Catholic Dictionary




The temporary or prolonged preservation of a deceased body, for practical and religious reasons. Best known ancient embalming was in Egypt, some of whose mummies are relatively intact to the present day. In modern procedure, the blood is drained from a person's veins and replaced by a fluid, such as formalin, a solution of formaldehyde in water. Embalming by arterial injection became common in Western countries since the eighteen hundreds. In the early centuries, the Church rejected any form of embalming as a pagan custom, although there were notable exceptions, like Charlemagne, whose embalmed corpse was placed in a sitting position in his tomb at Aachen where he died in A.D. 814. the chief purpose of embalming is to give the deceased person a lifelike appearance for several days after death. There is no ecclesiastical legislation on the subject.