Neapolitans and the Dead

A still…live devotion!!! Yes, Neapolitans’ connection with the Afterworld is daily and special, not only about their own dear relatives passed away, but for the so called “ragged Souls” as well.

There are many churches in Naples with crypts housing bones with no longer identity, since many of them belong to victims of the Plague of the XVII century.

By sure this aspect is common to many other places in Italy and in Europe, but in Naples it happens something making unique this kind of devotion.

Although apparently macabre, Neapolitans “adopt” these bones and take care of them: they clean them, pray for them but… in change of something!

It is actually an exchange: the Alive take care of them and through their activities give the Dead light and “refreshment” (“refrisco” in Neapolitan dialect) and the Dead thank the Alive doing something specific, that is appearing in dreams revealing lucky numbers to be played at Lotto!!!

No doubts that this is the best example of the very thin boundery between faith and superstition!

There is a place in Naples showing very clearly the importance of this link: the Fontanelle Cemetery in Sanità district, the hugest Naples ossuary, a place of very deep peace.

In this place you can find bones in unusual boxes or frames, such as shoes boxes (often less lucky or the poorest  especially look for footholds): the box or the frame are like a legitimation of that specific dead, a way to make the adoption official and visible to everybody’s eyes, so that nobody else can adopt those specific bones because they showed their benevolence to a person or to a family.

And sometimes this link can even arrive to an end (rarely, but it happens…): if those specific bones do not show any longer their benevolence, they are abandoned by the adoptive Alive that looks for some new more generous bones…!



cimitero delle fontanelle a napoli foto di Dominik Matus Wikimedia Commons

Fontanelle Cemetery

Sanità District
Via Fontanelle, 80
sito web


Chiesa del Purgatorio ad Arco

Old Town
Via dei Tribunali, 39


Santa Luciella Street Complex

Old Town
Vico Santa Luciella, 5


Non ti pago!

From a comedy by Eduardo De Filippo.
A huge winnings that risk being denied to the winner due to illegitimacy of kinship of the deceased who went to him in a dream!