Daily Archives: January 29, 2009

The Capuchin Catacombs Of Palermo

Locked in time… the 400-year-old Mummies (and one little girl) at the UK Mail brings the fascinating and educational story of the more than 2000 mummified corpses that reside in the catacombs beneath the Capuchin Monastery in Palermo, Sicily.  They have been there for a very long time, many more than four hundred years.  A status symbol of the times to have been entombed there.

The story is covered in the February 2009 issue of National Geographic.  But the heads up in the Mail is astonishing in that we see the various bodies on display in their mummified clothing.  Some with more intact features than others.  A little girl age 2, appears shockingly as though she is napping.  The mummification process for the  others is described.

…dates back to the 16th century, when the monks outgrew their cemetery, started excavating crypts beneath it and discovered that the combination of the coolness of the crypt and the porous limestone walls meant corpses dried out, rather than rotted.

The first and oldest corpse is brother Silvestro of Gubbio, who died in 1599 and, 410 years on, is still dressed in his flowing religious robes. The embalming process was remarkably simple.

The newly dead were undressed and laid out on racks of ceramic pipes in special chambers where their bodily fluids gradually drained out and the remains became desiccated.
After seven or eight months, the fluids had drained out and the bodies were doused with vinegar, redressed and put in coffins, or hung on the wall – depending on their family’s wishes.

The process was halted just after the little girl had undergone a more formative embalming in contrast to the others.  The catacombs remain a tourist attraction

Must click.  Wikipedia has more.

National Geographic images at Where the Dead Don’t SleepPhoto Gallery: from The Crypt, and article at Sicily Crypts.

More on a detailed and thoroughly fascinating history about Rosalia Lombardo here at Wikipedia

“Rosalina died at age 2 in 1920 from a bronchial infection.”
Image courtesy of http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1131213/Locked-time–400-year-old-Mummies-little-girl.html.