[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010. Copyright as such.]
It is a very ancient opinion that the bodies of the excommunicated do not decompose; it appears in the Life of St Libentius, Archbishop of Bremen, who died on the 4th of January, 1013. That holy prelate having excommunicated some pirates, one of them died, and was buried in Norway; at the end of seventy years they found his body entire and without decay, nor did it fall to dust until after absolution received from Archbishop Alvaridius.
The modern Greeks, to authorize their schism, and to prove that the gift of miracles, and the power of binding and unbinding, subsist in their church even more visibly and more certainly than in the Latin and Roman church, maintain that amongst themselves the bodies of those who are excommunicated do not decay, but become swollen extraordinarily, like drums, and can neither be corrupted nor reduced to ashes till after they have received absolution from their bishops or their priests. They relate divers instances of this kind of dead bodies, found uncorrupted in their graves, and which are afterwards reduced to ashes as soon as the excommunication is taken off. They do not deny, however, that the uncorrupted state of a body is sometimes a mark of sanctity, but they require that a body thus preserved should exhale a good smell, be white or reddish, and not black, offensive and swollen.
It is affirmed that persons who have been struck dead by lightning do not decay, and for that reason the ancients neither burnt them nor buried them. That is the opinion of the physician Zachias; but Paré, after Comines, thinks that the reason they are not subject to corruption is because they are, as it were, embalmed by the sulfur of the thunderbolt, which serves them instead of salt.
In 1727, they discovered in the vault of an hospital near Quebec the unimpaired corpses of five nuns, who had been dead for more than twenty years; and these corpses, though covered with quicklime, still contained blood.
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