Cangrande’s carefully carved sarcophagus was opened so that his body could be studied by scientists: Credit: Courtesy of Gino Fornaciari
Forensic scientists in Italy have uncovered a mummy murder mystery.
A Renaissance-era warlord who dropped dead in 1329 wasn’t killed by a nasty stomach illness, as had been previously suspected; he was actually poisoned, an autopsy of his corpse reveals.
Scientists say they’ve found traces of digitalis, or foxglove — a beautiful but potentially heart-stopping plant — in the digestive tract of Cangrande della Scala of Verona.
At the time of his death, Cangrande had a grip on an impressive chunk of northern Italy. He ruled Verona, and through successful military campaigns, he conquered the nearby cities of Vicenza, Padua and Treviso.
And Cangrande wasn’t just a powerful leader in battle; a true Renaissance man, he was also the leading patron of the poet Dante Alighieri.
On July 18, 1329, Cangrande made a triumphant entrance into Treviso, months after taking control of the city. But days later, he fell ill, with symptoms that included vomiting, fever and diarrhea.
He died on July 22, 1329, at the age of 38.
Historical sources from that time said Cangrande died after drinking from a polluted spring.
There were also rumors that Cangrande was intentionally poisoned, but Gino Fornaciari, a paleopathology researcher from the University of Pisa, who led the new study, told Live Science that he considered that possibility a legend.