Uncorrupted body of Santa Bernadette: what forensic doctors saw in exhumations

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The incorruptibility of the body of St. Bernadette Soubirous is one of the most astounding cases and studied by medicine

The incorruptibility of the body of St. Bernadette Soubirous is one of the most astounding cases studied by medicine.

The great feast of Lourdes is celebrated on February 11 and the Feast of St. Bernadette on February 18 in France, and on April 16 elsewhere.

Since August 3, 1925, the intact body of the Saint is displayed in a crystal urn in the chapel of the convent of Saint-Gildard, in the town of Nevers, France. The city is in Burgundy, 260 km south-south-east of Paris.

Click here to see where Nevers is located

Thus she informs an inscription next to the body of the Santa in the same chapel:

“The body of St. Bernadette rests in this chapel since August 3, 1925.

e5f30He is intact and “petrified” as he was recognized by sworn doctors and civil and religious authorities at the exhumations of 1909, 1919, and 1925.

The face and hands, which darkened in contact with the air, were covered with light layers of wax, molded according to the models collected directly.

The position tilted to the left side was assumed by the body in the tomb. “

Let us see, however, what the doctors responsible for the skills practiced on the body of the saint said on the various occasions mentioned in the inscription.

First exhumation

On September 22, 1909, thirty years after the wake, his corpse was exhumed for the first time and the body found intact.

Drs. David and A. Jordan, who conducted this first exhumation, wrote in the expertise report:

“The coffin was opened in the presence of the Bishop and the Prefect of Nevers, his principal representatives and several religious.

“We did not notice any odor.

“The body was clothed with the Habit of Order to which Bernadette belonged. The habit was damp.

“Only the face, hands and forearms were uncovered.

“His head was tilted to the left. The face was languid and white. The skin was attached to the muscles and these were attached to the bones.

Santa Bernadette, photo (detail above and set) taken between after the last exhumation (April 18, 1925) and before being stored in the current urn (July 18, 1925)
Santa Bernadette, photo (detail above and set)  
taken between after the  last exhumation  (April 18, 1925)  
and before being stored in the current urn (July 18, 1925). 
The saint died on April 16, 1879, 46 years before the photo.

“The ocular cavities were covered by the eyelids […]

“Narrow and wrinkled nose. Mouth slightly open and one could see the teeth in place.

“His hands, crossed over his chest, were perfectly preserved as well as his nails. Hands held a third. You could see the veins in the forearm.

“Her feet were wrinkled and her nails intact.

“When the habit was removed and the veil lifted from his head, one can observe a rigid body, stretched skin […]

“His hair was cut short and well tied to his head. The ears were in perfect state of conservation […]

“The abdomen was stretched, just like the rest of the body. When it was played, it sounded like cardboard.

“His right knee was wider than his left one.

“The ribs and muscles were observed under the skin […]

“The body was so rigid that it could be turned from one side to the other […]

“In testimony that we have correctly written this present statement, which represents the truth in its entirety.

Nevers, September 22, 1909, Drs. David, A. Jourdan. ”  Source: Wikipedia, in Portuguese  –  Font: Catholic Pilgrims

Second exhumation

In 1919, ten years after the first exhumation, a second exhumation of the body of St. Bernadette was conducted, this time conducted by Doctors Talon and Comte, with the presence of the Bishop of the city of Nevers, as well as the Police Delegate and representatives of the City Hall and Church.

Saint Bernadette at her wake, April 1879, Nevers
Saint Bernadette at her wake, April 1879, Nevers

The situation was exactly the same as that of the first exhumation.

Here are excerpts from Dr. Comte’s final report on this second expert:

“From this examination, I conclude that the body of the Venerable Bernadette, complete skeleton, atrophied but well preserved muscles, remains intact; only the skin, which was wrinkled, by the effects of the dampness of the coffin.

“The body was not putrefying or decomposing, which would be expected to be normal after forty years of its burial.

“Nevers, April 3, 1919, Dr. Comte”  Source: Wikipedia, in Portuguese. –  Font: Catholic Pilgrims, in English


Third Exhumation

Finally, on November 18, 1923, His Holiness Pope Pius XI signed a decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Bernadette.

After the saint’s beatification, a third exhumation took place on June 12, 1925. The goal was to remove “relics” from her body. The canonization came eight years later, in 1933.

On this last exhumation, Dr. Comte wrote in his report, in forensic terms that sometimes astonish laypeople, but which allow us to accurately measure the degree of the incorruptibility of the body of the visionary of Lourdes:

Saint Bernadette died sitting in this armchair, St-Gildard Museum, Nevers
Saint Bernadette died sitting in this armchair, 
St-Gildard Museum, Nevers

“I wanted to open the left side of the chest to remove some ribs and then remove the heart, which I was sure would be intact.

“However, as the torso was lightly resting on the left arm, it would be difficult to access the heart.

“As the Mother Superior expressed the wish that the heart of St. Bernadette was not withdrawn, as well as this was the wish of the Bishop, I changed my mind to open the left side of the thorax and only removed two ribs from the right side, which were more accessible.

“What impressed me most during this exhumation was the perfect state of preservation of the skeleton, fibrous tissues, flexible and firm muscles, ligaments and skin after forty-six years of his death.

“After such a long time, any dead organism would tend to disintegrate, to decompose and to acquire a calcareous consistency.

“However, when cutting, I noticed an almost normal and soft consistency.

“At that time, I made this observation to everyone present that I did not see it as a natural phenomenon.”  Source: Wikipedia, in Portuguese  –  Font: Catholic Pilgrims in English

At that time was made a crystal urn that guards the body of St. Bernadette.

The nuns covered her face and hands with a thin layer of wax.

Urn with the body of Saint Bernadette in Nevers
Urn with the body of Saint Bernadette in Nevers

The casket is now in a beautiful chapel outside the cloister so it can be visited.

The miraculously preserved body of St. Bernadette encourages visitors to imitate the life of St. Bernadette and take seriously the messages conveyed by the visionary of the Immaculate Conception.

Video: Uncorrupted body of Santa Bernadette

Sources : pt.aleteia.org

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