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Friday, November 02, 2007

Day of the Dead

Before we completely leave Day of the Dead and All Soul's Day celebrations behind, I thought it would be apropos to post a few applicable pictures from my venture to Italy last spring:


The churches there were filled with allusions to the dead - from skeletal sculptures on the walls to displayed reliquaries complete with bones -


-and tombs underneath the chapel floors (for some reason I really got a kick out of all the skulls and crossbones included in the church decor.)


But my *favorite* church we visited was the Chiesa Dei Morti (The Church of the Dead). (I think my mother believes me particularly morbid - she wouldn't go in. I loved it!)


In the little town of Urbania is the Church of the Dead, which displays the 'Cemetery of Mummies'. There are 18 mummified bodies which were found in 1833 when Napoleon ordered all local cemeteries be relocated out of town. In this area was a unique mold which naturally desiccated the bodies buried there, leading to spontaneous mummification. So what do you do when you find mummified remains? Put them on display, in lovely glass cases, inside your church of course!



One of the side-effects of this natural mummification was that the DNA of these bodies (also hair, fingernails, etc...) was still viable, so science has been able to test any number of things, getting a more direct view into the lives of those people hundreds of years ago. The enthusiastic guide, in partial English, told the known or projected story behind each figure's death and circumstances. If their name was known, it was written on paper in lovely calligraphy and then attached to the brow of the skull.

In the center of this glassed room hung a chandelier made of human bones. It was amazing. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries just as I was photographing it! Argh! That will have to remain a memory...

12 comments:

Cre8Tiva said...

bones...skulls...i think i agree with your mother...blessings, rebecca

dinahmow said...

Mothers are not always "right!"

Britt-Arnhild said...

I have visited similar churches in Italy. Kind of weird, isn't it :-)

roz said...

Utterly fascinating!
I would have loved it too.

andrea said...

I love the Dias de los Muertos concept even more than Hallowe'en. Thanks for the glimpse of it in Italy.

Merisi said...

*smile*
You might get a kick out of the display of Imperial Hearts in St. Augustine's Church here in Vienna! :-)))

Chris.P said...

Interesting stuff Tara. Just catching up with your previous posts. I really enjoyed the Froud and the video entries.

carolyn said...

Medieval churches have lots of skull / bone images in England. Life was so short and with the plague every few years it was apparently a reminder of what was to come.

She Who Flies said...

These are impressive sculptures!

Vickie said...

I must say I don't know how I'd react. It sounds fasicnating though.

leslie said...

What to do with your spare mummies? Well, display them, of course! :)
That tickled my funny bone.

Tom Kidd said...

These all-natural skeletons are lovely. Always bring back-up batteries though. I travel with extra cameras, batteries, battery chargers and memory cards. Not to mention, a compass, a lighter, rubber bands, a knife, a hat, three forms of I.D., a small flashlight, two tripods, sketchbooks and a variety of pens, pencils and other drawing tools. Of course it takes me two days just to get out of the house.

-- The Boyscout