Where the Dead Don't Sleep
The February 2009 edition of National Geographic has a feature on the uniquely Sicilian custom of preserving (mummifying) bodies for public viewing. The article is called "Where the Dead Don't Sleep."
The author writes: "In Europe the desiccation and preservation of corpses is a particularly Sicilian affair. There are other examples in Italy, but the great majority are in Sicily, where the relationship between the living and the dead is especially strong. Nobody knows how many there really are, or how many have since been removed from catacombs and buried in cemeteries by priests uneasy with the theology of keeping votive corpses. The phenomenon provokes an instant question: Why would anyone do this? Why would you exhibit decaying bodies?"
Of course, I have seen the famous Capuchin crypt that he writes about (and shows in a slide show that is amazing) many times. Visitors often ask to see this unusual attraction. In fact, I wrote about it in 2005, calling it "Those Creepy Capuchins." And I still find it creepy! However, I didn't know that there were other places in Sicily where bodies are preserved like this. One is not even too far from where I live, just on the other side of Taormina, in a little town where they filmed part of The Godfather.
"Sicily's macabre mummies offer lessons about life," says the magazine . . . although I still don't know what it is.