Palermo Map
Site Index
Contact
Random
Our Travel Books
Advertising / Press

Monte Pellegrino and the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia »« The Oratorio di Santa Cita

The Bone-Chilling Catacombs of the Capuchin Monks

Download Our Palermo Book Here

Although it’s not the slightest bit rational, we humans possess the primal urge to be terrified. We love it. Why else would we pay money to watch horror films? Why visit haunted houses, or tell ghost stories? And in Palermo, a city of gorgeous churches and fascinating history, why should one of the top tourist attractions be the corpse-filled dungeon of the Catacombe dei Capuccini? What’s wrong with us?

3 Dead Kids Palermo Sicily

Found on the outer limits of the city, the Capuchin catacombs hold the remains of over 8000 souls, their disembodied shells propped up against the walls or resting in open caskets. Down in the cold, dry basement of the monastery, the relentless march of decomposition takes its sweet time. It’s a gruesome display. Though some bodies have been reduced to skulls and bones, the majority of corpses are still rotting, and their half-decomposed husks are the stuff of nightmares.

Face skin slowly peeling off skulls. Corpses striking ghoulish poses as their bodies slowly fall apart. Hollowed-out faces with grotesque grimaces, teeth and even mustaches still intact. An infant in a tiny coffin, its face reduced to a pile of crinkled skin, like dry, crushed leaves. Monks dressed in hooded robes, staring at you from their eternal perch, and an entire army of the baby-undead. It isn’t the kind of horror which jumps out at you, and you scream and then laugh about it. No, the catacombs provide the long-lasting sense of dread which worsens with each step. Which becomes more unbearable the longer you remain.

Cute Monks

The first monk was interred here in 1599, and his 400-year-old corpse is still on hand to greet visitors upon entrance. For centuries, the catacombs were strictly for the monks, but eventually opened to well-paying members of the public. For reasons that can only be understood as macabre, families actually wanted the corpses of their loved ones preserved and displayed, so that they could come to visit.

The standard method of preservation was to open up the corpse shortly after death and remove all the vital organs. Then the body would be stuffed with hay, and left in the sun to dry up. Many of the corpses have hay poking through their necks and falling out of holes in their skin. We can only pray that a herd of horses never finds its way to the catacombs, because that would be a truly unholy feeding frenzy.

The final soul to be interred here was the benefactor of a special conservation process designed by a specialist named Solafia. Baby Rosalia Lombardo died in 1920 at the age of two. Her body, which rests in a special room of the catacombs, resembles a life-size doll, complete with eyelashes and hair. Far from being sweet or a “miracle of science”, she might be the most horrendous resident of all. The one who, you just know, is going to open her eyes the moment you turn your back. Luckily for all of us, the good Doctor Solafia died before he could pass on his preservation method.

Because it’s such a unique and interesting place, the Capuchin Catacombs definitely warrant a visit. But those who are easily terrified might want to stay away. We brought Jürgen’s cousin, a sensible girl who normally refuses to visit even cemeteries. I’m not sure she’ll ever forgive us.


Photos and videos are strictly prohibited in the Catacombs, and we had to purchase permission at a rather hefty rate. Hence the watermarks. If you’d like to use these images, please get in touch.

Location on our Palermo Map
- Find Us On Facebook

Rosalia-Lombardo
Horror Tour
Mummified Skull
Snow White Coffin
Baby in Coffin
Catacombs-Capuchin-Monks
Die Toten Von Palermo
Deads Palermo
Scary Tour Palermo
Tunnel of Death
Catacombs-Capuchin-Monks
Prison Of Dead
Capuchin-Monks-Palermo
Geographic Catacombs Palermo
Lets Put a Smile On That Face
Mummies-Of-Palermo-Sicily-Italy
Scary Halloween
Skull Horror
Togther Forever
Taking A little Nap
Dead Napoleon
Dead Snow White
Puke Horror
Snorty
Funny Dream
Horror Palermo Sicily
I feel Lonely
I want You
Super Cute Doll
Scary Doll
Come Play With Us
Alien Baby Mummy
Scarry Nun
Spladder Horror
Well Dress Dead
Snaggle Tooth
Fat Horror
Hoody
Guide Sicily
Horror Clown
Horror Guide Palermo Sicily
Horro Maks Inspiration
LOL Kitty
LOL Priest
Monsieur Death
Mummy Palermo
Nightmares Italy
One Eye Palermo
Spooky Italy
Silvestro-Da-Cubbio
Scariest-Italy

Other Posts You Might Like from Palermo ...and Oviedo
The Chiostro dei Benedettini in MonrealeThe Brave Little Towns around Mt. EtnaPalermo - Not just a Cruise Ship DestinationThe Ruta del Cares: Seven-Hour Megahike
, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
November 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm
42 comments »
  • November 6, 2011 at 11:37 pmIsabella Davis

    Amazing preservation on some of these fellows,but for some odd reason I’m not quite as hungry as I was before I decided to view these images,thanks for sharing this great information as always fellows, best wishes in your travels.Regards, IsaBella

  • November 7, 2011 at 4:13 amFrancesco

    To me the most terrifying thing about Palermo’s catacombs has always been the contrast between the exposed corpses and the neon-lights. It gives me the idea that technology goes forward anyway and that materialism triumphs no matter what. Brrrrr.

  • November 8, 2011 at 9:24 amChic Soufflé

    Terrifying, yet fascinating! The hanging monks are a nice touch… I can’t believe how many corpses are down there! 

  • November 9, 2011 at 6:01 amHummus

    Umm, on this note goodnight all… and sleep tight.

  • November 9, 2011 at 11:25 amBecky

    Oh my gosh! I was horrified but couldn’t bring myself to stop scrolling…

  • November 9, 2011 at 5:47 pmJoseph Barbaccia

    I love these images. I’d die just to be able to be there one day.  : )

  • November 12, 2011 at 2:25 amTC

    Not so much mummification as being left there to rot!? ICK!!!!

  • November 16, 2011 at 4:51 pmbrenda

    muy buenas las fotos aunque algo intrigantes de como es que terminaron ahi todos esos cuerpos. como dice la pagina hay que tener valor como para ir a verlo en vivo , yo por ahora veo las fotos y ni me acerco al lugar.

  • November 17, 2011 at 12:34 pmPATPL

    Go there at the night. That must be scary and amazing 

  • November 22, 2011 at 6:14 pmIgor

    At least theyre not walking down my street and looking in through my window.

  • November 29, 2011 at 7:15 pmtim

    amazing loved the documentry on the girl in the glass case ,will be visting at some point in my life time

  • December 8, 2011 at 7:05 pmMarcello

    If I am not wrong, the whole sense of that display was to remind the visitors and the monks the old saying that humans are only passing by on the earth,that we all are turning into dust and that we must concentrate on the afterlife rather than on this one…

  • January 28, 2012 at 1:32 amcuppycakes

    awww…the young baby just touched my heart :’(

  • July 12, 2012 at 8:28 pmJacqui

    Hi I missed this docmentary about the catacombs of Palermo when and where can I watch it on my lap top

  • July 17, 2012 at 8:30 pmRobi Miller

    Its very extreme the bones and skulls. :(

  • August 12, 2012 at 7:27 pmDenise

    Visited here in July 2012, fascinating place, if in Palermo do not miss it! It is a place like no other, didnt find it scary but dont take any photos because a voice from above will tell you off and remind you that the bodies were once alive like you and one day you will be dead like them!

  • December 1, 2012 at 6:54 pmsaly

    OMG …. I’M IN SHOCK REALLY … HOW ?? … I THOUGHT THAT THEY’RE ALIVE OR SOMETHING .. ME ALL IN CHILL .. IN SOMEHOW I FELT LIE THEY TALK TO ME … AND EVERY ONE OF THEM HAD A STORY TO TELL

  • March 3, 2013 at 5:04 pmAddicted2Italy travel blog by Larry Aiello

    I’ve been to the catacombs many times, and as bizarre as it may be, I highly recommend it (unless of course you have small children).  The pictures are fantastic.  I’m surprised they let you do them.  I’ve tried a couple of times.  You must have really paid a “hefty” price, but well worth it.Larry

  • June 2, 2013 at 3:08 pmTom Pointon

    Your superb photos persuaded me to visit. This is like walking in to some seventies exploitation horror. By far the most spooky is the little girl who looks as if she’s sleeping and abut to wake up…One bit of advice – the 327 bus which goes from Piazza Independencia will drop you almost at the door. The 389 or 109 buses go from the rail station to Piazza Independencia. It can be a little tricky to find but I asked a couple of locals and even not being able to speak Italian I could follow their directions.It is walkable from the centre if you’re fit.Not to be missed if you’re ever in Palermo.

  • July 2, 2013 at 6:26 pmian wilkinson

    Stunning photos and very emotive. How much did it cost you to persuade the monks to allow you access to photograph? as they are most insistent on no film and no photography. Well done!

    • July 5, 2013 at 10:41 amJuergen

      Easy way out … we had to pay for a photo permission. But at the end it was def. worth it!

  • July 22, 2013 at 9:36 pmBarb Armo

    Not really scary, but fascinating. Probably because MOST of us don’t often see a dead body, particularly one that lived so long ago. I once saw a documentary from Italy where the family would periodically pull their loved ones out of the mausoleum wall and rearrange the bones into elaborate patterns. Guess they’re just not very squeamish on the subject of death. Perhaps the whole process is meant to desensitize one. A very graphic reminder that it will one day be YOU!

  • August 31, 2013 at 8:14 ammidnitepixie

    My father was born near Palermo, Sicily, so Ive been here several times. ..first time at 12. I was fascinated…!! Took my children in 2010 (8 and 10) they too loved it. I’d say the images are far more scary than the actual visit…and it’s not nearly as “horrendous” as the blogger makes it out to be. In fact, it was considered an honor and prestigious to be buried here…and for years, the relatives of the dead paid their respects (and the upkeep) of this underground church tomb. The mummified child left an impression on me at a young age…and remarkably, has not changed one bit since I first saw her over 30 years ago. I recommend visiting the catacombs if you ever have the chance to visit Sicily…not for it’s macabre appearance, but for the appreciation of the ancient rituals and the respect the Sicilains had for their dead.

  • August 31, 2013 at 8:21 ammidnitepixie

    most of these photos shown are postcards…Postcards which are for sale within the church. in 1983, I recall I was able to take photos… however photos are now prohibited (at least they were when I last visited in 2010 and 2011) due to preservation of the corpses.

    • August 31, 2013 at 1:01 pmJuergen

      Thank you for the comments … the pictures here shown are taken by me. We obtained a special and rare permission to take these photos. Glad you enjoyed them.

  • January 24, 2014 at 3:03 amCathi

    I found these photos absolutely fascinating! I’d love to visit the Catacombs someday in the future but as I can’t afford to travel anywhere, I can’t see that happening, so thank you for taking these photos and sharing them with us. I’ve always been interested in this sort of thing for some strange reason and even though I’d find it a bit eerie if I did visit and witness this for myself, I know it would enlighten me not frighten me.

  • February 2, 2014 at 12:24 amDavid

    What a beautiful place. What better way to honor these souls. I have to go visit someday soon. 

  • March 16, 2014 at 4:55 pmTameka

    I have actually been there, while I was stationed at NAS Sigonella. It was gruesome, but fascinating at the same time! A must see if your travels should ever take you in that direction!!! :)

  • April 9, 2014 at 2:19 amLinda Caminiti

    In the mountains above Sorrento there is a village where a scene from the Godfather Part 2 was filmed.  It’s the one where Michael proposes to Appolonia. There is a church and convent run by, I can’t remember, Filopino nuns, I think.  Anyway, they have a similar Capuchin crypt but not nearly as large.  

  • April 15, 2014 at 4:01 pmSparky

    I believe I would bring a very well made breathing mask before going into that place as the dust contains the skin and bone of the bodies, that said it’s a look into the past as no other words can describe how these people must’ve lived, I’m wondering what did the children die of ? thanks for the photos.

  • June 12, 2014 at 11:20 amjulia

    I think that they should let them rest in peace.


Trackbacks/Pingbacks
Don't be Shy, Leave a Comment!