Address: Fontanelle Street in the Materdei neighborhood in the Sanità District
Opening hours: every day from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Directions: Subway 1, Martedei stop and follow directions towards cemetery
If you are looking for a place out of the ordinary, you are in the right place! The Fontanelle cemetery is the largest ossuary in Europe with more than 40K human remains.
Located in a cave in the tuff hillside in the Materdei section of the city. It is associated with a chapter in the folklore of the city. By the time the Spanish moved into the city in the early 16th-century, there was already concern over where to locate cemeteries, and moves had been taken to locate graves outside of the city walls.
To make space in the churches for the newly interred, undertakers started removing earlier remains outside the city to the cave, the future Fontanelle cemetery. The remains were interred shallowly and then joined in 1656 by thousands of anonymous corpses, victims of the great plague of that year. The cemetery was abandoned since 1872 when Father Gaetano Barbati had the chaotically buried skeletal remains disinterred and catalogued. He divided the cemetery ino three parts, one for the priests, one for the infects, and one for the pezzentelle (the poorest souls).
From 1969 to 2010 the cemetery has been closed from Cardinal Ursi of Naples. The priest decided that the anime pezzentelle cult, a spontaneous cult of devotion for the skulls of the dead, had gone too far. Defenders of the cult pointed out that they were paying respect to those who had anyone in life and who had been too poor even to have a proper burial. Devotees paid visits to the skulls, cleaned them and even giving the skulls back their living names (revealed to their caretakers in dreams).
All the remains present in the cemetery are anonymous, except for Count Filippo Carafa and his wife Margherita, whose expression with his mouth open started the legend that she died drowned by a dumpling. There are also many legends related to other skulls. The most famous are the one about the Captain and Donna Concetta. The skull of the woman always appears shiny and not affected by the dust, so everybody thinks that brings good luck to women looking for a husband.
St. Gennaro & St. Gaudioso Catacombs
Address (S. Gennaro): Via Capodimonte 13, next to the Basilica of the Incoronata and Mother of the Good Council
Directions (S. Gennaro): From the historic center, they are easily reachable by public transport. From the National Archaeological Museum the bus lines are: the 178, 168 and the R4.
Address (S. Gaudioso): Piazza della Sanità 14 (in the basement of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità)
Directions (S. Gaudioso): From National Archaeological Museum they are easily accessible on foot.
Price: All-inclusive ticket valid for one month.
The catacombs of Naples are underground places, the fulcrum of early Christianity and the heart of two cemetery areas dating back to the 2nd century AD. A combination of history and legends, these are mystical places to discover. These are the catacombs of S. Gennaro and S. Gaudioso. They are located close to the Sanità district, near the historic center of Naples.
The catacombs of San Gennaro are the largest in Southern Italy, covering an area of about 5800 meters squares on two levels, dug into the tufa of the Capodimonte hill to accommodate underground hypogea, commonly called tombs. The first nucleus of burials dates back to a noble family, of which it is possible to see, even today, the frescoes. Around the 5th century AD the tombs increased because many faithful wanted to be buried next to San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples, whose translation of the body near the catacombs was desired by the bishop of Naples. Today the remains of S. Gennaro are preserved in the cathedral of Naples. The tombs came to be around 3,000. In addition to a cemetery, the catacombs also became a place of prayer, so much so that real basilicas were founded: the basilica of the bishops and the basilica adjecta. Later they fell into disuse. They contain many frescoes belonging to the early Christianity.
Also the catacombs of S. Gaudioso are burial grounds, located under the church of Santa Maria della Sanità, smaller , take their name from Gaudioso, the African saint who arrived in Naples. Inside are the body of the saint, the frescoes and the early Christian mosaics but also seventeenth-century tombs and the oldest representation of Mary of Campania.
Getting to the Catacombs of Naples: Coming to the catacombs is easy for tourists. The catacombs can be visited both with an all-inclusive ticket valid for one month. The route is compulsory guided and the cooperative that takes care of it: "the catacombs of Naples", has made available a path for the disabled.