Monday, May 10, 2010

CICCHITTI FAMILY MAUSOLEUM - Villamagna Town Cemetery, Villamagna, Chieti, Abruzzo, ITALY

This was one of the neatest mausoleums I discovered during my visit to my ancestral village in Italy in October, 2008. I have Cicchiti ancestors (not buried here - my ancestors were the poor contadini, or farmers) so this mausoleum caught my eye almost immediately upon my entrance to the cemetery. The first thing you notice is that it is visited regularly by family. All the flowers and other mementos testify to that fact. I also love the pictures and small altar where family members can come and offer prayers for their beloved dead. Also notice the ornate floor and light or lantern hanging from the ceiling. You almost feel like you are in a chapel and not a mausoleum. Some mausoleums are much more ornate and have pews and other religious artifacts and remind you of a small church. This mausoleum is in the "old" part of the cemetery. The "new" part consists of rows and sections of public mausoleums.

Many people visit Italy and expect to visit the graves of their ancestors. However, I did not expect to see any ancestors' graves and did not. Why is this? Only the graves of wealthy families who could afford to erect mausoleums and to pay for perpetual lots remain. Most of the poorer families had (and have to this day) "temporary" graves that are used for 20, 30, 40 years, etc. When the time period is up, if descendants do not renew, then the remains are disinterred and re-interred (if you can call it that) in the public mausoleum which is located in the center of the cemetery. No names, however, so you visit the public mausoleum and pay your respects to everyone. There are crypts inside the public mausoleum with names, but those are purchased and paid for, probably for perpetuity. Since all of my family members came to the United States when most of my Italian ancestors were already passed, I knew I would not see any graves of my Italian ancestors.

Land is so precious in Italy that little is dedicated to cemeteries. So the ones that do exist are hundreds of years old and filled with wonderful tombstones. That is, the tombstones of the people who could afford to have them in perpetuity.

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