27 May 2005

Of Mausoleums and Monuments

Villarosa cemetery steps
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
For those unfamiliar with Italian burial practices, it is commonplace to construct a family mausoleum where family members will be laid to rest for as long as someone pays the rent. Old tombs that are not maintained will be emptied, the remains transferred to a potter’s field, and the mausoleum rented to another family.

I found the two cemeteries I walked through in Villarosa and Santa Catarina Villarmosa fascinating. Some of the mausoleums are quite elaborate, and look like miniature chapels. I was often struck by the contrast between new and old, and I always wondered what the story was behind some of the oldest monuments.

Another common practice is to place a photo of the deceased relative directly onto their headstone. At first I thought this a bit odd, but grew to like the personal aspect this lends each mausoleum. There is a wealth of historical and family history information to be found in Italian cemeteries, although you shouldn’t expect to find many graves prior to the late 1800’s unless the family has remained in the area and maintained the tomb.

Later in the day I returned to San Giovannello for the lunch hours, and noticed accumulating clouds. The storm was expectant, but slow to break. First loud rumblings echoed throughout the valley. I kept listening and watching. Finally, the rain arrived. Mild at first, as the terra cotta tiles became spotted than soaked in the downpour. The valley misted over, losing all distinction of the mountains encircling it. Finally, lightning and crackling thunder. I had a grand location for watching the storm, and the fresh smell such a rain leaves behind.

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