Spallanzani Museum

The Spallanzani Museum (Reggio Emilia, Italy)

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799) was a Catholic priest, biologist and physiologist (I guess back then those three things went together?) who, according to Wikipedia, “made important contributions to the experimental study of bodily functions, animal reproduction, and animal echolocation.”  During his lifetime he amassed a large collection of specimens which, upon his death, ended up in a gallery at the Palazzo dei Musei in the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy.  It’s generally just an old-style zoology collection, but there are quite a few curiosities as well, like two-headed snakes in jars and stuffed cows with legs coming out of their shoulders and that sort of thing. But of particular morbid interest is THIS:

The above photo and others of the exhibit can be viewed at Morbid Anatomy.

Museum of Criminal Anthropology

The Museum of Criminal Anthropology (Turin, Italy)

In 1876 Cesare Lombroso, a forty-year-old former army surgeon and the medical superintendent of a lunatic asylum at Pesaro in northern Italy, published a treatise on criminal man, L’Uomo Delinquente, which claimed that his lifetime study of more than 6000 criminals had shown that they tended to possess certain well-developed physical characteristics.  In Lombroso’s view, habitual criminals tended to have wide jaws, high cheekbones, long arms, and large ears (approximately square in shape), as well as an unusually narrow field of vision.  In 1898, Lombroso founded this museum under the name “the Museum of Psychiatry and Criminology” to display his collections.  There are 400 skulls in his collection, Also on show are drawings, photos, criminal evidence, anatomical sections of “madmen and criminals” and work produced by criminals in the last century. The exhibits also include the Gallows of Turin, which were in use until the city’s final hanging in 1865.  And, best of all, Lombroso’s own head is on display in a jar!

Cemetery of the Capuchins

Cemetery of the Capuchins (Rome, Italy)

Chris wrote to recommend this unbelievably beautiful chapel which is decorated with the bones of Capuchin Monks. As described in the website linked to the left: “The crypt is located just under Santa Maria della Concezione, a church commissioned by Pope Urban XIII in 1626. The pope’s brother, Cardinal Antonio Barberini, who was of the Capuchin order, in 1631 ordered the remains of thousands of Capuchin monks exhumed and transferred from the friary Via dei Lucchesi to the crypt. The crypt now contains the remains of 4,000 monks buried between 1500-1870, during which time the Papal States permitted burial in and under churches. The underground crypt is divided into five chapels lit only by dim natural light seeping in through cracks, and small fluorescent lamps which cast strange shadows.” Definitely a must-see when in Rome!

Capuchins’ Catacombs

Capuchins’ Catacombs (Palermo, Italy)

In 1599, Capuchin monks made a shocking discovery while exhuming bodies from the catacombs of their monastery — many of the bodies had been naturally mummified. Following this discovery, the monks decided to mummify one of their own, and the Palermo townspeople soon joined in. Deceased members from all social classes were mummified and placed in these catacombs until the 1880s, when the practice of mummification was banned. But that didn’t stop the curious townspeople, as the last mummy was laid to rest here in 1920. As a result of this “mummification trend,” the catacombs of the Capuchin Monastery have become one of the largest, and most eerie, collections of mummified bodies in the world.
Thanks to Carolyn for the suggestion.


Specola Museum

Museo La Specola (Florence, Italy)

Suggested by John: “The Specola museum in Florence, Italy is a most fascinating museum. It is a natural history museum and is laid out starting with insects and mollusks, then birds, fish, mammals (all stuffed, sometimes very weirdly) and ending with the most stunning wax anatomical models of humans and their parts. There is a book published by Taschen called: Encyclopaedia Anatomica. If you ever find yourself in Florence, I strongly advise you go there. It’s near the Pitti Palace.”