Studio per una Fontanella

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The “Cimitero delle Fontanelle” (Fontanelle cemetery), in Naples, is a charnel house, an ossuary, located in a cave in the tuff hillside in the Materdei section of the city. The cemetery is known because a particular rite took place there, known as the rite of the “anime pezzentelle” (pezzentelle souls), which involved the adoption and placement, in exchange for protection, of a skull (called “capuzzella”), to which an abandoned soul corresponded. Devotees paid visits to the skulls, cleaned them—“adopted” them, in a way, even giving the skulls back their ‘‘living” names (revealed to their caretakers in dreams). An entire cult was devoted to caring for the skulls, talking to them, asking for favors, and bringing them flowers.

The name “Fontanelle” (literally “little fountains”) was given due to the presence of water sources in ancient times.