The Catacombe dei Cappuccini in Palermo, Sicily

As we approach All Hallows Eve and some of the cultural associations we have with this time of the year, it seems to me a good time to look at yet another Capuchin Franciscan "catacomb" similar to the crypt of the Capuchins in Rome. In this instance I speak of the "Catacombe dei Cappucini" located in Palermo, Sicily. 

As in the case of Rome, the catacombs are the result, not of any devotional or macabre intent, but rather as a solution to a very practical problem: the need to find suitable burial places for the dead.  While the solution of the Capuchins of Rome involved exhuming the remains of their long-dead in order to make room for the newly dead, the Capuchins of Palermo had a slightly different approach. 

In their case, as they ran out of traditional burial spaces, they took to instead excavating in order create the present catacomb structure as a space to place the newly dead. As part of this, beginning at the very tail end of the 1500's, they took to finding various means to preserve the bodies that would be placed here.  As one would expect, this cemetery was at first intended exclusively for the friars of the monastery, but with the passage of time others from outside the monastery would come to seek to be buried in this place too (and would sometimes even specify in their wills what clothing they wished to be presented in).  The friars themselves, of course, simply wore their respective robes and vestments.

The mortal remains found in the catacombs have been separated into various subdivisions; male and female; children and virgins; religious and seculars.  Some are found in glass-enclosed coffins, others are placed upon shelves (much like the true Roman catacombs of early Christian renown), and still others are hung upright on the walls as though they were standing. 

In total there are around the remains of around 10,000 souls in these catacombs -- a true 'city of the dead.'

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