A Curious Invitation present London Month of the Dead
Saints of the Underworld
The Catacombs of Palermo with Iain Sinclair

Saturday 2nd October 2021 at 3:30 pm

Some 400 years ago Palermo’s Capuchin monastery found its cemetery was at full capacity. So the monks excavated new crypts beneath the existing graves, and the first resident, brother Silvestro di Gubbio, was experimentally embalmed and vinegared in his Franciscan habit in 1599. The practice began to appeal to wealthy families and soon an honour once reserved for members of the order was licensed out first to noble Sicilians and in time to less prosperous applicants.

The families of the deceased residents would pay regular ‘indulgences’ to the monastery - not only to keep their loved-one’s remains in the crypts, but to be able to visit and to re-clothe the body as its garments frayed and disintegrated. Non-payment would entail their late relative having the indignity of being withdrawn to a backroom shelf until their next of kin stumped up again.

In his talk, Iain Sinclair will discuss the history of the catacombs revealing how the 8,000 corpses and 1,252 mummies proved to be a "life-changing experience of death and all of its smoky mirrors".

Tickets £12 including a 20% donation toward a host of restoration projects at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Iain Sinclair
Iain Sinclair was born in Cardiff in 1943. He is the author of numerous works of fiction, poetry non-fiction, including Lud Heat; White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings; Downriver; Radon Daughters; Lights Out for the Territory; Rodinsky's Room, with Rachel Lichtenstein; Landor's Tower; London Orbital; Dining On Stones; Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire and Ghost Milk; American Smoke and London Overground. Downriver won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Encore Award. He lives in Hackney, East London.

Image credit - Ian Wilkinson's A Final Supper created from thirteen mummifeid figures photographed in the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo. This image, copyright of Ian Wilkinson, comes from the book "Our Late Familiars" created in collaboration with Iain Sinclair https://discover.goldmarkart.com/our-late-familiars/.

Kensal Green Cemetery