Of a monster born on this island of Hispaniola during the time that this Natural History was first written: two girls who were born joined together in this city of Santo Domingo, and how they were opened to see if there were two souls and two bodies or one.

Translated by Eliana Blam ’22

Saint Anthony, Archbishop of Florence, said in the third part of his history that in the year 1314, in the territory of the valley of Arno, a boy was born with two heads and was taken to Sancta Maria de la Escala in Florence, dying just twenty days later.[1] From what I understand, it seemed that his holy man (canonized as such and included in the catalog of saints) considered that he should, along with his other histories, make mention of events happening during his own times, and it is likewise in line with my own purpose in the Natural and General History of the Indies to make mention of another monster who lived in these parts during the time I was writing about these topics. This is something I saw myself and it is a very remarkable thing and worthy of being known in the world, for it was a work of nature that rarely happens, and it should not be forgotten. Especially because those who saw the new monster of which I write here should be glad, as should be those who read it about it here, to know that two souls rose to heaven to populate those places that Lucifer and his minions had to relinquish. These two girls who were born attached to each other received the sacrament of baptism, in accordance with the Church, and lived eight natural days conjoined in that way, without the ugliness or disgusting defects that nature usually displays in human monsters, and they were greatly admired by the many of us who saw them. These creatures were so well proportioned that, had they continued living, each could have been a beautiful woman, if not for the fact that they were joined this way.

To present the case in greater detail, I say that in this city of Santo Domingo of the Island of Hispaniola, on a Thursday night, on the tenth day of July, in the year 1533, Melchiora, wife of Johan Lopez Ballestero, neighbor of this city, both born in Seville, gave birth to two daughters joined one to the other, in the way I will describe. I saw them the next morning, along with the justice, several aldermen and other principal people, many of our neighbors, some foreigners and other people with business in this city, and some religious and learned people. While the mother was in bed and her husband present, in sight of those I have mentioned, they uncovered the creatures: they were naked, and I saw that they were joined at the chest, from above the navel until just below the breasts, so that both had a shared stem and a common navel, only one for both. From there up the girls were joined, up to a little higher than the stomachs; they had separate chests, and the breasts and everything else from there up, each with two arms and two small necks and graceful heads with pleasant expressions. From the navel below they were separated, but this conjoining was not perfectly aligned, but rather lopsided, as I will later detail. As they were unwrapped and removed from the swaddle, they both began to cry, and later when they were covered, the one fell silent and the other cried for a while longer. Their father said that when they were born they had been baptized by a clergyman, and they named one Johana and the other Melchiora; the clergy man said cautiously, baptizing one (as he baptized the other): “If you are not baptized, I will baptize you.” Because he could not determine whether they were two people and souls, or one.

On the eighteenth day of the month and year that I mentioned these girls or monsters were dead, and their parents, given that the girls had died the evening before, consented to their being opened. Having placed them on a table, Master Johan Camacho, an excellent surgeon, in the presence of medical doctors Hernando de Sepúlveda and Rodrigo Navarro, opened them with a razor at the navel, and took out all their internal organs; they had all those things that two human bodies usually have, as should be noted: two sets of entrails, their guts were different and set apart, and each had two kidneys, two lungs, each a healthy heart, and in each one a single gall bladder, except that the livers of one and the other were together and conjoined (there was a mark or line between both livers, clearly showing which belonged to each part). So when these creatures were opened, it seemed that the navel or stem that in the exterior seemed to be one, in the interior and part of the inside was divided into two tubes or stems, and each went to its body and creature, according to whom it belonged; although outside, as I said, it seemed to be only one.

And from the bottom of the cord these girls were distinct and separated from each other, bellies, hips, legs and everything else that a woman would have so perfectly, as if each one was free and separated by herself. And from the cord or navel up the girls were joined until the mouth of the stomach or a little higher; each one of them had two breasts, and the oldest of the girls had her right side more conjoined with the left side of the other girl. So that the right side of the oldest one was closer and joined with the left side of the younger than on the other part or sides, each one very distinct and entirely familiar by herself. As to the rest, from where the ribs meet over the mouth of the stomach upwards they were joined halfway to the chest; the rest was loose and separated, and their breasts, arms, necks and heads were differentiated, without missing any hands, feet, fingers or nails, nor any other feature particular to any other creature. Asking the father of this monstrosity at what time his daughters had passed away, he said that the night before, half an hour before the night was gone, the older one had expired, and that the other expired within the hour, having survived her sister exactly the same amount of time that separated them at birth. So that each lived as much in this life, out of the womb, as the other; all they saw were eight natural days in the way that has been said. He was asked if these creatures, in the time they lived, had shown any difference in feeding, and in other feelings and ways; he said that sometimes one cried and the other would be quiet. I saw this during the first time they were shown to me and others, as I have said. And he said more: that sometimes one slept and the other was awake, and that when one had a bowel movement or urinated the other would not, but that also both creatures were able to achieve one or the other at the same time, and sometimes one anticipated the other. So, it was very clearly known to be two people, and there were two souls and separate consciousness, even if they had not been opened up; but this was later verified when they were opened. And the one named Johana and the other Melchiora passed from this life to the heavenly glory, to kneel before Our Lord. I saw them alive, as I said, and I saw them opened after death; it seems to me that this is a much more unique or admirable case than the one I mentioned before, which was written by Antonio of Florence, and we should give thanks to Our Lord for the one and the other and notify those who are here and those to come.

[1] Antoninus of Florence. Chronicon partibus tribus distincta ab initio mundi ad MCCCLX. Book III, Chapter 7.