Origin

 

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo were built as a simple cemetery in which to bury the monks of the monastery and their current development it must be, in some ways, to the case.

The Capuchin friars were established in Palermo in 1534, at the church of Santa Maria della Pace (Lady of Peace). They had created a cemetery in which deceased friars were buried digging a mass grave that opened like a tank under the altar of St. Anne.

Soon, however, the Capuchin community grew and by 1597 the first room of the cemetery, the pit/tank, became insufficient. For this reason, excavations were begun to create a large cemetery behind the main altar, using the existence of ancient caves. After two years the new cemetery was ready and it was decided to transfer the brothers from the overflowing charnel house to the new resting place.

However, when the friars exhumed the corpses something incredible had happened: forty-five friars were found naturally mummified and magnificently preserved. They had not decomposed and their faces were recognizable.

 

The Capuchins believed that this instance was an act of God and, instead of burying the remains, they decided to display and adored the bodies of their brothers as relics, propped in niches along the walls of the first corridor of the new cemetery.

The body that was first housed in the newly-created catacomb was that of Fra Silvestro da Gubbio, still exposed in a simple brown robe and headdress clutching a sign commemorating the event (16 Ottobre 1599).