Dallo scapolo di ricordi N.17 di Angelo Giorgio Mutinati


Funerals were quite different from those celebrated today.

Funerals were graded according to the wealth of the dead person. There were ordinary funerals, which took place more or less as follows. The coffin, once in the church, was placed on plain sawhorses – covered with a black cloth and set up at the centre of the nave – and provided with four candelabra with burning candles at the corners of the rectangular space taken up. Back then, as already mentioned, there were no pews to sit down; there were chairs piled up behind the right door of the church, and their storage and distribution was entrusted to “Tonett’ di’ sigg’ “ – Tonetta of the chairs – who lived on the offers the faithful left her upon handing her back their chairs.

One single priest went to the home of the departed when the corpse was picked up, and followed the procession from the home to the church. After the mass for the departed had been celebrated, he accompanied the funeral procession as far as the back of the Chiesa della Greca, where the so-called “visto” took place – namely when the participants would offer their condolences to the relatives of the departed. Usually, there was just one or very few flower wreaths, but mostly a music band would accompany the ceremony.

If the dead person belonged to a higher social class, the standard of the funeral increased according to the family’s wealth. As many as three priests went to pick up the corpse from the home, or sometimes even the whole chapter followed the procession from home to church. The mass was celebrated by three priests, or by the entire chapter. In the church, the coffin was no longer placed on sawhorses covered with a black cloth, instead, Ignazio the sacristan arranged – still in the middle of the nave – “a’ cast’llen’ “ – the ‘castellana’ -, which was a composition of black cubes and parallelepipeds (like a sort of “Lego” bricks); the “castellana” could vary in height depending on the lavishness of the burial, and had a great number of candles. I will never forget Ignazio the sacristan climbing on these imposing structures, busy with lighting and then putting out all those candles.