Do you like to explore the dark side? You’re looking forward to “el dia de los muertos”? Good, cause everyday can be the Day of the Dead at San Bernardino alle Ossa church. Who says Mexicans are the best to portray death, with their masks and colorful celebrations? We have good chances in Italy, too, as proved by this charnel house dating back to 1210. This charnel house was originally called San Bernardino ai Morti, which was probably not an inviting name, so the issue was reduced to the bone. The origin of this place seems to be a ”second class” version of the leper graveyard right at its side; according to others the bones belong to Christians killed by heretics more than a thousand years ago. Be as it may, these bones come from a happy time when the dead were more than the living, so it was essential to find a home for them, too.

Photo by Alice Gemignani

The charnel house is basically a room with walls covered in bones and skeletons, so it can be a little bit gloomy, but if you look at the ceiling there’s a beautiful painting with a 3D effect called “Triumph of Souls and Flying Angels”, a fresco strategically located to make visitors feel that even if you’re surrounded by misfortune, if you look up there’s always hope. In the end, it’s not that bad to delve for some minutes in such a gloomy place: if you’re smart you will leave feeling a bit more attached to the people you love.

Photo by Alice Gemignani

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