Busy being dead

Wandering through an old neighbourhood in Bari, Italy a few years ago on a hot hot summer day. We browsed the shops, explored the narrow streets and curious piazzas and stopped in on all the churches. (I am on a mission to find all the Marys I possibly can… and Italy is literally the mother-lode.) As the afternoon wore on, my husband had had enough of churches, so by the time we made it to the Bari Cathedral, he opted to sit in the plaza by himself and watch the local children kicking a ball against the outside wall of the church.

I went in alone. The interior was cool and quiet, and typical of southern Italy. I found a very charming Mary in the apse, one of my favourites of all time. (I blogged an image of her here, one of my early days learning Photoshop things – a bit overwrought, I’m afraid, but she is still delightful.)

I was ready to leave when I noticed an arrow pointing down the stairs to the crypt. Possibly one of the more grisly places I have  been – dozens of mini coffins containing bundled bones and occasionally other bits and pieces of saints and religious notables. There was a large, gated off area which appeared to be mostly 24 carat gold and white marble, containing the remains of a bishop.

I made my way to the other side of the crypt and came upon what could only be described as a macabre inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s glass coffin. At first I thought it was a statue, or life-size doll, but it seems it is the desiccated remains of Colomba di Sens. She was a virgin martyr, born in Spain, somehow ended up in Gaul, who may or may not have been a converted witch. And ended up being beheaded. In 273. Over 1700 years ago. This is her ‘miraculously’ perfectly preserved body. At least this is what the information in the church claims – with no explanation as to how she got from France to Southern Italy – or more curiously, how her head is so perfectly reattached.

I was, and still am, fascinated by her. There is a story here, something strange and possibly quite awful – but the protagonists took their secrets to the grave with them. Shame this poor young woman wasn’t given the same courtesy. How dreadful to spend an eternity busy being dead. No rest in peace for this chick…

Published by Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

9 thoughts on “Busy being dead

      1. Then make sure you do not become a witch and then convert to Christianity (or whatever the prevailing belief system of the moment is) and then get yourself beheaded.
        Fortunately for her, it seems this crypt is not a terribly popular place for either locals or visitors… I sent my husband down there when I came back up without preparing him. He’s a nice man from Texas raised in a proper, sensible, protestant church, without an indoctrination in Catholic mysticism. He was literally pale when he came up – had never seen such a thing – and very upset that children were playing ball just a few feet away…


  1. Hi Titi…I have had to curtail my computer time, but I keep an eye on you! 🙂

    I just listened to a radio broadcast. For 4800 Cdn. dollars, we can now have our loved one’s ashes made into a diamond. I wondered where I would want to be worn. The man providing the service was carrying his grandfather in his pocket – as a diamond. He choked up telling the story of his love for his grandfather.

    My front tooth keeps needing a chip repaired. Maybe I could have my cat’s ashes made into a diamond that I could embed in that tooth. Okay…I’m being silly, but…


    1. I’ve missed you Ms Dipper… and I just read your post… I suspect St Colomba would prefer to be clear so she could just disappear… Me, I’d probably go for emerald green or ruby red – or maybe they could do me up both ways. Although… I am planning to live forever, so I probably won’t need to consider that seriously.


      1. I better ask for the power point presentation of the scientist who made the presentation re living forever. You would find some pointers. 🙂

        Actually, he’s originally from NZ – however the dear man ignored our rules about “no selling” and he promoted a product that is a multi-level marketing product.

        Yes, go for the emerald green AND ruby red if, by chance, you do pass over.


  2. I don’t know if I would be enthralled or repulsed, but probably the former as I would be standing there thinking to myself, “Where is the cut in her neck? Is the head glue back on? And why is a virgin martyr wearing something akin to a wedding dress? And ……?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: