Locals in the village of Venzone, Italy were perplexed for centuries by a strange thing happening to their deceased. Bodies placed in the tombs under the village’s cathedral hardly decayed at all.
In fact, they still looked very much like their former, living selves decades later. The reason for their near perfect mummification was a mystery…until recently.
For centuries, villagers were burying their dead in the tombs under the village’s cathedral. In 1647, while some of the bodies in the tomb were rearranged, villagers discovered the first of around 40 mummies beneath the cathedral. As you might imagine, these almost-perfectly preserved mummies baffled the villagers. For many years, it remained a mystery as to why the bodies mummified the way that they did. In the years following this discovery, the mummies became a regional attraction. Legend has it that even Napoleon paid Venzone a visit to see them. According to some stories, villagers would occasionally visit the tombs to remove and visit with their deceased loved ones. Thanks to modern science, we now know why the bodies beneath the cathedral mummified this way. The culprit is a parasitic fungus living in the tombs called Hypha tombicina. Hypha tombicina rapidly dehydrates the bodies before they can begin to decompose.