The catacombs were a very macabre place to visit. Not really sure what to expect, we paid our €3/person (2012 prices) and headed down the long corridor that led to the underground room with wide aisles with both sides lined from top to bottom with mummified bodies and skeletons fully dressed. The 2,000 or more of these bodies are on display and carefully divided up into categories such as families, children, professions, social standing, and gender. In some cases, the entire family – father, mother, and children – were on display.
The drying process was long kept a secret of the catacombs and only in 2010 revealed when the notebook of one of the embalmers was discovered. However, most of the bodies on display date back to before 1881 when the convent stopped interring the bodies here. There is one small child’s body that was buried here in 1920 – the last one to be treated by the man who wrote down the secret process in a manuscript that would not be discovered for 90 more years. Some are remarkably in good shape (if you can say that about a dead body) and others are mere skeletons being held together by wire.
The catacombs are located to the right of the outdoor Cappuccini cemetery. We walked there from the Palazzo dei Normanni, which took us about 20 minutes. We had a little trouble finding the place at first, but the locals knew what we were looking for before we even asked and pointed us in the right direction.
Open daily 0900-1300 and 1500-1800; mornings only on Sunday and holidays.
The Cattacombe dei Cappuccini is the most macabre and unsettling "tourist attraction" we' ve visited. I suggest to make a tour with a local guide, we' ve booked and made a well done tour with www.siciliandays.com. You´ll see some 8000 embalmed people; one of the best preserved body is a little girl died in 1920,and is the last person buried there.
First only the monks were buried here, but later, up until 1881, many others were interred, especially professionals such as doctors, lawyers and the fashionable elite of Palermo. They're remarkably well preserved, still wearing the clothes they asked to be interred in. The Catacombs of Cappucini is the most disquieting sight in town, but very interesting, a must see, non suitable for children.
This is one of "Must see" places. Probably nowhere else you may find place like this with more then 8000 mummified people, some in incredible condition like Rosalia Lombardo - Sleeping Beauty. Place is at the same time spooky and fascinating.
My opinion is that the Catacombes are a must see, even though they are a grousome tourist trap, but I felt slightly unwell after visiting them.
Leave time after visiting the catacombes to visit the Cimitero Cappucini, which is only a few paces away, and has no entrance fee. It is a peaceful and remarkably beautiful place to restore your mind after viewing the unsettling exhibits in the catacombes.
In the Cimitero Cappuccini the deceased are treated with dignity, and every single burial place is decked with fresh flowers. It's a good place to visit.
This was an interesting break from all the richly tiled and marbled churches. I think children would be fascinated, though not the very young or squeamish. You probably already know that some 8,000 people are preserved here and just hanging from the walls or laying in nitches, fully clothed in the dress of their time. The oldest was from @1599, the newest, a child of two, died in 1920. I came away thinking that had they known what they would end up looking like, they never would have chosen this as their final resting place.
It was very difficult to locate, considering that it is written in every guide book. Realizing that our return bus from Monreale would go past it, we asked the bus driver to let us off at the correct stop. There really was no signage. We just walked in the direction of a large complex that looked like it could be a monastary. A sign saying cemetary kept up our hope. If you see a dead end and a parking lot, look for a small sign saying catacombe. Read the hours on the door. No one shows up until the designated time.
The catacombs in Palermo are quite different from any other catacombs in Italy. The ones owned by the Capuchin monks, although small, definitely have a flavour all of their own!
The catacombs are adjacent to the main church. On entering the local monks will request a donation. It is a good idea not to pretend you don't understand them! I used to leave a couple of Euro but that might have changed.
You go down the stairs to the actual catacombs which are divided into various sections. The catacombs were initiated when the monks found a new method of drying and preserving bodies and in the beginning they preserved other monks in this way until rich palermitans decided to pay for the privelige.
The first section is of monks and is the oldest section. The unique thing about the catacombs is that you can see the bodies and they are dressed. Some of the corpses still have facial hair and expressions which is more than a little eerie.
There is a section of men and women seperately. These were the nobility and I found it very interesting looking at the dress and costume if you can get over the fact that you are gawping at their actual bodies.
The Cattacombe dei Cappuccini is easily the most macabre and unsettling "tourist attraction" I've visited. There are some 8000 bodies dangling from the walls, mostly suspended in individual niches and the rest stacked in glass coffins. Originally only the monks were buried here, but later, up until 1881, many others were interred, mainly professionals such as doctors and lawyers. They're remarkably well preserved, all still wearing the clothes they asked to be interred in. The most affecting are the spindly, miniature skeletons of the children. There is also the coffin of Rosalia Lombardo, the last person to be buried here. She was two years old when she died in 1920; the technique used to preserve her died with the doctor who devised it. Today she looks like a doll, the best preserved body there.
It's a very unsettling place to visit and certainly not for children.
Catacombs of the Capuchins
These catacombs contained a preservative that helped to mummify the dead. Sicilians (from nobles to maids) were buried here in the 19th century.In 1920, the last person was laid to rest here, a little girl almost lifelike in death. Many 19th-century Sicilians are in fine shape, considering--with eyes, hair, and even clothing fairly intact. Some of the expressions on the faces of the skeletons take the fun out of Halloween--this is not a great place to take the kids.
The most disquieting sight in town is the Cappucin Catacomb, on Via dei Cappucini. The fashionable elite of Palermo in the nineteenth century chose to be mummified and interred here, hanging against the walls of a long underground corridor, slowly decomposing. Now these privileged members of the bourgeoisie are gawked at by tourists seven days a week. Isn't it funny how time can turn things around?