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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 34-36

The coronary tree of the anatomical machines of the prince of sansevero: The reality of a legend


1 Department of Heart and Great Vessels, La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy
2 Hemodinamic and ICU Division, San Luca Hospital, Vallo della Lucania, Salerno, Italy
3 Department of Internal Medicine, II University of Naples, Naples, Italy
4 Three Dimensional and Transesophageal Echocardiographic Laboratory, Cardiology Division, San Gennaro Hospital, Naples, Italy

Correspondence Address:
Domenico Galzerano
via Francesco Giordani 42, 80122, Napoli
Italy
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/2211-4122.158431

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During the 18 th century in Naples, Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, gave definitive form to the family chapel, the so-called "Cappella San Severo". The chapel houses not only extraordinarily beautiful and spectacularly detailed statues but also two human skeletons known as anatomical machines ("Macchine Anatomiche") in the basement. These two skeletons, a man and a pregnant woman, are entirely surrounded by their own circulatory system, just as they were suddenly and mysteriously, fixed. Legend, believed as truth until few years ago, tells that Prince Raimondo had prepared and injected an unknown embalming substance in their blood vessels convicting them to eternal fixity. Most recent investigations, however, demonstrated that while the bones are authentic, the blood vessels are actually an extraordinary artifact, even though the perfect reproduction of the coronary vascular tree, including congenital malformations in detail, raises some doubts about the technique used by the Prince. The dreadful aspect of these two skeletons appears to be in strident contrast with the classic beauty of the statues, which glorifies and celebrates the ideal of morphology. Conversely, the two "Anatomical Machines", protagonists of legends and superstitions since centuries, represent a marvelous example of science and art.


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