More interments followed.The bodies were dehydrated on the racks of ceramic pipes in the catacombs and sometimes later washed with vinegar. Some of the bodies were embalmed and others enclosed in sealed glass cabinets. Monks were preserved with their everyday clothing and sometimes with ropes they had worn as a penance.
Originally the catacombs were intended only for the dead friars. However, in the following centuries it became a status symbol to be entombed into the Capuchin catacombs. In their wills, local luminaries would ask to be preserved in certain clothes, or even to have their clothes changed at regular intervals. Priests wore their clerical vestments, others were clothed according to contemporary fashion. Relatives would visit to pray for the deceased and also to maintain the body in a presentable condition. The catacombs were maintained through the donations of the relatives of the deceased. Each new body was placed in a temporary niche and later placed into a more permanent place. As long as the contributions continued, the body remained in its proper place but when the relatives did not send money any more, the body was put aside on a shelf until they resumed payment.
This was certainly one of the most interesting places we visited in Palermo and drove home the fact that many of our traditions regarding the disposal of the dead may be centuries old. I could not help but be reminded of Egyptian mummies and early Roman Christian catacombs when visiting here. Around the Mediterranean, the cult of the dead is very strongly marked by these age-old traditions some of which can be traced to ancient times. The photos below are graphic and not for the squeamish!
This post is part of the Taphophile Tragics meme hosted by Julie.
|The entrance to the cemetery and catacombs|
|View of the cemetery, showing graves and mausolea|
|Another view of the cemetery with several imposing mausolea. The following photos are rather gruesome, so don't view them if you are squeamish!|
|One of the corridors in the catacombs|
|Two monks. Note the dwarf in the upper part of the niche|
|Niches containing the mummies of lay people|