The Mummification in Sicily During the Late Modern Age (XVIII-XIX Century)


  • Antonio Fornaciari University of Siena, Department of History of Arts, Section of Medieval Archeology, Siena
  • Valentina Giuffra University of Pisa, Division of Paleopathology, Pisa, I


Mummification , Sicily , Modern age


Sicily is one of the Italian regions richest in mummified corpses. In addition to the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, a true unicum for their exceptional number of individuals, several other mummies collections, dated back to the late Modern Age, are present in many churches, convents and funerary chapels. The Sicilian mummies are the result of a particular treatment, obtained by drying the body in favourable microclimatic conditions without evisceration, a method which permitted equally to achieve a good state of preservation. The mummification was an extremely diffuse phenomenon in Sicily during the 18th and 19th centuries, not only among the privileged classes, but also among the middle-class. Besides the “Cappuccini Catacombs” of Palermo, at present the sites of Sicilian mummies known in scientific literature are restricted to Comiso (Ragusa) and Savoca (Messina); up to now in fact this historical-biological heritage has not been properly surveyed. In this article we present the first results of a survey carried out in the Messina’s province during July 2005. The research enabled us to investigate this cultural phenomenon, to document the architectural structures appointed to the mummification process and to enrich the knowledge about the presence of mummified bodies in eastern Sicily during the Modern Age.