Capuchin Catacombs…Where The Dead Still Stand

Get Up Close And Personal With The Deceased!!

What’re you looking at?

The Capuchin Burial Grounds Of Polermo are an interesting sight to behold. Quite like the catacombs of Paris, these catacombs hold the remains of over 8,000 individuals. But, here’s the catch. Instead of skulls lining halls, corpses are pinned to the walls and hung in place as though the dead are welcoming you to their home.With corridors dedicated to women, virgins, men, monks, priests, and children all in different and varying degrees of decomposition, the catacombs of Polermo are definitely out of the ordinary.

Starting around the 16th century Polermo’s Capuchin Monastery was outgrowing its cemetery, so the monks decided to start building underground crypts and in 1599 they housed their first mummified brethren, Silvestro of Gubbio. Originally intended for the burial of deceased monks and priests, it didn’t take long until everyone wanted to have these catacombs as their final resting place. Families would give donations to the Monastery and pray for the dead while also following the demands of their deceased family and friends such as regularly changing their clothes or dressing them in their best outfits. One of the last people to be buried was Rosalia Lombardo who has been nicknamed “The Sleeping Beauty” due to how well she is preserved.

Rosalia “The Sleeping Beauty” Lombardo

The process to mummify the dead started with placing the bodies on racks and draining all of the liquid from their bodies. After a year the bodies were then bathed in vinegar and properly dressed. The process of Rosalia differed though. Hers consisted of formalin to kill bacteria, alcohol to dry the body, glycerin to keep her from overdrying, salicylic acid to kill fungi, and zinc salts to keep the body rigid.

Do you come here often?

The Capuchin Burial Grounds of Polermo are still open to the public to get close to the dead with only a rope or cage to separate them from their past and inevitable future. I think a trip to Italy is in order.