HISTORY

 

The news of the 45 bodies found intact in the Capuchin convent attracted great attention and, little by little, the Capuchins began accepting more and more laypeople until finally, in 1783, they decided to concede burial to anyone requesting it.

So it was that the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo expanded and additional corridors were created. And what was the private cemetery of the Friars became a sort of museum of death.

From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, thousands of people, especially wealthy citizens of Palermo and rich celebrities, could gain burial in the Catacombs: with generous donations they could afforde the Friars mummification process and prepared for eternal display in the wall niches of the undergound cemetery.

Mummification became a status symbol, a way to preserve status and dignity even in death with the possibility for the families of the deceased to visit and venerate not just ordinary graves, but dead bodies well preserved.

The Catacombs became so popular and a sort of free zone when it comes to all civil legislation concerning cemeteries that had been issued in the following years, as for example the Royal Decree of 1710 by which it was ordered to bury the corpses to a mile away from the urban centre and no longer inside the churches.

The cemetery was definitively closed in 1880, except in exceptional accommodate two more bodies in the early years of the twentieth century: the first, in 1911, regarded the body of Giovanni Paterniti, Vice-Consul of the United States; the second, in 1920, was one of the little Rosalia Lombardo, who died at the tender age of two years and today known as the "world's most beautiful mummy".