Mummified saints of the Northern Croatian Littoral

  • Anja Petaros
  • Ante Škrobonja
  • Alan Bosnar


The Istrian town of Vodnjan hosts a collection of mummified bodies and relics. Three mummies are completely preserved and belong to Blessed Leon Bembo, St Giovanni Olini, and St Nicolosa Bursa, while the other three are mummified remains of St Barbara, St Sebastian, and St Mary of Egypt. This article gives an overview of the three completely preserved bodies, including their external condition, hagiographic data, statements and hypotheses that need verification by future targeted scientific research. Although local populations attribute divine properties to the remains and treat their continued preservation as a mystery, their origin is probably similar to that of other mummified saints. A scientific study performed on the mummies will probably help to reveal the true origin and type of mummification of the bodies. Additional paleopathological research could also determine the cause of death, if the saints died by natural causes, or attest to any mutilation or sign of torture suffered in life and confirm them as the cause of death. Proper bioarchaeological research could bring useful osteobiographical updates to the existing records about these saints.

Keywords: Saints; mummy; paleopathology; bioarchaeology; Middle Ages; Istria