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The Incorruptibles: A Study of Incorruption in the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati

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Continuously popular since it first appeared in 1977, The Incorruptibles remains the acknowledged classic on the bodies of Saints that did not undergo decomposition after death, many remaining fresh and flexible for years, or even centuries. After explaining both natural and artificial mummification, the author shows that the incorruption of the Saints bodies fits into neither category but constitutes a much greater phenomenon which is unexplained by modern science even to this day. The author presents 102 canonized Saints, Beati and Venerables, summarizing their lives, the discovery of their incorruption and investigations by Church and medical authorities.

The incorruptible bodies of saints are a consoling sign of Christ s victory over death, a confirmation of the dogma of the Resurrection of the Body, a sign that the Saints are still with us in the Mystical Body of Christ, as well as a proof of the truth of the Catholic Faith for only in the Catholic Church do we find this phenomenon.

342 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 1, 1977

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About the author

Joan Carroll Cruz

28 books28 followers
Mrs. Cruz is a native of New Orleans, LA, and was educated by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. She was a member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order for 50 years and received the Mother Teresa Award in 2005.

Mrs. Cruz was the author of 15 Catholic books, all of which received the imprimatur. She was perhaps best known for her writings on miraculous occurrences of faith which she compiled through meticulous research of foreign shrines, churches, convents and monasteries.

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5 stars
175 (43%)
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123 (30%)
3 stars
77 (19%)
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18 (4%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews
Profile Image for Joseph.
110 reviews
October 4, 2019
I used this book as reading material for my holy hour, and it was quite the book! My only problem with this book is there aren’t enough pictures of the saints when one could possibly have been taken or provided, but this might not necessarily the fault of the author. nevertheless, this is a book that will reaffirm your faith in the Catholic Church!
Profile Image for Tocotin.
761 reviews108 followers
September 22, 2015
I. Want. This. Book.

Okay, so I got it. Read it. Meh. It does have its moments, which mainly have to do with the lengths some of the faithful would go to obtain a holy relic:

"A number of [Saint Francis Xavier's] toes are missing, one of them having been bitten off in 1544 by a Portuguese lady named Donna Isabel de Carom, who refused to return the relic."

I know, right? There is more, much more of this stuff. The whole book is, in fact, mostly about pious sisters, brothers, archbishops, doctors, laymen sawing bones, chipping bones, cutting off parts of flesh, pulling on intestines, carving out hearts and whatnot. Hardly any of the saints have been left to wait for the Judgement Day in one piece. The picture I had of Saint Catherine Labouré holding the rosary in her clasped hands? Gone forever: forget about the hands, they're made of wax, the real hands have been chopped off in the 1930s and are kept separately. Holy f*ck.

There are also various bodily fluids, mostly blood and oil, which are for linens and pieces of cloth to be dipped in and used in various cures, and as relics, of course. The oils, which sometimes are noticed seeping from the tombs, are apparently possessed of good smell. Like what, exactly? Who determines how good is the smell of this kind of effluvia, and good compared to what? It really boggles the mind. Is it something akin to fish oil they use in Thai cuisine? Fish oil smells bad, but is good for cooking, so people react well to it. Maybe they react well to the oil of saints, because they know it's something good?

The most interesting part is that most of the bodies do succumb to "corruption" at the end, after 50, 75, or 100 or more years. None of them seems to be truly incorrupt and not mummified either. The book, contrary to the subtitle, is not really "a study of incorruption in the bodies", in fact, it is merely a biographical listing of saints/blessed/venerables, with short excerpts from autopsy reports or chronicles etc. It is also very insensitive, people of other faiths are called heathens, heretics and such, and similar phenomena of incorruption etc. in other religions are totally dismissed. Photos are of very bad quality, except for Saint Bernadette on the cover, but she is the chief of the sales department here, you understand.

PS. I would totally read a book about Donna Isabel de Carom. What the heck, I might write it one day.

PPS. I just wanted to add that the author is very much mistaken about this stuff being exclusively in the domain of the Catholic Church. The Orthodox churches also know this phenomenon. Check out the Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Russia (the elder sister of the last Russian empress, Alexandra). Her body was also not corrupted, complete with oozing of the oils and stuff.
Profile Image for Amanda.
730 reviews25 followers
May 28, 2008
Very interesting information about the saints whose bodies are incorruptible.

I learned a lot. Although many of the bodies did not decomposed for several hundreds of years, they later did.

It upset me a little that body parts are often cut off of the incorrupt bodies as relics. If God allows a body to be incorrupt, who are we to cut it up? I don't get that.

Profile Image for Kara ✨.
270 reviews38 followers
January 3, 2023
I finally finished this book after months of reading about a few saints a day. I now have many more beautiful and brave saints to look up to.

What I thought I’d learn from this book: how to be a better Catholic, cool stories of amazing people.

What I did learn: how brutally and unceasingly Catholics have been mistreated, how mostly woman have been mutilated and martyred since Ancient Roman times, how strong they were to never give up on their faith.

Still a win I guess.
228 reviews2 followers
June 17, 2021
The author has done the research well so we can learn about and appreciate the many incorruptible saints over the years. We may not know why God chooses to preserve some, but that he does is indisputable.
1 review
June 23, 2021
"The Incorruptibles" is an amazing book that describes the 102 Saints' exhumed bodies that have no decay. These are probably the most scientifically impossible modern day miracles to try to explain away. The natural preservation of these Saints' bodies after being dead many, many years is a particular problem for skeptics. However, for believers, it's a foretaste of the Resurrection. My website covers The Incorruptibles: www.clevercatholic.com

To those who believe, no explanation is necessary. To those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice.
Profile Image for Jaime.
1,013 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2018
Very interesting indeed but the parts about some of the saints having pieces of their body removed for relics and some stolen for I guess what they call souvenirs really upsets me. Don’t have an issue with special monuments but feel that the bodies should be left alone. Miraculous or not it’s still just the vessel. The soul is home with Christ so while we honor their memory and religious life lived let’s not get entrapped or obsessed with the body. Just my take, and yes I am Catholic.
Profile Image for Christine Calabrese.
Author 10 books15 followers
March 7, 2022
Well, this book basically proves that the Catholic Faith is the real deal. I know of no, incorruptibles in any other faith. Fascinating! These Saints also often exude fluid, sweat, a blood all healing for the faithful. It also shows us that as Our Lord gives Himself in the Eucharist, that the body as the temple of the Holy Ghost is a REAL temple for these Saints and holds treasures of LIFE.

A beautiful book, get it, read it and meditate on this. Our Lord shows us that He LOVES us through these beautiful Saints and hold FAST to the FAITH!

If you are protestant, you might want to read this and wonder.
Profile Image for Elaina .
189 reviews
December 13, 2017
I am not Catholic but I am interested in death and dead things and this book caught my attention. It is exactly what it says it is, an encyclopedia of blessed corpses. I liked reading it. But I am kind of weird.
Profile Image for Jaime Vicente.
3 reviews
September 25, 2009
I read this wayback my highschool years and was really amazed.. young and naive as I was.. Then the dream of traveling to these places where the Incorruptibles are kept unfolded.
141 reviews1 follower
February 12, 2019
As a Catholic, I will admit I do not know as much about the saints as I should, so this book enlightened me much on the topic of the incorruptible saints and beati. I had heard of the phenomenon before (I chose Bernadette as my confirmation name), but I had not known how often incorruptability occurred or that it seemed to occur differently for each one. The lives of the incorruptibles and their various stages and/or lack of decomposition were fascinating, and I think it is an important topic for all, Catholic or not.

Upon finishing the book, however, I am left with many questions, perhaps more than I started with, some of which show the devil's advocate in me, some of which are not answerable by the author, as follows:
The author mentioned that some incorruptibles were found later to have decomposed--if they were truly incorruptible, how can this be? How can they still be considered incorruptible?
Why are some saints incorruptible, while others are not? In other words, what do the incorruptibles have in common?
This book was written decades ago now at the time I write my review--how many of the incorruptibles are still found to be so?
Is it possible there are more incorruptibles than we are aware of, such as those who were never relocated and thus found to be incorrupt by accident?
Have there ever been any incorruptible people found who were NOT Catholic saints?
What were all the incorruptible saints patrons of? The author mentioned some, but not all, so I am left to wonder if some saints do not get to be patrons of a certain cause.

Despite my questions, I think the author did a great job researching and (briefly) presenting the incorruptibles, most certainly the hardest to believe religious topic.
Profile Image for Nic.
282 reviews4 followers
February 26, 2023
I've been curious about this book for years and I've finally had the chance to read it. 3 stars, because it's not stellar writing - just puts the facts out there. But....oh, such interesting, fascinating facts. You can't just sit and read it through, because it's case after case after case, and they will all run together. I found it best to read about a few saints per sitting.

The book's cover photo of St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes is of one of the better preserved incorruptibles. It's amazing! She looks like she's sleeping and will just open up her eyes at any moment. Here are some enticing facts about St. Bernadette:

The body was first exhumed thirty years after her death. On September 22, 1909, in the presence of representatives appointed by the postulators of the cause, two doctors, and the sisters of the community, the coffin was removed by workmen from the place where it had been entombed thirty years before. On opening the lid, they discerned no odor and the virginal body lay exposed, completely victorious over the laws of nature.
Although the clothing was damp, and sawdust and charcoal surrounded the body, the arms and face were completely unaffected and had maintained their natural skin tone. The teeth were barely visible through the slightly parted lips and the eyes appeared somewhat sunken. Her perfect hands held a rosary which had become rusty, and the crucifix which lay upon her breast was coated with verdigris.

Other tidbits:

St. Rita of Cascia 1381-1457:
...there is still growing in the courtyard the five hundred-year-old vine, which owes its existence to an incident in the Saint's early religious life. To test her obedience, her superior ordered Rita to plant a certain piece of dry wood and to water it each day. The stick eventually sprouted into a healthy grape vine, which still bears fruit. Each year the harvest is distributed among high ranking ecclesiastics, while the leaves are dried, made into a powder, and sent to the sick around the world. (132-133)

The intact body of St. Rita of Cascia, "Saint of Impossible and Desperate Cases," displayed in a glass case in the Basilica of St. Rita in Cascia, Italy. She died in 1457: her body has shifted positions several times, plus the eyes have opened and closed unaided. (134)

Blessed Eustochia Calafato 1434-1485:
Perhaps the most dramatic miracle performed by the Beata, who had so often protected the city from damaging earthquakes, occurred in 1615, when the city was shaken day and night by almost constant vibrations. The senate and people of the city petitioned the sisters to pray to Bl. Eustochia for protection. The sisters removed the perfectly preserved body from the oratory where it had been conserved for almost a hundred fifty years and placed it in an upright position in her old choir stall. After they had charged Eustochia to pray for the protection of the city, the lips of the obedient Beata opened and her voice was heard chanting the first verse of the Psalm of the Night Office. The sisters, completely terrified, nevertheless joined in the recitation and bowed their heads during the Gloria in unison with the Blessed. The earthquake is reported to have ceased at that moment.
Still preserved at the Monastero Montevergine is the perfectly preserved body of the Beata. Although darkened after the lapse of five centuries, the body is nonetheless perfect in every respect, with the two fingers of the right hand poised in an attitude of perpetual blessing.

St. John of God 1495-1550:
He founded the order of the hospitalliers. I've been curious about the history of the hospitalliers for some time, and I've discovered it in this book, which makes me quite happy. A very small Catholic hospital in northern Wisconsin still hires hospitaliers. In 1886, Leo XIII declared this saint, with St. Camillus de Lellis, the patron of hospitals and the sick, and in 1930, Pope Pius XI extended the patronage to include nurses. (171)

St. Philip Neri 1515-1595:
The night following his saintly passing, several physicians officiated at the autopsy, during which the viscera were set aside. The doctors opened his chest, which played a prominent part in one of the Saint's most remarkable mystical experiences. The day before Pentecost in the year 1544, while meditating in the catacombe of St. Sebastian, he had felt in an extraordinary way "filled with God". The doctors found that the swelling which had existed since that experience was caused by two broken ribs which were raised to form an arch over his enlarged heart. The pulmonary artery was very large, but the other organs appeared normal. They could not explain how the Saint had lived without experiencing extreme pain, and after a lengthy examination and a detailed consultation, they attested in the form of a written oath that the cause was supernatural and miraculous.(210-211)

Venerable Mother Maria of Jesus 1560-1640
The fragrant odor of jasmines and roses presaged the discovery of the incorrupt body of Venerable Mother Maria of Jesus at the opening of her sepulcher in 1929. To the amazement of witnesses, it was found that the body had exuded an oil which saturated her garments and kept the skin constantly moist. this mysterious oil and other wonders were declared to be unexplainable by the attending physicians and distinguished men of science who were present.(235)

Joan Carrol Cruz ends the book with this appropriate quote from St. Cyril of Jerusalem: "Even when the soul is gone, power and virtue remain in the bodies of the saints because of the righteous souls which have dwelt in them."

The miracle and mystery of the incorruption of the saints continues today. Saint Josephine Bakhita, who died on Feb. 8, 1947, lies incorrupt in a glass coffin. Pope John Paul II canonized her on Oct. 1st, 2000, and she is the Patron Saint of Sudan. Her's is a fascinating, beautiful story, too. Also, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who died in Sept. 1968. He was exhumed 40 years after his death, on March 2, 2008, and found incorrupt. Fascinating!
118 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2022
I would not consider this "pleasure" reading, but more of a test of faith. As a cradle Catholic, I grew up learning about saints, but this reference source challenges my naivety: Saint Charles Borromeo is named a cardinal by Pope Pius IV, his uncle, even though Charles was not even a priest? Saint Frances Xavier's dead body is mutilated to "satisfy the many demands for relics from around the world?" Saint Rita of Cascia prays for the deaths of her two sons before they can avenge the murder of their abusive father? (And the two sons do die!) Of course, God's ways are not "our ways," but, for me, this was a challenging read. (And I missed Saint Padre Pio's inclusion in this text.)
Another issue I had was the syntax of some of the writing. The text is heavy and dry; why compose complicated sentences that need to be read twice? (Ex: First sentence of "Venerable Catalina de Cristo," p. 170).
I admire the research that the author pursued to write this reference text, and I even appreciate the spiritual challenges presented through the discussion of each incorruptible. Ultimately, the reader asks, "Do I believe?"
Profile Image for Sasha  Wolf.
178 reviews17 followers
January 17, 2020
More an anthology than a study

The summary describes this as a study of the phenomenon of incorruption, but it is really a collection of short hagiographies of saints whose bodies are or at one time were incorrupt, with a brief afterword and slightly longer introduction. No explanations are offered, either of the scientific or theological questions raised by the phenomenon. Nonetheless, the accounts are quite interesting in themselves.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
690 reviews18 followers
September 27, 2022
A bit of a history lesson along with the study of the bodies of the "incorruptible" saints. The why is not explained here; just what is and the disposition of the remains of the saint. A few of the practices are quite shocking: dividing up the body as holy relics or crowning of the head. Although, not all of the bodies remained incorruptible after they were exhumed after a certain length of time. An interesting read nonetheless.
Profile Image for Trey S.
107 reviews2 followers
April 20, 2023
A great story about many of the blessed and incorruptible people in the church. How their bodies never fully decomposed and how some are still visible today. It’s tells about a lot of them. The author, I think it’s a she, is really good and a devoted Catholic which I love. You can tell she worked hard on this book. I recommend it.

4 reviews1 follower
November 29, 2019
Quite a fascinating book. One writer says he's used it to good effect for holy hour devotion. I can see how that could be. Ms. Cruz is a lovely and we'll proven author. And once again she has created an uplifting and fine book. It has stood the test of time and is a blessing.
Profile Image for Michael.
95 reviews
June 13, 2022
The evidence of these Saints incorruptibility after death is beyond scientific explanation. The modern Saints such as St Catherine Laboure and Saint Bernadette Souborous are impressive looking remains and exuding in Holiness
March 23, 2018
Good read

Good read. Enjoyed learning about each saint and how they lived their lives. The graces and faith of each one is so hopeful.
8 reviews
July 25, 2020
Very inspiring book. This one I will have to read again.
Profile Image for Maggie.
159 reviews2 followers
September 28, 2019
I think the absolute mystery and miracles that tell the Church's history are some of the most wonderful parts of the faith. I simply cannot get enough of the little factoids and details surrounding Catholicism, the fantastical elements and the regular people who don't seem so regular to a regular person like me. The Incorruptibles does a fantastic job documenting Saints of the Catholic Church who are or were at one point Incorrupt. When I had finished, I wondered how many Catholics there might be, how many Saints whose bodies are in that same state of preservation that we don't know about? This is a great book to keep around a Catholic home, to go back to the different stories and flip through the pages to remind yourself of your history. I especially liked how details about the Saint's life before death were included. It makes this a great book to learn about Saints' lives, as well as their afterlives. This is also a great book for understanding what Incorruptibility actually is. It is not a literal state of perfect preservation, although some of the Saints seemed to have been that way in their first years after death. The best thing is, that fact does not make incorruptibility any less mystifying, amazing, and convincing of Sainthood, at least for me. I recommend this book to all Catholics, of all ages, and for those interested in Catholic Saints, Catholic history, incorruptibility, and the ways that God reveals Himself on Earth.
Profile Image for L.
60 reviews1 follower
April 27, 2010
The Incorruptibles- by Joan Carroll Cruz- Written in 1977, this book chronicles the lives of all 102 Saints, Beati, and Venerables whose bodies have been discovered in the state of incorruption. The author details the investigations by the Catholic Church, and medical authorities, in documenting these bodies which lack proper decomposition. Some of the bodies were found in damp graves, or whose caskets or clothing had deteriorated around the uncorrupted bodies. Some bodies were even buried in lime to hasten decomposition, yet they remain remarkably preserved and flexible.

St Charbel Makhlouf was buried in the dirt without a coffin, his body was found floating in a mud grave during his exhumation four months after his death. His body has remained perfectly life like and flexible for more than seventy years. The oldest uncorrupted body is from saint Werburgh who died in 699. There are several bodies over a thousand years old and many hundreds of years old, 102 altogether. Regardless of your religious beliefs these are interesting stories about peoples lives and their devote faith that often lead to their death, and the unexplained preservation of their bodies. Together these remains are known as the Incorruptibles.
Profile Image for Colleen.
100 reviews17 followers
August 1, 2017
Pretty solid work.

This is not a book that you can read in just a few sittings. It is more of an encyclopedic work and is good for referring back to as a reference. I must say, I was surprised at the sheer number of saints who are/were incorruptible. Some saints have a pretty lengthy description, while others are very brief. It is a good mix of very well known saints (Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Vincent de Paul) and lesser known saints (Blessed Maria Assunta Pallotta, Blessed Mary Bagnesi).

I most certainly will read parts of this work again, though I am not sure that I would read it again from start to finish.
Profile Image for Lawrence Miquelon.
Author 2 books6 followers
June 7, 2012
Fascinating. A bit too Catholic for me but the sheer volume of accounts make this difficult to ignore. It reminds me of the verse, "Thou shall not allow thy holy one to undergo decay." I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the supernatural. You may connect some of these accounts with your own experience of the holy spirit.
37 reviews5 followers
Currently reading
August 27, 2010
A pick up and learn, put down and return later, sorta book. It examines the stages of 'corruption' of a body, the various saints whose bodies have been found incorrupt and etc. It's a lot of information, but fascinating.
Profile Image for Atlantis.
1,465 reviews
May 17, 2012
Astounding, mind-boggling collection of Catholics (some who were venterated, beatified or obtained full sainthood) whom after death their bodies did not decay in the natural way . Would recommend to anyone. Well documented and easy to read.
Profile Image for Bonnie Munn.
9 reviews
June 16, 2007
Fascinating. Easy to read, broken down into quick chapters. Very inspiring.
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