A place full of charm and mystery: Fontanelle Cemetery

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If you are looking for a place out of the ordinary, you are in the right place! The Fontanelle Cemetery , the old ossuary of the city, is a unique place and it will leave you breathless!

Historical facts

The Fontanelle Cemetery is one of the biggest ossuaries in Europe. It is said that more than 40,000 remains are preserved inside it. Its name comes from the many water sources in this area. It was born in 1600, when Naples was decimated by famines, epidemics, earthquakes and eruptions of Vesuvius. The Churches could no longer contain all the bodies, so they were moved to this tuff cave.

The cemetery remained abandoned until 1872, when the pastor Don Gaetano Barbati decided to put it in order. The cemetery was divided into three aisles:

  • Of the Priests, where the remains from the Churches were placed;
  • Of the Appestati (infected), for those who had died during the epidemics;
  • Of Pezzentelli, for poor people who could not afford a better burial.
The cult of devotion to the skulls of the Fontanelle Cemetery (called anime pezzentelli)

The site was reopened only in 2010. The archbishop of Naples ordered, in fact, the closure in 1969 because of the cult of the anime pezzentelle, far from the traditional canons of the Church.

This cult, especially alive in the post-war periods, consisted in adopting one of the skulls, called capuzzella, to receive a grace or numbers to play the lottery.

Cimitero delle Fontanelle

© Antonella Di Mauro

If the faithful received grace, he adorned the skull with a more worthy burial: a small marble altar or even a tin box of biscuits, depending on his economic possibilities. The skulls were never covered to be left free to appear in a dream, the only way of communication with the dead.

All the remains in the cemetery are anonymous, except that ones of Count Filippo Carafa and his wife Margherita, whose expression with the open mouth links her to the legend for which she was dead choked by a gnocchi. There are, then, many other legends related to some skulls. The most famous are that ones of the Captain and Donna Concetta, who is the only one who is always shiny and untouched by dust and it seems to bring good luck for women that are looking for a husband.

The charm of this place is due to its esoteric side and to all those beliefs and legends born over the years that show the particular relationship that Neapolitans have with the death.

Information to visit the Fontanelle Cemetery

The Fontanelle Cemetery is located in via Fontanelle in the Materdei district, in the heart of  Rione Sanità. You can easily reach it with the subway line 1. Just get off at Martedei Station and follow the signs for the cemetery.

The Fontanelle Cemetery is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00 and the entrance is totally free of charge.

There is a possibility to buy a guide service to get to know all the fascinating legends related to this place.

For more information visit the official page of Fontanelle Cemetery.

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