A Sicilian Cathedral tour offers an unexpected and chilling twist.

Palermo Cathedral Crypt

I usually love the unexpected moments of international travel. This time, my lack of knowledge of Italian in Sicily brought me a chilling surprise. I was on my first trip to Italy with friends  when my friend Herb and I decided to spend the day exploring the city on foot. We stopped for hot drinks and sat in the morning sunshine, enjoying the view of the nearby Palermo Cathedral. After hanging out for short time and taking a few photos Herb began feeling ill. He decided to return to his room, I continued on.

My love of architecture and churches took me directly to the Palermo Cathedral, formally known as Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral. I was excited to discover the cathedral offered a self guided tour. I paid my fee and accepted my ticket. I looked at it and stuck it in my pocket. It would be later that the significance of what the ticket said, would hold meaning to me.

The cathedral is a stunning piece of architecture. It’s history includes many rulers who over the centuries made additions to the architecture to suit the time. This originally Christian church for a time became an Islamic mosque and then in later centuries returned to a Christian church. One entrance showcases Catalan Gothic architecture. Inside the cathedral you see both Neoclassical and Baroque style architecture, while the apse of the cathedral contains Islamic geometric decorations. The cathedral offers beautiful architecture, mosaic tiles and tapestries for visitors to look at. I was thoroughly enjoying my tour of the cathedral and felt fortunate to discover a wedding party preparing for a marriage just before I entered a door that would turn my entire tour experience on it’s head. This is why knowing a little bit of the language is important. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into IS KEY!

Crypt Palermo Cathedral
Palermo Cathedral Crypt

Photo Credit Allie_Caulfied Flickr

What I Would Learn
What I would learn moments later was that the door I entered led into the cathedral crypt. CRYPT, as in graves, ahg! Not only am I claustrophobic but I’m not fond of looking at graves that have stone figures carved atop them. Especially not when I am in a room made of thick stone walls and Roman columns ALONE!

Crypt Grave

A Grave in the Palermo Cathedral Crypt

Photo Credit Simpsora Flickr

As I was refreshing my memory about the cathedral, (just now) I thought I would Google sarcophagus I thought it was the name given to the stone carved figures found on top of the graves in the crypt, but wanted to confirm this for my own knowledge. According to Wikipedia it means<em> flesh eating stone</em> my skin is now crawling.

According to Going Through Italy the crypt holds 21 graves, including the Palermo Arch Bishops, two Roman emperors and a Queen. The website also offers a nice photo that gives you a taste of the graves and the imposing Roman columns. Looking back at the photo I realize it is quite a large area. Yet trust me, it can be a freaky experience to wind up alone in a crypt you didn’t know you were walking into.

If you’d like to visit the Palermo Cathedral, the hours are 9:30-5:30 and there is an admission charge to take the tour. The tour includes the crypt and the treasury.