Sunday, December 9

The cemetery was consecrated in the late 1800's, just over a hundred years ago. So what did the Positanese do with their dead up until then?
I decided to ask someone who knows a thing or two about the place.

"Under the church, thats where they put the dead. There are vaults full of bones down there. Thousands and thousands of bones, in rooms that stretch out all the way under the church and further. You know the little garden where the paintings hang in the summer? Underneath there..full of bones."

But, how did they leave the bodies? I mean, did they just leave them lying there in the rooms?

"Allora, no, there were 12 stone baths, each deep enough for 5 bodies, and when they put a body in they would cover it with pumice and quicklime, about 10 cms deep. Once a bath was full they would move on to fill the next and when they were all full the first one would be emptied and the bones were moved to one of the vaults. They had a rotation system, pretty much like the one we use today. The priests were put in a different room, round the side of the church, theres a little doorway..."

Oh, I've been in there, the room with the big stone seats?

"Yes, the dead priests were placed sitting on these thrones and left to decompose."

Are there still bones down in the vaults?

"A lot of them are still there, yes, but some were moved up to the cemetery when it opened. There were too many bones to be able to move them all to the cemetery. The churches in all the other parts of town, what do you think? They're all full of bones underneath, thats what people did in those days."

So it wasn't just under the main church? All the churches in town have crypts full of bones?

"Yes, all of them. And the people who committed suicide or murder, basically the people who were not permitted to be buried with the others because they had gone against the church or of a different religion, were taken to that little hidden garden around the back of the cemetery, you know, the one with the cave and the carob trees. "

Really? I never knew that. I've been in there, its a strange place. Are they still buried there?

"No, not any more. They were moved at some point. Don't forget that this was hundreds of years ago. The church in the cemetery used to be where the women went and made fabrics for sheets and clothes. It was a sort of factory, nothing to do with a church. It was later on when the cemetery was made that it was turned into a church."

Wouldn't you love to be able to travel back in time and see how different things were where you live?


  1. Niki, when Murat was dictator of Naples, he ceased the practice of sepulcherization underneath the churches, in the enlightenment spirit of the French Revolution finding it unsanitary. Keep in mind the grave ossuary issue had arisen in France, prominently Paris during the 18th century due to the geographic expansion of the city. Murat as well disbanded monasteries, effecting most the cloisters causing a real change in the culture of southern Italy. The monastic foundations really never recovered. Just my two cents...

  2. Lucy from Pickering and TorontoDecember 10, 2007 at 9:44 PM

    Interesting indeed, gets me thinking about getting my affairs in order!

  3. Yes, I do wish that often. Don't you think it would be a lot different that we would imagine it!

  4. i would love to be able to travel back in time, but i think people back then had life so much harder, we are lucky with all our mod. cons.

    I think those churches would be creepy, just the thought of all those dead bodies down below....scary.

  5. Thanks for filling in one of the missing links for me as I wondered how dead bodies just turned into loose bones under the Church.

  6. Fascinating! I love learning about all the history around here.

  7. I think that you should all hang little sopresattas and cacciacavallas on the tree, and then everyone can come and eat them on January 6th. No need to cleanup, environmentally sound, etc., think about it...

  8. I never knew it to happen this way, just makes me wonder how indeed it must all have been back then.

  9. Hi Nicki, Merry Christmas to you, Carlo & your lovely daughter. Perhaps the school teacher could assign the children to make ornaments. Then there could be a ceremony where the ornaments could be hung while th children could sing carols. Perhaps one of the stores could donate some lights. It's the least that Lucibello or Carro or the tourist agency or some of the hotels could do...


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