Catacombe dei Cappuccini
Visit the Catacombs of the Capuchins in Palermo where you will find thousands of Palermo mummies. This tourist attraction is a must see. The Catacombs in Palermo provides interesting facts, history and things to see.
The Freaky Yet Fascinating Catacombs of the Capuchins.
On the surface of things, the catacombs of the Capuchins don’t seem like they would be quite that memorable. Visit the burial ground of a minor monastic order. Meh, why bother?
If you don’t go, it’s likely you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Though the Capuchins are not famous as a monastic order, they are known worldwide for their unbelievable memento mori, the mummification and arrangement of the dead. Embalmed using private techniques, more than 4,000 friars as well as more than 4,000 local residents were preserved in the Catacombs between 1533 and 1920.
In these catacombs, Palermo locals of all types are on full display. Some of the Palermo mummies simply stand (an illusion, they’re pegged to the walls) in all their finery, while others take part in elaborate mosaics. Swirling loops of skulls provide the backdrop to monks arranged in teaching poses designed to motivate visitors to reflect on their own mortality. Plaques throughout the catacombs bear quotes like “What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be.”
Reading the plaques and carefully examining the displays can take some time. The catacombs are open most days between 9 – 12 noon and 3 – 5 pm. Visiting in the morning is advisable if you’d like to spend more time examining and reading the displays, as the afternoon hours are crowded with tours and backpackers.
The Catacombs are lit with a combination of natural light and fluorescent bulbs. In the winter months or rainy days when the outdoor light is not as good you may want to consider having a flashlight or using your phone to illuminate the display description plaque. Don’t, however, lean in closely to shine your light into the face of a Palermo mummy-not only is it rude, but it can also be more than a little scary to see 300 years old faces scowling back at you.
Though the Catacombs welcome children, it can be frightening for them. The passageways are narrow, and children of all ages are also preserved along with the adult Palermo mummies. In fact, the last mummy added in 1920 was that of a young girl, Rosalia Lombardo, who was just two years old when she was mummified.
The secrets of the mummification process were lost after the Italian government outlawed additional mummification early in the 1900’s and those who were responsible left the area or passed away themselves. Thus, the wonders here can’t be created elsewhere. Whether you find it creepy, cool, or just plain bizarre, it is certainly a cemetery you will never forget visiting.