Capuchin Catacombs Of Palermo

By | July 27, 2019

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Capuchin Catacombs. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and it seems there is a tourist attraction for every interest. History buffs might visit one of the many ruins from the ancient world, such as Machu Picchu, alien enthusiasts might visit one of the tourist attractions near Area 51, and Disney lovers might visit one of the many theme parks around the globe. And for those whose interests lean more to the macabre, there are places like the Capuchin Monastery Catacombs located in the Sicilian city of Palermo.

Sicily has long been reputed to have a fascination with death, being one of the only places where professional mourners still exist. So, it should come as no surprise that it is also the home of a place where the dead are not buried but are instead put on display. While the Capuchin Monastery looks like a normal building on the outside, it is home to thousands of corpses, dressed in formal attire, not sealed in tombs as they would be in a mausoleum, but instead pinned to the walls, sitting on benches and shelves, or lying in open coffins.

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Capuchin Monastery Church. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

The catacombs were created in the late 16th century. A monk by the name of Brother Silvestro of Gubbio had recently died, but the cemetery at the Capuchin Monastery was full. Rather than expanding the cemetery, the monks chose to excavate the crypts below the cemetery and planned to exhume and move several of the bodies from the already overcrowded tombs. During the exhumation process, they discovered forty-five bodies had been naturally mummified. They believed this to be an act of God and chose to display, rather than bury, their fallen brother. His body is still on display at the entrance of the catacombs and is the oldest corpse to be preserved there.