)

I'm looking for some information on the "Miracle of St. Bernadette" that does not come from strictly spiritual or, and most pointedly, Catholic sources.

For those of you who do not know, Sister Marie Bernard died from a dibilitating illness in 1879 and over a hundred years later, her body is supposedly still perfectly preserved and on display in France. Here is an overview of the phenomena. It's rather lengthy, but very interesting:

"After thirty years undisturbed in the tomb, Sister Marie Bernard's body was exhumed for examination. The words of the surgeon and the doctor, who were under oath, speak for themselves:

"The coffin was opened in the presence of the Bishop of Nevers, the mayor of the town, his principal deputy, several canons and ourselves. We noticed no smell. The body was clothed in the habit of Bernadette's order. The habit was damp. Only the face, hands and forearms were uncovered."

"The head was tilted to the left. The face was dull white. The skin clung to the muscles and the muscles adhered to the bones. The eye sockets were covered by the eyelids. The brows were flat on the skin and stuck to the arches above the eyes. The lashes of the right eyelid were stuck to the skin. The nose was dilated and shrunken. The mouth was open slightly and it could be seen that the teeth were still in place. The hands, which were crossed on her breast, were perfectly preserved, as were the nails. The hands still held a rusting rosary. The veins on the forearms stood out."

"Like the hands, the feet were wizened and the toenails were still intact (one of them was torn off when the corpse was washed). When the habits had been removed and the veil lifted from the head, the whole of the shriveled body could be seen, rigid and taut in every limb. It was found that the hair, which had been cut short, was stuck to the head and still attached to the skull, that the ears were in a state of perfect preservation, that the left side of the body was slightly higher than the right from the hip up. The stomach had caved in and was taut like the rest of the body. It sounded like cardboard when struck. The left knee was not as large as the right. The ribs protruded as did the muscles in the limbs."

"So rigid was the body that it could be rolled over and back for washing. The lower parts of the body had turned slightly black. This seems to have been the result of the carbon of which quite large quantities were found in the coffin."

In witness of which we have duly drawn up this present statement in which all is truthfully recorded. Nevers, September 22, 1909, Drs. Ch. David, A. Jourdan.

The nuns washed the body, and placed it in a new coffin that was lined with zinc and padded with white silk.

The fact that Bernadette's body was perfectly preserved is not necessarily miraculous. It is well known that corpses decompose to varying degrees in certain kinds of soil and may gradually mummify. However, in the case of Bernadette this mummification is quite astounding. Her illnesses and the state of her body at the time of death, and the humidity in the vault in the chapel of Saint–Joseph (the habit was damp, the rosary rusty and the crucifix had turned green), would all seem to be conducive to the decay of the flesh.

Ten years later, on April 3, 1919, another identification of the body of the venerable Bernadette was mandated. After the doctors had examined the body, they retired alone to separate rooms to write their personal reports without being able to consult each other.

The two reports coincided perfectly with each other and also with Doctors Jourdan and David's report of 1909. There was one new element concerning the state of the body. This was the existence of "patches of mildew and a layer of salt which seems to be calcium salt," and which were probably the result of the body having been washed during the first exhumation.

"When the coffin was opened the body appeared to be absolutely intact and odorless." (Dr. Talon was more specific: "There was no smell of putrefaction and none of those present experienced any discomfort.") The body is practically mummified, covered with patches of mildew and quite a notable layer of salts, which appear to be calcium salts. The skeleton is complete, and it was possible to carry the body to a table without any trouble. The skin has disappeared in some places, but it is still present on most parts of the body. Some of the veins are still visible."

At 5 p.m. that evening the body was reburied in the chapel of Saint–Joseph in the presence of the Bishop, Mother Forestier and the police commissioner. Here are some passages from Doctor Comte's report :

"At the request of the Bishop of Nevers I detached and removed the rear section of the fifth and sixth right ribs as relics; I noted that there was a resistant, hard mass in the thorax, which was the liver covered by the diaphragm. I also took a piece of the diaphragm and the liver beneath it as relics, and can affirm that this organ was in a remarkable state of preservation. I also removed the two patella bones to which the skin clung and which were covered with more clinging calcium matter. Finally, I removed the muscle fragments right and left from the outsides of the thighs. These muscles were also in a very good state of preservation and did not seem to have putrefied at all."

"From this examination I conclude that the body of the Venerable Bernadette is intact, the skeleton is complete, the muscles have atrophied, but are well preserved; only the skin, which has shriveled, seems to have suffered from the effects of the damp in the coffin. It has taken on a grayish tinge and is covered with patches of mildew and quite a large number of crystals and calcium salts, but the body does not seem to have putrefied, nor has any decomposition of the cadaver set in, although this would be expected and normal after such a long period in a vault hollowed out of the earth."

Nevers, April 3, 1919, Dr. Comte

In 1925, the third and final exhumation of the body was conducted. At this point, a precise imprint of the face was molded so that the firm of Pierre Imans in Paris could make a light wax mask based on the imprints and on some genuine photos. This was common practice for relics in France, as it was feared that although the body was mummified, the blackish tinge to the face and the sunken eyes and nose would make an unpleasant impression on the public. Imprints of the hands were also taken for the presentation of the body. Three years later in 1928, Doctor Comte published a report on the exhumation of the Blessed Bernadette in the second issue of the Bulletin de I'Association medicale de Notre–Dame de Lourdes.

"I would have liked to open the left side of the thorax to take the ribs as relics and then remove the heart which I am certain must have survived. However, as the trunk was slightly supported on the left arm, it would have been rather difficult to try and get at the heart without doing too much noticeable damage. As the Mother Superior had expressed a desire for the Saint's heart to be kept together with the whole body, and as Monsignor the Bishop did not insist, I gave up the idea of opening the left-hand side of the thorax and contented myself with removing the two right ribs which were more accessible."

"What struck me during this examination, of course, was the state of perfect preservation of the skeleton, the fibrous tissues of the muscles (still supple and firm), of the ligaments, and of the skin, and above all the totally unexpected state of the liver after 46 years. One would have thought that this organ, which is basically soft and inclined to crumble, would have decomposed very rapidly or would have hardened to a chalky consistency. Yet, when it was cut it was soft and almost normal in consistency. I pointed this out to those present, remarking that this did not seem to be a natural phenomenon."

http://www.catholicpilgrims.com/lourdes/ba...dette_intro.htm

Well, what are some thoughts? I have my own, but I am wondering if anyone has heard what experts with no personal bias may have had to say. My searching for balanced information has been not very successful.

Edited by JennRose

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I have been to Lourdes and Church of St. Gildard at the convent in Nevers where Bernadette's body lies. I took photos with me of her when she was younger and there was no doubt that the body was the same person. It is true that the body is in rather excellent condition although there are places where the skin has deteriorated.

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imho, more catholic gobbledy-gook. if they are the experts on miracles, why did they cannonize siddhartha gautauma (the guddha)? whoops!

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Did you take any photos of the body, iaapac?

You know, I just thought of something. There is a phenomenon where under certain conditions a body will eventually turn into a kind of soap. There's even an example at the Smithsonian. Maybe this is what happened to Saint Bernadette.

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Theer are quite a few examples of Bodies that do not decay. Mostly it is becuase the conditions are dry, dark and airy. But there are other conditions that can cause it.

Have you tried doing a search on Uncorruptables Jenn Ross? it's one of the terms used to discribe a body that does not decay. I started a topic somehwere ages back on the subject.

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There is a website that debunks the uncorruptable phenomenon that compared her current pic from older pics. It was proven that her current face was reconstructed with wax. I'll see if I can track down the URL.

Lapi'che ni'tis

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this is plainly along the lines of saint's blood reconstituting every year. someone got5 ahold of the vial and found it was a form of glycerine. the catholic chiurch has been faking miracles for centuries.

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It might just be me but there is a bump along the bridge of her nose from the original death picture that doesnt exsist in the new ones. Did she have a nose job??? No, the noses just dont match. Plus the chin and mouth seem bigger on the more recent pictures. Who tweezed her eyebrows, painted her nails, and moved her hands from her waist to her chest?

I have heard this story before. As for it being true, if I had to go one these pictures alone I couldnt say it is.

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Thanks for the info folks! original.gif

And yeah, Kismit, I've heard of other instances of bodies not decaying, but from what I've read she was buried in a pretty moist environment (her rosary rusted, for example). I'm more inclined to believe that she is gradually getting replaced by wax coverings. I'm just surprised no scientific examinations have been done her like the ones for, oh, say, the Shroud of Turin.

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There is a museum in Guanajuato of corpses that have not decayed and it has something to do with the chemical deposits in the earth around Guanajuato that preserves the bodies.

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Jenn Ross another reaon behind bodies that don't decay is the amount of radiation in the surrounding area. It can still happen under damp conditions.

But yes wax is a reasonable explenation.

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Jenn Ross another reaon behind bodies that don't decay is the amount of radiation in the surrounding area. It can still happen under damp conditions.

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Hmmm...now radiation is a new idea. I hadn't thought or heard of that. I guess it could be a chemical mummification.

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I will look for my book on Death when I get the chance Jenn and get the information on it for you.

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Thanks very much! original.gif

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"Radiation was suggested as the preserving agent of the 250 year old desicated bodies found in Wasserburg Somersdorf Castle, at Mittlefranken, Germany. But even though tinyamounts of radiatio have been detected in the castle tobs, this does not explian all odd mummifications." Courtesy of: Death and Beyond, published by The book company.

And Saponification can also refer to the conversion of fat and other soft tissue in a corpse into *adipocere. This process is more common where the amount of fatty tissue is high, the agents of decomposition absent or only minutely present, and the burial ground is particularly alkali.

from Here

*adipocere: This is mostly met with by forensic medical experts, hence its other name of mortuary fat. Mmmm yummy...

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Hi all

I have been searching for explanations for such preservations for the past three months and very soon will have finished my article on it. St Bernadette was my starting point too, but then I found a whole heap of others. But from what I have learned so far, about 99% of them can be explained naturally. As for the remaining 1%, well, if you believe the sworn descriptions of the witnesses some centuries back, yes then they are inexplicable. But that's a big IF and it's always at the back of your mind. It's curious how the Catholic Church quietly lets the masses spread the "miraculously preserved" label without contesting it, whereas it is pretty vociferous about other issues.

I found a lot of my answers in the forensic research field. As soon as I have finished the article I will post it here.

Till then...

Edited by Panthea

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Whatever the explanation, she's looking pretty good! I do think it's more to do with natural causes than religious ones. What do you guys think to the catacombs in Scicily?

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So this is an old topic, however emails seem to be flourishing back on this topic. Something that needs immediate attention is that St. Bernadette's incorrupt body isn't as "incorrupt" as many would have you believe. First of all, this isn't to say the body hasn't been preserved at all, but her face and hands are wax masks. The pictures you see are not her actual skin. Yes her body is there, but some time ago, when the body was exhumed for a second time, they noticed that there was more decay than previously witnessed, so they constructed a wax face and hands for her and that is literally what you see in those pictures. In addition, research online shows that during the second time she was exhumed, her skin was quickly turning black - indicating that the oxygen levels were decomposing the body faster. (Another indication that perhaps her body was in an air-tight coffin, which preserves bodies much better). Second, while the body did exhibit some preservation qualities, however, a good read is here:

http://www.forteantimes.com/features/artic...reserve_us.html

This isn't to say that I don't believe in miracles, as I very much do. However, nothing bothers me more than someone trying to make something out to be entirely something it really is not. Inflating the truth to "help" others believe in miracles can be worse than just not seeing any at all. For when someone finds out it's false, their belief is shaken. Just be truthful and you will find hope, for there is hope.

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I'd heard about the wax mask, I presumed they'd taken a kind of death mask of her. She was supposed to be extremely well preserved though.

Have you seen Padre Pio who was exhumed recently, there was a thread about it not long ago, he looks like he's sleeping.

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imho, more catholic gobbledy-gook. if they are the experts on miracles, why did they cannonize siddhartha gautauma (the guddha)? whoops!

The Catholic church has never canonized Siddhartha Gautauma,also known as the Buddha.He wasn't even a Christian.One has to be a christian,and a Catholic to be declared a saint. There are many steps invovled in being declared a saint.You might want to look at some Catholic websites for information on that. The saints of the Catholic Church come from various ethnic and racial backgrounds. There is St.Benedict the Moor, St.Martin de Porres,St.Charles Lwandga,and the Martyers of Uganda who are all black people, as well as St.Josephine,a black woman who belonged to the Cannosian Sisters of Charity,an italian order of nuns who work in Africa and throughout the world.

There are the Martyers of Japan,who are saints of the Catholic Church. Many of them were japanese people who became Roman Catholics and died because they refused to give up the Christian faith. there are also several saints who came from the Middle East too. Mother Teresa who has been canonized was from Albania,but came to India as a teaching sister. She left her convent to go work with the poor and other women joined her,founding the Missionaries of Charity.

Many saints have been priests and nuns,founders of religious orders of men and women. But there are others, like St.Louis Strattman,known in Hungary as the Doctor of the Poor.He came from a wealthy Hungarian noble family. he turned a part of his home into a hospital,and he took care of the sick poor,his wife supported him in his work.

Blessed Margaret Plantagent Pole, governess of Mary Tudor(aka Bloody mary) was a cousin of Henry the Eigth.St.Thomas More, St.Margaret Clithrow and other english martyers of the faith,some of whom like the ones mentioned were lay people, just like you and I.

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