Corpus Domini

Home of Bologna's Holy Mummy

The Mummy of St Catherine of Bologna

Born into a noble Bolognese family, Caterina de'Vigri (1413–63) was raised in the ducal court of Ferrara as a lady in waiting, where she was given a good education in literature, art and music. In 1426 she entered the Corpus Domini convent in Ferrara, which then followed an Augustinian rule; Catherine then left to found a Convent of Poor Clares, following the Franciscan rule. Church superiors called her back to Bologna to found and be abbess of a similar cloistered convent in Bologna, attached to the church of Corpus Domini.

Caterina painted and wrote, and as a mystic became famous for her account of her visions of God and Satan in the Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons Necessary for Spiritual Warfare, which she kept hidden until on her deathbed, but later went through 21 editions, and translations into most European languages.

After she was buried, so many miracles occurred that 18 days later her body was exhumed, and found uncorrupted, was seated on a throne, where her mummy has remained ever since, now behind glass, in the Cappella della Santa (she was canonized as St. Catherine of Bologna in 1712).

Non-Catholics may think this is slightly odd.

The convent is still partially cloistered, but the church and chapel are open to visitors; the church, later Baroqued, had to be repaired after bomb damage in the Second World War. It has a painting of baby Jesus, attributed to St Catherine herself (she is a patron saint of artists) that was often taken to the homes of the ill.

Another painting by the saint, the Madonna del Pomo is in a little museum off the second chapel to the left, in a room decorated with frescoes by Marcantonio Franceschini; it also has copies of her writings.

Practical Info

Via Tagliapietre 21

Hours Cappella della Santa: 9.30-11.30am and 4-5.45pm. Museum: same hours, on Tues, Thurs, Sat and Sun.

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+39 051 331277

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