Monday, 18 June 2012

Palermo: the Capuchin catacomb

One of the strangest places I have ever visited is the Capuchin catacomb in Palermo, Sicily. Such places were not uncommon in Europe in the later Middle Ages, and visitors would wander round these collections of bones much as we did. Few survive nowadays. This one is unusual in that it did not receive its first corpse till the end of the 16th century.

After being allowed to dry out, the corpses were dressed in their best clothes and then arranged for display by gender and profession. Most of them were drawn from the upper classes of Palermo, though one American consul was placed here at his own request. Hardly any corpses were added after the early 1880s.

The displays of very young children are a particular feature.

The highlight, if one may use such a term, is the "Bambina": a liitle girl called Rosalia, who died in 1920 but is so well preserved that it looks as if she has just fallen asleep.

The overall effect I found gruesome, but surprisingly unfrightening. But I was going around with a large group of tourists, in bright electric lighting: I suspect it could have been rather different if I had been on my own with only a flickering candle for illumination!

1 comment:

  1. Could you please contact me? I have a question about your ghost stories. Many thanks. Björn