If you ever intent to visit the Italian island Sicily, make sure you’ll visit the Capuchin Catacombs (Catacombe dei Cappuccini) in Palermo. Here you’ll find a collection of more than 8000 partly mummified bodies that have been put here up to 90 years ago. In this place you’ll be facing your inevitable future, which is terrifying for most. And it’s a little haunted, too.
Before 1599, the dead people of the city of Palermo were buried near the monastery, but the monastery’s graveyard became too full. Another resting place needed to be found quickly. A good sollution was to place the dead inro the crypt underneath the monastery. Normally, these catacombs were only reserved for monks and clergymen. The first person to be placed inside the Catacombe dei Cappuccini was a monk by the name of Silvestro da Gubbio in 1599. He was placed upright so he wouldn’t take too much space. Later, people were also layed to rest on shelves and in glass coffins. The higher the living standards, the more comfortable the position. Some bodies were even completely embalmed, while others were only washed in vinagar. Not that it mattered, though. The extremely dry air in the catacombs preserved all bodies in a remarkable way.
The bodies are all well categorized: doctors alongside doctors, women alongside women, men alongside men and children alongside children (if not placed along their families). Relatives can visit the catacombs to spend time with their deceased loved-ones. They are even allowed to hold hands (that is if their hands are still there). Some of the dead in the Catacombe dei Cappuccini have tormented facial expressions which are not pleasant to see. This can be blamed on gravity in most of the cases, because the lower jaw tends to drop down when a body is placed upright. But, according to some these tormented faces have whole different reason: the dead can’t find rest because they have to stand after death.
One of the last people to be buried at the Catacombe dei Cappuccini is little Rosalia Lombardo. She was only two years old when she passed away in 1929 due to pneumonia. Her inconsolable father gave professor Alfredo Salafia the order to preserve his daughter as well as he could. And he did. Rosalia looks as if she’s about to wake up any minute after a short nap. Her glass coffin is found in the Santa Rosalia Chapel. That’s right, the chapel is named after her. Some people claim Rosalia is able to open her eyes. Is that for real or just because she looks so much alive? Unfortunately, Salafia himself died in 1933 and he took his embalming secret along with him in his grave.
Clothes are everything
Clothes are very important to many people. Clothes give status to a person: it shows others how rich and successful they are. Even after death. Most people in the Catacombe dei Cappuccini have put in their will how they wanted to be dressed after death. Some even demanded their clothes to be changed every now and then. That task was for the family members. Not an easy job, because some bodies were so dry they fell apart during the proces.
The catacombs today
You can visit the Catacombe dei Cappuccini when you are in Palermo. Please make sure to take a sweater or a vest with you, because it’s rather cold in the underground hallways. But even if that weren’t the case… You’d have goose bumps anyway.
Do you want to read more stories about haunted plases in Europe? Click here!
Cover photo: Stanislavskyi via Shutterstock
Sources: wikipedia, palermocatacombs.com, atlasobscura.com, wearepalermo.com and theculturetrip.com.
Address: Piazza Cappuccini, 1, 90129 Palermo PA, Italy