Published on January 3rd, 2017 | by Mark Chesnut
The Mystery of the Mummy Girl in the Guadalajara Cathedral
A mysterious, centuries-old mummified girl is one of the most attention-getting people in the historic center of Guadalajara, Mexico.
She’s located in the Catedral de la Asunción de María Santísima, which is commonly called simply the Guadalajara Cathedral in English. The church itself is a major landmark and tourist attraction, with elegant, Neo-Gothic bell towers that date to 1854, sitting atop a 17th-century, Spanish Renaissance-style building (multiple earthquakes over the years have necessitated changes and rebuilds on some parts of the cathedral).
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The cathedral is home to various altars, as well as the remains of three cardinals and multiple bishops (there’s even the heart of a Mexican president here). But it’s the mummified remains of one little girl — known only as Santa Inocencia, or Saint Innocence — who attracts the most curious gazes, as well as some of the most passionate prayers from visitors. The glass case containing her body, located near the front entrance of the church, never fails to attract attention.
The true story behind how Santa Inocencia arrived to rest publicly in Guadalajara’s cathedral is open to debate. According to one legend, the girl was stabbed to death in Mexico in the 1700s by her father, who, disapproving of her interest in Catholicism, was enraged when she received the Eucharist without his permission. After the father disappeared, neighbors found the girl’s body and carried it — still wearing the white dress she’d worn for the religious service — to the cathedral, where it remains to this day.
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Another story — the one told on the small sign in the cathedral — claims that the remains of the little girl were taken out of a cemetery in Rome in 1786, and sent in 1788 to Don Vicente Flores Alatorre, a Catholic church dignitary who taught divinity at the Guadalajara cathedral. Flores gave the remains to the Agustinas de Santa Monica convent in Guadalajara. After the convent shut down, the Diocesan seminary began using the facility in 1869, and seminary members found the little girl’s remains in the chapel. The seminary was evicted and moved to the San Sebastián de Analco temple in 1915, taking Santa Inocencia along to the new location. When the seminarians were kicked out of that site too, in 1924, the Archbishop D. Francisco Orozco y Jiménez decided that the body should be moved to the Guadalajara cathedral. Santa Inocencia took her current place in the cathedral in 1925.
Additional information from that line of the story — though not on the public signage — claims that the girl was tortured and killed by Roman Legionnaires when Christianity started rising in Europe — or that she was killed by her father in Rome after converting to Christianity, after which her body was placed in the Roman catacombs before its long trip to Guadalajara.
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Today, Santa Inocencia rests, doll-like in a white dress, in a glass case. Some devout Catholics visit her to pray and ask for miracles. Santa Inocencia gained more fame around the globe when, in 2012, a visitor posted a video on YouTube that supposedly showed the little girl opening her eyes.
While that video has likely been doctored to create the dramatic effect, the complete truth about Santa Inocencia’s brief life, sudden death and legendary presence in the Guadalajara Cathedral will likely never be fully known.