Death becomes them: the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo

Posted by Patrice Tuohy
Wednesday 28, October 2009 | Category:  


Looking for a scary place to visit on Halloween or for a Day of the Dead celebration? How about the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo in Sicily featuring thousands of well-preserved corpses of the souls of the faithful departed.

Located below a Capuchin Monastery, the underground cemetery was dug in the late 16th century initially to house deceased monks. Later, the Capuchins, an order dedicated to service to the poor, opened the catacombs to the general populace and took in those who otherwise could not afford such a burial. According to recent AP story, some 8,000 mummies are stacked ceiling-high in the corridors of the catacombs, lying in open niches, or propped up in a standing position, many still dressed in their original clothes. Monks wearing dark frocks, priests in sacred vestments, aristocrats in their best Sunday dress, and the poor in rags as well as young children resting in their cribs were all buried in the catacombs.

Today, the mummies may give visitors the creeps or encourage sobering reflections on mortality, but in the cemetery's heyday they were a comforting presence for relatives and friends who could visit their loved ones, pray by their side, and care for the body.

You can find the Capuchin Catacombs at Piazza Cappuccini, 1, Palermo, Sicily. They're open daily, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Entrance fee is €1.50. More info at Sacred Destinations website.

For information of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in the U.S., view their VISION listing by click here, and typing in keyword "Capuchin" or code 091.

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts



Click on a date below to see the vocation events happening that day!