The Fontanelle Cemetery in Naples is located just outside of what used to be the city center, in the Sanità neighborhood. What it is mostly known for is a cult called pezzentelle, in which the living and the dead exchanged certain favors.
Fontanelle Cemetery Naples
Address: Via delle Fontanelle, 80 – Napoli.
History and description
In 1656 a plague epidemic struck Naples and its population more than halved, from 400,000 60 150,000. Many victims were buried in a former tuff stone quarry in the Sanità district. Unfortunately, this meant that many among the deceased were buried outside the consecrated grounds of their parish churches, a circumstance that was believed their souls from entering Paradise.
More than two centuries later, in 1872, a parish priest called Gaetano Barbati encouraged the local population to clean up the cemetery. Local women started the habit of “adopting” a lost skull (anima pezzentella), by cleaning it, praying for it and placing it inside a protective marble (or a wooden box, if they were less wealthy) shrine. They also gave the skull a name, which had supposedly been communicated to them in a dream. In return, the defunct would make a wish come through or tell them (this is Naples, after all) what the winning lottery numbers were going to be.