In 1567 the Brotherhood of the ‘Good Death’ was established in Urbania. It essentially aimed at giving an honourable burial to the poor. Its members took care of free transportation of the corpses, gave assistance to the dying, took care of the burial which was held in an area in the back of the small church.
Napoleon, in the early 19th century, issued an edict which established extraurban cemeteries for health reasons: this is when the 18 naturally mummified bodies were found and displayed behind the altar. Later on, in the 1960s and 1970s, it turned out that a particular mold in the soil caused a natural process of mummification that preserved their skin, organs, hair and, in a few cases, even pieces of their clothes.
The mummies were once humble people, often sick, put aside by society, who often died violent deaths (you can tell from the marks left on their bodies). Each one of them has his or her own tragical story to tell: a mother who died in childbirth (you can see the mark of a cross on her womb); a young man who got stabbed (you can see the hole of the blade); the hanged man, the buried alive.
If only they could talk. Sometimes, when I visit the church I feel as if I am invading their private, sacred space. I feel as if I am intruding, even now that I’m posting their pictures.
And yet, what if they are really talking to us? What can we learn from their tragic lives? What about feeling thankful for a change (I’m talking for myself of course) for being alive, loved, healthy? What about taking a chance to think over words like: compassion, respect, sharing, love?