Catacombe dei Cappuccini

Catacombs of the Capuchins


Useful Information

Location: Palermo, Conventi dei Cappuccini, Piazza Cappuccini.
Open: Summer 9-12, 15-17:30.
Winter 9-12, 15-17.
Closed Holidays.
[2008]
Fee: Adults EUR 1.50.
[2008]
Classification: ExplainCatacomb
Light: electric
Dimension:  
Guided tours:  
Photography:  
Accessibility:  
Bibliography:  
Address: Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Piazza Cappuccini 1, Palermo, Sicily, Tel: +39-091-212117.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1599 capuchin monks discover the preservative effect of their catacombs.
1623 monastery rebuilt.
1871 Brother Riccardo was the last friar buried here.
1920 last person bured here.
1940s, hit by Allied bombs and part of the mumies destroyed.
1957 Giuseppe Tommasi, prince of Lampedusa and author of The Leopard buried here.

Description

The Catacombe dei Cappuccini (Capuchin Catacoms) at Palermo are world famous, because of their mummifying effect. It was first discovered in 1599 when the monks built a new grave below the church and started to relocate their deads. They decided to keep the old catacombs, and soon after, when the effect became known, many inhabitants of Palermo, especially the upper class, demanded to be buried here. Over the centuries many thousand persons were buried here, some talk of 4,000, others of 8,000 bodies. Some were not preserved perfectly, others were destroyed during World War II, so at the moment the catacombs contain about 1,200 bodies. The oldest mummy is Fra Silvestro da Gubbio who died 1599.

Actually there is no specialty of the location which causes the mummification. The place was simply dry and the bodies did not decay but dry. The monks washed some of the bodies with vinegar, to support the process. Some bodies were embalmed.

Today the catacombs form a series of five corridors, each dedicated to a certain group of people. One is for men, one for women, one for famous people, one for monks and one for priests. Some bodies are set in poses, many wear their finest garment, some are hanging on the wall in upright position.