Chiesa di San Bernardino
In Milan this place creates a new definition of a Gothic church. Even from the outside the black arched windows and sloping dark rooftops give it a feel that was reintroduced by classic horror and inside it has even more dark beauty. Inside the walls are octagonal and are coated with pillars arches and accents that are all baroque style, continuing its aesthetic. But what visitors will quickly notice about this place is that the deceased of the ossuary occupy every corner of this building. The repeating patterns that crawl up the black pillars are made from bones. The beautiful fresco in the highest part of the ceiling here busied by a surrounding crowd of on looking skulls. Even the texture that lines the walls and the decorative image of the cross that sits within it is actually made from hundreds of human skulls embedded into the surface of the church. At a glance this place looks like a standard example of old school décor but the more you look, the more you realise that every accent, every lining, every strip is constructed of body parts. This may seem quite unsightly to those unfamiliar with the practice, but once again for a person who is profoundly religious, what place would be better for your mortal body than literally part of the fabric of your place of worship. In the same way a good captain goes down with his ship, these devoted followers wish to dedicate themselves to their cause.
Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo
This place in Sicily’s capital is a much different experience. Because the cemetery was full to capacity, the monks at the Capuchin monastery began excavating ground here in order to find space for their dead. The crypts here were originally designed to be used just for the monks themselves as the first person to be kept here was a friar of their own. However this room for the non-living began to attract attention and soon it became a somewhat popular location that was sought after as a burial spot by many. Soon people were writing their requests into their wills so that they too could join the number underground here, something many of us today can’t really understand.
Today the place holds over 8000 bodies, and unlike other crypts and places where skeletons are used to construct ornate pieces, here many of the bodies were well looked after, often re dressed as requested from time to time. Some of the remains here are in fact so well kept that scientists had to rediscover the recipe for their embalming fluid which has left some people here in life like condition. Famously the very young Rosalia Lombardo lies here, her skin still very much intact. She has been called the sleeping beauty by some, although a recent move into an airtight enclosure has caused a phenomenon where apparently her eyes momentarily open. Visiting here will put you face to face with the many different levels of decomposition, but also serves as a great historical preservation site of the people of the past.