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Fontanelle Cemetery

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

Via Fontanelle, 80, 80136 Napoli NA, Italy

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

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expert
Ambra
Local tour guide
"Visit the Fontanelle Cemetery in Naples during the quieter morning hours to avoid the crowds and experience a more serene atmosphere. Also, be sure to pass by the local market nearby where you can find unique handmade mementos that support the community, a secret spot overlooked by most tourists."

What is Fontanelle Cemetery?

Fontanelle Cemetery, or Cimitero delle Fontanelle in Italian, is a unique historical site located in the vibrant city of Naples. This ancient cemetery is not like your typical burial ground; it's an evocative charnel house, a resting place for thousands of unidentified human remains. These remains were placed in a vast underground quarry that has been used over the centuries as a burial place, particularly during significant crises like epidemics or natural disasters.

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At first glance, the serenity and quietness of the place may seem overwhelming, but as you delve deeper, you discover a profound connection between the living and the dead. The Neapolitans, known for their particular relationship with death, have turned this somber place into a location of hope, respect, and remembrance. Here, you'll find a touching tradition where locals 'adopt' skulls of the nameless deceased, offering them care and prayers, creating a personal bond with souls they consider to be their 'pezzentelle', or little wretches.

History of Fontanelle Cemetery

The history of Fontanelle Cemetery is a rich tapestry woven through the strands of Naples' past. Orginally, the cavern was a quarry for the soft volcanic tufa stone that typifies Neapolitan architecture. With time, it transformed into a burial place for the indigent and victims of great plagues that struck the city. In the 16th century, during a devastating outbreak of the plague, it became a mass grave.

Later, in the 17th century, Fontanelle Cemetery received another wave of remains, exhumed from overflowing church graveyards. At the end of the 18th century, the site was officially consecrated as a cemetery. Throughout the years, the site was somewhat forgotten until a priest, Don Gaetano Barbati, organized and cataloged the bones in the late 19th century, giving rise to the ritualistic care of the skulls by the local populace.

However, the cemetery was closed for some time at various points in history, most notably due to the Church's concerns about the cult of the pezzentelle. It wasn't until the latter part of the 20th century that the site was reopened and restored, adding to Naples' cultural and historical attractions.

Why is Fontanelle Cemetery Important?

Fontanelle Cemetery is important for several reasons. Firstly, it serves as a poignant reminder of the turbulent times that Naples has endured. The sheer number of bones housed within speaks volumes about the city's history of poverty and disease. As a space of collected memory, it bears testament to countless lives, many of whom were marginalized or forgotten.

Secondly, the practices and rituals carried out here represent a unique aspect of Neapolitan culture, where the boundary between life and death is tenderly negotiated, and where the dead are intimately woven into the fabric of daily life. It's a place that exemplifies the city's spirit in the face of mortality and shows how respect for the dead can transcend anonymity and neglect.

Lastly, Fontanelle Cemetery is a sacred and mystical place for many locals. For visitors, it offers a deep insight into Naples’ traditions and history, providing a more contemplative and introspective experience than the bustling streets above ground might suggest.

Things to Do & See at Fontanelle Cemetery

Visiting Fontanelle Cemetery is an unforgettable experience. You'll be able to walk through the hauntingly beautiful corridors lined with skulls and bones, neatly arranged in a quasi-liturgical order. This unconventional site offers a unique juxtaposition of death and care, bringing visitors face-to-face with Naples' history and the resilience of its people.

Take a moment to observe the numerous ‘adoptive’ shrines where skulls have been placed in boxes, adorned with rosaries, and named. It's believed that caring for these skulls brings luck, and in return, the soul of the ‘adopted’ will look out for their caretaker. You might also notice small offerings or personal notes, showing the ongoing interaction between the souls and the living.

Special tours are often available and can offer you insights into the legends and folklore surrounding the cemetery. These stories are an integral part of the experience, giving the place its ethereal atmosphere. While photography is permitted, remember to treat the site with respect, keeping in mind that this is a sacred place for many Neapolitans.

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Frequently asked questions

What is Fontanelle Cemetery?

Fontanelle Cemetery is an ancient burial site in Naples, Italy, known for its ossuary housed in a cave-like environment where the remains of unidentified people were interred.

How did Fontanelle Cemetery come to be?

Fontanelle Cemetery originated when churches in Naples ran out of space for burials, and the remains of the dead were moved to the caves in the tuff hillside. Over time, it evolved into an organized ossuary.

Can visitors tour Fontanelle Cemetery?

Yes, visitors can tour Fontanelle Cemetery. It is a historical site that offers insight into the past burial customs and traditions of Naples. It's advisable to check opening hours and if a guide is required for tours.

What is the significance of the 'ritual of the adoptions' at Fontanelle Cemetery?

The 'ritual of the adoptions' was a practice where people would adopt and care for a skull, believed to be without a name or a soul, in hopes of assisting the soul's journey to the afterlife. This practice reflects the blend of Catholic and folk traditions in Neapolitan culture.

Is there an entry fee for Fontanelle Cemetery?

Historically, Fontanelle Cemetery has not charged an entry fee, but this can change, and it's best to confirm the current policy before planning your visit.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

Via Fontanelle, 80, 80136 Napoli NA, Italy

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

Find it on google maps