I have succumbed to the fascination in viewing dead people. I’m not talking about funerals, but about viewing dead people who have been dead awhile, as in years and years. The recent public viewing of Padre Pio, a Catholic saint, in San Giovani Rotondo, Italy has brought back memories.
Ho Chi Minh was my first preserved body tourist attraction. Mao Zedong was the second one. I wasn’t really comparing which of the two looked better when I went back for a second gander at Ho Chi Minh, but preservation has treated him better, in my opinion. Neither of these former leaders looked real, though–more like odd wax dolls.
Of all the interesting sites one can see in Beijing and Hanoi, the draw to their mausoleums is impressive. Tourists line up in the midst of people who come for patriotic, reverent reasons. The pomp of such attractions interests me as much as the attractions do themselves. Each place has rules to follow. For example, line up single file and check your umbrella. There are no umbrellas allowed Ho Chih Minh’s masouleum from what I recall. I have a memory of chekcing mine.
The changing of the guards and the hushed tones as people file past the glass sarcophagus, perhaps thinking how similar the glass case reminds one of the fairytale Sleeping Beauty, also add to the mood. But, there will be no waking up here. There is no lingering, no stepping back for a second glance. When one walks past Mao and Minh, it’s in single file at a steady slow pace and then, whoosh, you’re out the door.
In San Giovani Rotondo, it looks like people have some time to linger for a decent look at Padre Pio–even snap a photo. Padre Pio, was a mystic monk who is said to have had stigmata, bleeding on his hands and feet, similar to where Jesus’ wounds would have been. Death seems to have taken the stigmata away. There aren’t even traces.
The picture I saw of Padre Pio startled me at first. “Wow! he looks great,” I thought, but then read that the face is covered by a silicon mask made to look like his face. Evidently, his actual face isn’t quite as pristine. It’s not clear how long the saint will be on view before he’s buried again.
One of these days, I may head to see Lenin. His is the first body to have been preserved for generations to come. There are rumors that perhaps all of his body parts aren’t real anymore, even though these bodies go through special cleanings to keep them in shape for onlookers and admirers.
The photo by steepways is tagged as Lenin’s death mask. If I’m feeling ambitious, there’s Kim Il-sung, the former North Korean leader. He’s in Pyongyang. Neil has been there as chronicled in his series “Infiltrating North Korea.” Here’s a post on Kim to get you in the mood.