If you’re looking for macabre attractions, there is no place quite like Rome, thanks to the Catholic tradition of preserving and displaying relics of canonized saints for all the world to see. And there is no place in Rome quite as marvelous as the Santa Maria della Vittoria for that reason.
While relics are often just parts of saints, this beautiful baroque church displays the full corpse of an “incorruptible saint” in a glass case you can walk right up to to view—a rarity in Rome. This is the preserved corpse of the beautiful Saint Victoria.
Incorruptible bodies are those believed to not succumb to the normal process of decomposition by way of divine intervention. But Saint Victoria’s body needed a little help. Her incomplete corpse was supplemented with wax and hair and clothes from someone else entirely, adorned with a crown of roses.
Saint Victoria, the patron of Anticoli, Italy, was an early christian martyr. She is one of many examples of faithful Catholic women who were killed after spurning a powerful pagan suitor. You can see her skeleton through some parts of the wax facade, such as her teeth and parts of her hand.
Her body now lies in the only completed structure designed by the Baroque architect Carlo Maderno. The church, established by Pope Pius VII in 1801, was featured in Dan Brown’s novel Angels and Demons, which has increased tourism a great deal since it was released in 2000.
Know Before You Go
This is a free church to visit, as are most in Rome.