Friday, 5 April 2013

Museum of the dead in Palermo


Continue heading "Post from the past" Catacombs of the Capuchins (Italian Catacombe dei Cappuccini) - burial catacombs located in the city of Palermo in Sicily, in which the clear remains of more than eight thousand people, most of the local elite and prominent citizens - the clergy , the aristocracy and the representatives of various professions. This is one of the most famous exhibits of mummies - skeletonized, mummified, embalmed body of the dead lie, stand, hang, form a composition.

Attention! The materials presented in this articles can seem daunting!

By the end of the XVI century, the monks of the Capuchin monastery has increased significantly, and there was a need for decent, spacious and versatile cemetery for the brethren. For this purpose we adapted the crypt under the monastery church. In 1599, there was buried brother Silvestro of Gubbio, and then the remains were moved here several previously deceased monks. In the future, the crypt space was cramped and the Capuchins gradually dug a long corridor in which up to 1871 placed the body of the dead monks.


 Philanthropists and benefactors of the monastery have also expressed a desire to be buried in the Catacombs. For their graves were dug additional corridors and cubiculum. Up until 1739 the burial permit issued archbishops in the Catacombs of Palermo Capuchin or managers, then - the abbot of the monastery. In XVIII-XIX centuries, the Capuchin Catacombs became prestigious cemetery for the clergy, the nobility and the bourgeois families of Palermo.

Capuchin catacombs were officially closed for burials only in 1882. For three centuries this unique cemetery were buried about 8,000 residents of Palermo - the clergy, monks, laymen. After 1880, for exceptional petitions in the catacombs were laid a few of the dead, including U.S. Vice Consul Giovanni Paterniti (1911) and a two year old Rosalia Lombardo, the incorrupt body which are the main attractions of the catacombs.


Already in the XVII century, it became clear that the characteristics of the soil and atmosphere Capuchin Catacombs prevent decomposition of bodies. The main method of preparing bodies for placement in the Catacombs was drying them in special chambers (Collatio) for eight months.After this period, the mummified remains washed with vinegar, clothed in the finest clothes (sometimes, according to the wills of the body changed clothes several times a year) and placed directly in the corridors and cubiculum Catacombs. Of the bodies were placed in coffins, but in most cases the bodies were hung, exposed or laid in the clear in niches or on shelves along the walls.


During epidemics method of preserving bodies mutated: the remains of the dead were immersed in a dilute bleach solution or containing arsenic, and after this procedure, the body is also put on display. In 1837, the placement of bodies in the open form was prohibited, but, at the request of testator or their relatives, the ban avoided: the tombs were removed one wall of the left or "windows", allowing to see the remains.


 The most famous part of the Catacombs is the Chapel of St. Rosalia (up to 1866 was dedicated to the Virgin of sorrows). In the center of the chapel in a glass coffin lies the body of Rosalia Lombardo two years (she died in 1920 of pneumonia).Rosalia's father, was very upset by her death , he turned to the well-known embalmers Dr. Alfredo Salafi with a request to keep her daughter's body from corruption. As a result of the successful embalming, the secret of which the Salafi and has not opened, the body remained incorrupt. Remained intact not only the soft tissues of the face girls, but the eyeballs, eyelashes, hair.


Now the secret of Italian scientists has been set. According to information of the found journal Salathiel included in the formalin, alcohol, glycerol, zinc and some other ingredients. The mixture was fed under pressure through the artery and disperse the blood vessels throughout the body. Research conducted in the U.S. by using embalming of Salafi gave excellent results. Burial Rosalia Lombardo was the last in the history of the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo. With mummy girls associated with a number of mysterious stories. Thirty-five years ago, the local postmaster was crazy. According to him, he saw the girl open her eyes ...


 In cubiculum adjacent to the chapel, there is still some perfectly preserved bodies.Among them, the body of a young man with fiery red hair, a few priests, as well as U.S. Vice Consul Giovanni Paterniti (died in 1911), the only one buried in the catacombs of a U.S. citizen.



For convenience, the orientation of rooms are divided into categories: men, women, virgins, children, priests, monks, and "profession." The corridor of the monks is historically the most ancient part of the Catacombs. Burials here from 1599 to 1871 years. On the right of the current entrance of the corridor (closed to the public) placed the body 40 of the most revered monks and people, one way or another connected with religion.






 Corridor men forms one of the two long sides of the rectangle. Here for XVIII-XIX century placed the body of philanthropists and benefactors of the monastery of the number of male laity. In accordance with the wills themselves buried here and wish of their dead relatives of the body clothed in a variety of clothing - from the rough monastic burial shroud-like garments to luxury suits, shirts, bibs and neckties.






Cubiculum children located at the intersection of corridors men and priests. In a small room in a closed or open coffins, and in niches along the walls placed the remains of several dozen children. In the central niche placed children's rocking chair, on which sits a boy who was holding his little sister.


Turned into skeletons are the remains of an amazing contrast with the children's suit and dress, lovingly selected by parents, as noted in Maupassant "Wandering life": "... We come to the gallery full of small glass coffins: young children. Soon became strong bones did not survive. And it is difficult to discern that, in fact, lies in front of you, they are so disfigured, flattened and terrible, these little kids. But the tears welling in your eyes, because mothers dressed them in little dresses they wore in the last days of his life. Both mothers all still come here to look at them on your children! "



Corridor women constitutes one of the shorter sides of the rectangle. Up until 1943 the entrance to the corridor was closed by two wooden bars, and the niches with the bodies were protected by glass. As a result of Allied bombing in 1943, is one of the gratings and glass barriers were destroyed, and the remains significantly damaged. Most women's bodies are placed in a separate horizontal lie niches, and only a couple of the best-preserved bodies placed in vertical niches.


The bodies of women dressed in the finest clothes in the fashion XVIII-XIX centuries - silk dress with lace and ruffles, hats and bonnets. The shocking disparity between scattered with the remains of the time and screaming fashionable outfits in which they are clothed, been noted by Guy de Maupassant: "This woman is ugly even more comical than men because they have dressed up smartly. Empty eye sockets staring at you from under the lace, decorated with ribbons cap, framing its dazzling whiteness of the black face, eerie, rotting, corroded decay.'s hands sticking out of the sleeves of new dresses, as the roots of the felled trees, stockings, tight leg bones seem empty. Sometimes the dead man alone put on shoes, his huge wretched, withered legs. "


Mostly cubiculum, located at the intersection of corridors women and professionals, is reserved for the burial of girls and unmarried women.About a dozen bodies lying and standing at a wooden cross, on which is the inscription, "They are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes" (Rev.14: 4). Female heads are topped with metal crowns as a sign of the virgin purity of the dead. The new corridor - the new part of the Catacombs which was used after the ban put on display the body of the dead (1837). As a result, there is no prohibition in the hallway wall niches. All of the corridor space was gradually (1837-1882) filled with coffins.As a result of the bombing of March 11, 1943 and a fire in 1966 most of the graves were destroyed. At present, the surviving coffins placed along the walls in several rows, so that in the central part of the corridor can see the floor, decorated with majolica. In addition to the New corridor you can see several "family groups" - the bodies of father and mother of the family with their several children, adolescents exhibited together.



Married couples:



Corridor professionals, running parallel to the Corridor of men, is one of the two long sides of the rectangle. In this corridor placed the body of professors, lawyers, artists, sculptors, professional military. Among the notable buried here: Filippo Pennines - sculptor, Lorenzo Marabitti - the sculptor who worked, including, in the cathedral of Palermo and Monreale, Salvatore Manzella - a surgeon, Francesco Enea (died 1848) - Colonel, lying in a magnificently preserved uniform army of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. According to local legend, is accepted or rejected by different researchers, professionals in the Corridor lies the body of Spanish painter Diego Velazquez.





Brothers artists


 Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo residents were considered as a cemetery, though unusual. Since the XVIII-XIX centuries, burial here was a matter of prestige, are buried in the Catacombs ancestors of many current residents of Palermo. The catacombs are regularly visited by the descendants of those whose bodies are found here. Moreover, after the official closing of the Catacombs for burials (1882), the walls of the monastery was arranged by the "usual" cemetery, so that the tradition of dumping "in the Capuchins' continues to this day.


Portraits of Death:










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