January 02, 2007

Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

It's a little maudlin for a start-of-the-year post, I know, but it's just too weird not to blog.

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo are a museum of the Sicilian dead. This unsettling collection of skeletons and mummified corpses, preserved in their everyday clothing, began in 1599 as a repository for dead friars but soon grew to include local luminaries. The bodies were dried and washed with vinegar. Some were embalmed. Others were allowed to decompose into mere skeletons. Some were carefully posed. Others were hung from the walls. Relatives paid annual upkeep dues to keep their dead loved ones properly propped up in desirable niches. The corpses of recalcitrant relatives were shelved in a less dignified manner. The bodies are catalogoued in seven halls: Men, Women, Virgins, Children, Priests, Monks, and Professionals. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa is among the noted Sicilians entombed in the catacombs.

Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society :: Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo


carlachi said...

Maybe you'll like this:
look at the crypt: all decoration are made by bones!
I like your blog!
Bye and happy new year

BB said...

Oh, my gosh, Carla. What a tip. That is WILD. It must be an amazing (and incredibly eerie) thing to see in person. I'll have to look this up on flickr for some better photos... thanks so much!

claire said...

There's also the fantastic ossuary in the Czech Republic. Jan Svankmeyer made a short film about it.


claire said...

Here's a better link to the video...


Kat said...

OMG you didn't know about the catacombs? There's tons more pics here: