Catacombs are underground cemeteries with subterranean galleries with recesses for interments. They are spread over Western Europe. Some are religious; some are in cities that can no longer provide burial space for its residents.
The catacombs of Palermo were created in the 16th century by the Capuchin Monastery to house the deceased monks. In 1599 the monks mummified the first of their brothers and put him in the catacombs. Most of the monks were interred standing in their robes. Unlike little Rosalia – the expertly embalmed last resident to be interred, the standard method of preservation was to open up the corpse shortly after death and remove all the vital organs. The body would be stuffed with hay, and left in the sun to dry up. Some corpses, though odorless, have hay poking through their necks and falling out of holes in their skin.
Centuries later, area citizens paid to be interred in the catacombs. Some even asked that their clothes be changed periodically. Most are arranged in galleries, either standing or reclining on shelves. A few or stored in trunks. Of the 8,000 inhabitants of the catacombs, just about 1,000 have been identified, with both their dates of birth and of death.
A personal note: I’ve visited a monastery in Southern Italy where most of the brothers’ bones have been used to create designs on the wall and ceiling. One brother spent most of his life creating the “artwork.” To be honest, the monks still wearing their clothing and praying were more macabre.
Monday, Treasure Ship: Nuestra Señora de Atocha