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Observations placeholder

Venerable Serafina di Dio - She lost great quantities of blood through the nostrils or by the mouth



Type of Spiritual Experience


Friar Herbert Thurston was a Catholic priest, a member of the Jesuit order and an historian.  He wrote extensively on Catholic mysticism and psychic phenomena and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research.  He was also widely read on this subject.  He is described as ‘an honest skeptic’., and once said ‘the role of Devil’s advocate is a thankless one and does not make for popularity’.

A description of the experience

Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism

The venerable Serafina di Dio, a Carmelite nun of Capri, died in 1699. Her Life, which was written by the two Oratorian Fathers, Sguillante and Pagani, was published at Rome in 1748. They seem to have based it almost entirely upon the evidence furnished in the process of beatification. In this biography we read:

Her nuns say that they have often seen her-for example, when she was in prayer, or after Communion-with her face glowing like a flame and her eyes sparkling. It scorched them if they touched her, even in winter time and even when she was quite old, and they declared that they had repeatedly heard her say that she was consumed with a living fire and that her blood was boiling.

Her throat, palate and lips became so parched that it was necessary to cool them with fresh water; but this expedient by no means sufficed to allay the burning she felt. . . .

The doctors, who did not understand the cause of her sufferings, applied many kinds of cooling remedies and frequently bled her; while our Saviour Himself, in order to give her some relief especially when these blood-boilings (li bollori del sangue) lasted for two or three days, as was often the case at times when she entertained an intense desire to die a martyr, so disposed matters that she lost great quantities of blood through the nostrils or by the mouth.

It was a matter of intense astonishment to all observers to see a body so emaciated as hers lose such a vast quantity of blood without being incapacitated for everyday duties.

But the most striking phenomenon recorded in the Life of the Venerable Serafina is the statement made regarding her holy remains after she breathed her last:

For the space of twenty hours the body retained so great a heat, particularly in the region of the heart, that one could comfortably warm one's hand by holding it there, as many of the nuns discovered on making the experiment, Indeed, the warmth was perceptible for thirty-three hours after death, though somewhat less in degree, in spite of the fact that the month was March and the weather chilly.  The corpse did not completely lose its heat until it had been opened  and the heart extracted.

One's first instinct is to conclude that the nuns and their doctor must have been mistaken in supposing that life was extinct, but there are a good many similar cases, and … mystics, after long and exhausting illnesses, were peculiarly exposed to the danger of being buried alive.

The source of the experience

Other religious person

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Nose bleeds

Activities and commonsteps