The Capuchins began burying their own friars in the crypts underneath the monastery in the 16th century, and they soon discovered that the unique conditions in the catacombs - combined with their own burial traditions - preserved the bodies extremely well. It wasn’t long before Sicilians decided that being buried in the Capuchin Catacombs - and therefore being preserved after death - was a status symbol.
In total, there are more than 8,000 bodies interred in Palermo’s Capuchin Catacombs, in varying states of preservation and from all walks of life. There are chambers dedicated to priests, monks, women, men, and children. Some are still encased in coffins, some are perched in standing positions on the walls overlooking the tourists below.
One of the last bodies to be placed in the Capuchin Catacombs is also the most famous - two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo looks today as if she was just put down for a nap, although she’s been dead since 1920.