Vatican City

Vatican City, a city-state surrounded by Rome, Italy, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It's home to the Pope and a trove of iconic art and architecture. Its Vatican Museums house ancient Roman sculptures such as the famed “Laocoön and His Sons” as well as Renaissance frescoes in the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling.

The body of John XXIII, perfectly preserved since his death in 1963, entombed in a glass coffin.

The pope’s body is the most prominent example of a four-decade experiment by the Church to sustain its holy relics. With Ancient Egypt’s mummification process as inspiration, the Vatican had an elite team of embalmers preserve 31 “saints, beatified, and servants of God” between 1975 and 2008.

The project, which tragically proved fatal to many of those who worked on it, is a bridge between heaven and earth. “The bodies and body parts of these holy individuals,” says one embalmer, “kept like a work of art.”

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