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The Mummies and Catacombs of Palermo

Capuchin monastery catacombs

If you choose to visit Palermo and see the local sights, you certainly should not miss the Capuchin monastery. A seemingly unattractive to the eye place that is close to the cemetery. It is a small and quiet square, but inside lies more than you can imagine.

To find out what it is, you should go down the stairs - to the catacombs of the monastery. When entering this room, a weird, maybe even uncomfortable feeling comes over you. There is a slight movement of the air, it is damp and the smell is quite memorable. It now smells of rotted cloth and something unpleasant and sour. Particular is also the very feeling of being there.

catacombs in parlemo

That is quite understandable, as these catacombs have collected about 2, 000 mummified bodies. Some of them lie in their coffins, others are just leaning against the wall. In the catacombs, you will find a little girl – one can not determine what age, but definitely a little child. This is Rosalia Lombardo, who died from lung problems at only two years old.

Her father begged doctors to do everything in their power to ensure his child does not become a skeleton. This story is from 1920, and her little body is actually one of the last to be placed in these catacombs, before they were closed. Today, they are part of the tourist attractions of Palermo.

mummies in parlemo

These catacombs house all kinds of people - a boy of 14 years, clergy and others. They are all wearing the finest clothes of their time, and are now half- fallen apart behind the doors of the monastery. These mummies and this way of drying of human bodies is very typical for the Sicilians. At the time they kept their dead this way, these catacombs’ doors were even open for visits by relatives of the deceased.

The reason they do not decompose is the favorable air in the Capuchin monastery – it is cool enough, and the material of which the walls are made absorbs moisture and does not allow them to develop fungi and canker.

For a long time, scientists did not know how the doctor preserved these bodies for so long. This is part of the beliefs of Sicilians and even for us, it is rather strange and even terrifying, for them it was part of their history.