Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

Palermo, Italy

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo (Catacombe dei Cappuccini) are burial catacombs. Today they provide a somewhat macabre tourist attraction as well as an extraordinary historical record.

Palermo's Capuchin monastery outgrew its original cemetery in the 16th century and monks began to excavate crypts below it. In 1599 they mummified one of their number, recently dead brother Silvestro of Gubbio, and placed him into the catacombs.

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 the contemporary fashion. Relatives would visit to pray for the deceased and also to maintain the body in presentable condition.

The last friar interred into the catacombs was Brother Riccardo in 1871 but other famous people were still interred. The catacombs were officially closed in 1880 but tourists continued to visit. The last burials are from the 1920s. The catacombs contain about 8000 corpses and 1252 mummies that line the walls. The halls are divided into categories: Men, Women, Virgins, Children, Priests, Monks, and Professionals. Some bodies are better preserved than others. Some are set in poses; for example, two children are sitting together in a rocking chair. The coffins were accessible to the families of the deceased so that on certain days the family could hold their hands and they could 'join' their family in prayer.

The catacombs are open to the public and taking photographs inside is supposedly prohibited, with prominent signs making it clear to visitors that photography is not allowed. Iron grills have been installed to prevent tourists tampering or posing with the corpses.



Your name


Founded: 1599
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in Italy


4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Lars Richter (12 months ago)
Very unique place. Don't know where you can see something similar. It's an unusual experience and one should be respectful when walking through the alleys.
Dominique Meier (13 months ago)
Nice to visit, but I appears a little uncomfortable that no one seem to care about the corps. Just send as many paying tourists inside as possible nothing else matters...
Pe Es (13 months ago)
Amazing place with special atmosphere, mummies scare :D , making photos is prohibited
Razvan (15 months ago)
A must go if you're in Palermo and have 1 hour to spare. Very interesting and also spooky . You can visit everything in under 30min. Entrance is 3 euros which is very cheap in my opinion for such an unique place . You cannot take photos inside , but you can Google the photos to have an idea . Again, a definitely must go
Susie B (15 months ago)
I really enjoyed it. We got there about 40 minutes before they closed and had plenty of time to see all of the different areas. Admission was only 3€ for adults. Since we got there close to closing, we didn't look to see, so I'm not sure if they have a brochure explaining more about the place or if it's only available on a website, but I think if there was a little more information, either about the different sections, different ways they were mummified/preserved, maybe some history on the people that would make my review a 5 for sure. There was definitely a difference in the preservation methods, some were done very well, even still had facial hair and hair on their head, while others were just skeleton. I thought it was also interesting to see some of the different fillers used and would have liked to know more about why certain substrates/mediums were chosen without having to go to Google to look it up. I thought it was very educational and left me wanting to understand more about the history.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Roman Walls of Lugo

Roman Walls of Lugo are an exceptional architectural, archaeological and constructive legacy of Roman engineering, dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. The Walls are built of internal and external stone facings of slate with some granite, with a core filling of a conglomerate of slate slabs and worked stone pieces from Roman buildings, interlocked with lime mortar.

Their total length of 2117 m in the shape of an oblong rectangle occupies an area of 1.68 ha. Their height varies between 8 and 10 m, with a width of 4.2 m, reaching 7 m in some specific points. The walls still contain 85 external towers, 10 gates (five of which are original and five that were opened in modern times), four staircases and two ramps providing access to the walkway along the top of the walls, one of which is internal and the other external. Each tower contained access stairs leading from the intervallum to the wall walk of town wall, of which a total of 21 have been discovered to date.

The defences of Lugo are the most complete and best preserved example of Roman military architecture in the Western Roman Empire.

Despite the renovation work carried out, the walls conserve their original layout and the construction features associated with their defensive purpose, with walls, battlements, towers, fortifications, both modern and original gates and stairways, and a moat.

Since they were built, the walls have defined the layout and growth of the city, which was declared a Historical-Artistic Ensemble in 1973, forming a part of it and becoming an emblematic structure that can be freely accessed to walk along. The local inhabitants and visitors alike have used them as an area for enjoyment and as a part of urban life for centuries.

The fortifications were added to UNESCO"s World Heritage List in late 2000 and are a popular tourist attraction.