Scientists: 13th-C. Saint Rose Viterbo Died of Heart Blockage
Noted for her resistance to fire and unwillingness to allow evil to overcome her by seeing the future gave this young Italian woman credibility and indispensible legacy.
The miracles performed by Rose of Viterbo are well known to many Catholics. Legend has it the 13th-century Italian saint stood for hours on a raging pyre without being burned (a useful skill if you want to impress and convert pagans) and could foretell events. But exactly how this godly young prodigy died in 1252 at the age of just 18 or 19 -- some historical records suggest she succumbed to tuberculosis -- has never been clear.
Now, more than seven centuries later, a team of Italian scientists has succeeded in pinpointing the likely cause of death as a blockage of the heart, a discovery detailed in The Lancet.
Earlier this year, Ruggero D'Anastasio, a paleoanthropologist at the G. d'Annunzio University in Chieti, and four colleagues were invited to the Santa Rosa monastery in Viterbo, near Rome, to check the condition of Rose's mummified body and heart -- which a monk removed from the corpse in 1921 to create a new relic.