The Body

The Reliquary

St. Maria’s remains are inside a glass-sided casket.  Inside the casket is a wax statue within which repose her skeletal remains.

The Reliquary of St. Maria Goretti

None of her sacred remains are visible.  Nevertheless, the skeleton is complete save for some small fragments that have been taken for placement in altars and for use in the Church’s ministry (e.g., in exorcism).  In addition, her mother permitted her right arm to be donated to the Church of St. Nicholas (now known as the Sanctuary of St. Maria Goretti) in her birth town of Corinaldo.  It was with her right arm that Maria defended her purity and prevented Alessandro Serenelli from raping her.  The arm is contained within a reliquary above the high altar as can be seen in the following pictures.

The Statue

The statue was created by artists after her likeness.  Their model was a portrait painted by the artist Giuseppe Brovelli-Soffredini according to the physical description provided by her mother.  As there were no photographs ever taken of the saint, the artist had nothing but the mother’s description to rely upon.

Nevertheless, of all the artistic representations of her daughter, Maria’s mother stated that this portrait most resembled her little girl.

Is St. Maria Goretti’s Body Incorrupt?

It is often incorrectly reported that St. Maria’s body is “incorrupt”.  The bodies of some saints are miraculously preserved from decomposition.  Perhaps the most famous example of this phenomenon is St. Bernadette Soubirous (the visionary to whom our Blessed Mother appeared at Lourdes).  More information on St. Bernadette can be found here.  Why does God grant that some saints’ bodies experience incorruption but not others?  Signs are given by God according to their need.  The sign of incorruptibility is hinted at in Psalm 16:

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

St. Peter quotes this same passage in Acts 2:25-27, and applies it specifically to Jesus.  And so now, following Christ, who is “the first born from the dead” (Colossians 1:18), we know that this promise applies to us as well.  In other words, the incorruptible bodies of certain saints are signs of the life to come, where there will be no death: they point to what awaits us.

Nevertheless, possession of the property of incorruptibility does not mean that one saint is holier than another.  The bodies of the Apostles are not incorrupt.  Neither is that of St. John the Baptist, of whom Our Lord Himself said that no man is greater (Matt 11:11).

St. Maria Goretti’s body is not incorrupt.  It experienced natural degradation when it was interred in the cemetery of Nettuno, Italy, following her murder.  Thus, making this pilgrimage is not her flesh but simply her skeletal remains.

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