Spiritual Spaces

A Chilling Tribute to Purgatory

In the luminous seaside town of Monopoli stands a unique church which dedicated to Purgatory. Purgatory is a limbo or suspended zone between Heaven and Hell, where impure souls are cleansed before passing to Eternity. Perhaps, the Ghost of Hamlet’s father describes it best:

Doomed for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature,
Are burnt and purged away.

A Purgatory Mass is dedicated to such departed souls. The prayers help these individuals pass on to Heaven.

Built in the Baroque style in the late 17th Century/early 18th Century, Monopoli’s Church of Purgatory has many skull and crossbones images carved in marble or engraved throughout the interior. Depictions of two full-sized skeletons decorate the front doors. The motif is typical in churches that are devoted to the purgatory theme. Even more chilling are the embalmed and mummified bodies of the Church’s founders, displayed in a cabinet in a side chapel. A mummified infant is among them. The church was open during the day when I was there in November, perhaps for repairs but typically it is only open for an evening mass from 6 to 7. If the church is closed you can see the mummies through the window near the front doors.

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