Lost Body Parts

September 17, 2012 / Art & Archaeology
Napoli, Campania
Neapolitans seem to have a thing for uninterred body parts. At the Duomo, for example, the bones of patron saint San Gennaro clutter inside a pot. At the Church of the Souls of Purgatory, mythical Lucia’s bones are scattered in a niche alongside handwritten letters. And then, il Cimitero delle Fontanelle contains thousands upon thousands of cleaned and ordered skulls. So when body parts go missing in Naples, rumors and lamentations arise.

This is exactly what happened at San Domenico Maggiore, the original seat of the University of Naples. St. Thomas Aquinas taught here for a time, and true to form, rumors say his arm bone resides somewhere inside the monastery. In the sacristy of the church, forty-two coffins line an upper balcony, containing the embalmed remains of many Argonese kings. But it’s the Treasure Room that is shrouded in mystery.

The hearts of two kings once resided inside a now locked door of the sacristy. However, the hearts vanished upon the departure of the French who briefly occupied the Kingdom of Naples in the 19th century. So lamentable are the disappearances that a plaque near the door still commemorates the loss!


by Barbara Zaragoza

Barbara is author of “The Espresso Break: Tours and Nooks of Naples, Italy and Beyond” available on Amazon.com in print as well as Kindle versions.
Visit her website about Naples or check out Napoli Unplugged. Bonnie Alberts, Penny Ewles-Bergeron and Barbara have teamed up to create a new Naples travel guide, out in Spring 2014!

6 Responses to “Lost Body Parts”

  1. John Douglas

    Always thought it would be interesting to take all the saints relics and match them up to see how many arms, fingers, and toes could be found for each — and also to do some DNA to see if any of them matched ;-)

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  2. Pru Bell-Davies

    I always feel that I left a piece of myself behind in Napoli after living there for four years….an excuse to go back there from time to time to find it!!

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  3. @Barbara G.: Thanks for your kind words. :) @Pru: LOL! I never thought about it that way. I must have many many pieces of myself strewn around Naples… @John: You bring up a good point. The Italians are constantly unearthing bones and DNA testing them. I remember when they definitively found Caravaggio’s remains. And somehow, when researchers unearth bones in Italy, it’s not macabre at all, but rather this very wondrous discovery!

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