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