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The smell of saintliness

One way to tell whether you are dealing with a saint is to sniff them. Osmogenesia, or the Odour of Sanctity, is the sweet and pure aroma that Christian saints and even their dead bodies are said to produce. The floral fragrance of a medieval saint was in vivid contrast to the body odours of others, who were told perfume was sinful and bathing a health hazard. The past was a place of smells both divine and disgusting.

Words by Ben Gazur

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About the author

Black and white photo of Ben Gazur

Ben Gazur


Dr Ben Gazur has a PhD in biochemistry but gave up the glamour of the lab to be a freelance writer. He specialises in history, science, and the history of science. Ben Gazur is a writer and author. His book about food folklore is currently being crowdfunded. If you support it, you will get your name printed in the book. Click here to find out more.