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Naples’ Fontanelle cemetery: skulls and silence beneath the busy metropolis streets | Travel

Given the selection, most individuals wouldn’t enter a shadowy underground chamber stacked excessive with human skeletons. However, with an understanding of the Neapolitan fetish for cranium iconography, a go to to Cimitero delle Fontanelle offers an unlikely calming and reflective antidote to Naples’ frenzied road life. The huge cemetery, dug deep into mushy tufo stone, intersects with Neapolitan traditions of faith, folklore and pagan ritual – and is indicative of the various strata of the town’s historical past. The former quarry grew to become a makeshift burial website in 1656 when a plague lowered the inhabitants from 400,000 to 150,000. According to custom, being buried away from the consecrated soil of their parish church rendered the souls unable to succeed in heaven. Eternally dislocated from the afterlife, the chamber seems to embody the earthly manifestation of purgatory.

Fortunately for the anime pezzentelle (lost souls) a spontaneous cult of cranium adoption developed after parish priest Don Gaetano Barbati inspired the local people to help in bringing some order to the bones in 1872. Since then, native girls have taken it upon themselves to help the souls in reaching heaven, cleansing the skulls and assigning them names which seem to the ladies in desires.


The entrance corridor to the ‘cemetery’, which holds about eight million bones. Photograph: Alamy

Wishes are requested of the skulls in change for his or her care and over time legends have sprung up surrounding these who are significantly benevolent. As a token of thanks the guardian homes the cranium in a home made wood field which line the ossuary, engraved with the soul’s title and the date the want was granted. The chance for skulls to ship needs is coupled with the concept they have for millennia served as a mortal reminder of the futility of vainness and the buildup of pointless objects, as depicted within the memento mori mosaics found at Pompeii.

Devotion to the skulls nonetheless exists immediately. The cemetery is free to go to, and native girls can typically be noticed making their manner by way of the close by La Sanità district with choices in hand. Follow their footsteps into the silence of the ossuary to request a want or to be soberly reminded of the equalising nature of demise for all. A go to to Cimitero delle Fontanelle is much less a macabre expertise and extra a meditation on life itself.
• Via Fontanelle 80, comune.napoli.it


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