Concept: Henry II of England
During the Middle Ages, the partition of the cadaver of the elite members was a current practice, with highly technical treatment given to symbolic organs such as the heart. Considered mostly from a theoretical point of view, this notion of dilaceratio corporis has never been biologically explored. To assess the exact kind of embalming reserved to the heart, we performed a full biomedical analysis of the mummified heart of the English King Richard I (1199 A.D.). Here we show among other aspects, that the organ has been embalmed using substances inspired by Biblical texts and practical necessities of desiccation. We found that the heart was deposed in linen, associated with myrtle, daisy, mint, frankincense, creosote, mercury and, possibly, lime. Furthermore, the goal of using such preservation materials was to allow long-term conservation of the tissues, and good-smelling similar to the one of the Christ (comparable to the odor of sanctity).
In 897, the nine month old corpse of the late Pope Formosus stood trial by the reigning pontiff, Stephen VII. Stephen VII convicted Formosus, sentenced the cadaveric Pope to have three fingers of his right hand amputated and then had him buried in a common grave. This posthumous trial raised theological and sacramental debates and created an outrage in Rome that became the cause of Stephen VII’s swift downfall. Pope Formosus joins other notable historical figures such as St. Thomas Becket and John Wycliffe who were tried and punished after death. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.