The 1656, year of the plague that decimated the population of Naples, is considered the birth year of the cemetery of the fountain: too many people died and churches, where they used to bury the deceased at the time, had no more places. It was therefore decided to place the remains in caves.
Since 1656 for two centuries, the caves were used as a cemetery, especially in the 1836 years of cholera.
For many years the quarry containing the dead had been unused, until in 1872 Don Gaetano Barbati, pastor of the nearby church of Materdei, decided to rearrange the bodies in the way that today we can admire them.
The deceased in the cemetery of the fountains are all anonymous, but two skeletons: the one of Filippo Carafa Count of Cerreto of Maddaloni Dukes, who died July 17, 1797 and Donna Margherita Petrucci born Azzoni died October 5, 1795. Both lies in coffins protected by glasses.
From 1969 to 2010 the Fontanelle cemetery was closed, except for special openings. But why?
In 1969 the Cardinal of Naples of that time, Corrado Ursi, decreed the closure due to the excessive worship of paganism. What cult? The cult of pezzentelle souls (tramp souls).
Visitors to the cemetery today will see that while many skulls are piled outside, others are closed in caskets (often makeshift) with name and date. This is due to the cult of the souls in purgatory (anime pezzentelle).People who needed a grace (or only numbers to play the lottery), "adopted" a skull and took care with prayers and attention. If the grace came, they built a shrine of thanksgiving, if not the skull was abandoned and replaced by a new one.
Surely the most famous skull of the cemetery is the one of the Captain.
There are many stories that tell about the Captain, but the most popular says that a young woman who was about to get married, brought her boyfriend to "know" the Captain. Having reached the quarry in front of the skull, the boyfriend cheat the soul and almost daring it invited it to his wedding.
The wedding day a strange guest nobody knew appeared at the party: it was the Captain. After the introduction, the captain opened his uniform, and instead of a man's body, only the bones of the skeleton appeared. At the sight of that scene, the two newlyweds died instantly, and legend tells that they are still kept in the first room of the Fontanelle cemetery under the statue of Gaetano Barbati.
Another historical figure of the cemetery is "Il Monacone” (The big monk). Beside him there are the eleven only whole skeletons clearly visible in the Fontanelle Cemetery. They are "the nobles" who had come so far intact and well dressed, and who in life were Filippo Carafa, Count of Cerreto and Maddaloni and his wife Margaret.
The cemetery is open daily from 10 to 17.
Free guided tours Saturday and Sunday pre 10-11-12