Room of Saint Paul of the Cross, Rome
‘About twelve o’clock on the following morning [19 October 1775], they carried the body down the inner staircase into the Basilica, chanting as they went along the solemn prayers of the ritual. They placed it in the centre of the church without any pomp and only four torches burning around it. No sooner were the doors opened than numbers of persons crowded in, anxious to obtain a sight of the remains, and, in spite of the unfavourable state of the weather, in a very short time the church was quite full. Nobles and plebeians, ecclesiastics and seculars, all were equally eager to approach the corpse of the servant of God to kiss his hand and to take away with them some part of his habit or a portion of his hair. This was carried to such an extent that, to prevent the body being completely stripped, they were obliged to form an enclosure around it with benches, and a German cavalier, a great friend of Father Paul, stood within to protect the body and to distribute little pieces of the clothes. The same concourse of people and the same devout enthusiasm continued throughout the day. All this time Masses were being celebrated by our Fathers and by several other priests who, out of affection for the departed, wished to offer the Holy Sacrifice for his soul. Among these the most distinguished were Cardinal Boschi, the Titular of the church, Bishop Marcucci, the Vicegerent, and Bishop Tiberio Ruffo. At ten o’clock Office for the Dead was chanted by the whole community, and High Mass sung, followed by the customary absolutions. It was a beautiful and moving sight to see the multitude of people remaining unweariedly in the church, weeping and praying and reminding one another of the heroic deeds of him whom they already considered a saint. It was more touching still to see that pale and placid corpse lying upon the boards in the habit of penance with ashes sprinkled upon the head and a crucifix clasped in the hands – it seemed to bring so vividly before all eyes the road of mortification, abjection, and contempt of the world through which he had so faithfully trod in the footsteps of his crucified Lord. There was a glory on his countenance which made those marvel who gazed upon it and forced them to exclaim, “A Saint is dead!” One holy priest of spotless life noticed when he took Father Paul’s hand to kiss it that there came from his virginal body an odour of ineffable sweetness. He confidently mentioned this circumstance to the attendant who had waited upon him, asking if he had poured any scented water upon the corpse. The brother replied that nothing of the kind had been near it.
‘In the evening of the 19th of October, the remains were placed in a wooden coffin, which was to be enclosed in a case of lead, according to the command of His Holiness. Bishop Marcucci then ordered the church to be cleared, but it was found impossible to send all the people away. Many insisted on remaining, among them several persons of distinction. The doors were closed and a plaster cast was taken of the venerable Father’s head, after which the coffin was carried to a room called the sepulchre, at the bottom of the basilica on the left side of the entrance, opposite those holy remains.’
(Saint Vincent Mary Strambi, Life of Father Paul of the Cross)