For thousands of Catholics, the 13th-century Italian Saint Rose of Viterbo had miraculous powers that allowed her to raise someone from the dead and survive the flames of a burning pyre.
Scientists examining the saint’s mummified body now say she had a congenital heart defect that may have ultimately killed her as a teenager.
Ruggero D’Anastasio of the G. d’Annunzio University in Chieti, Italy, and colleagues analyzed pictures and X-rays of the medieval saint’s preserved heart, which looks like a petrified lump of rock.
They suspect Saint Rose died of Cantrell’s syndrome, a rare heart disorder, rather than tuberculosis, as previously thought. The research was published Friday in the British medical journal Lancet.
To get the X-rays, D’Anastasio and his team took a portable machine to Santa Rosa monastery in Viterbo, near Rome, where Saint Rose’s heart is kept in a reliquary. Her body was mummified separately.