The Fontanelle cemetery and the skulls that grant wishes

Ciro Palladino is a taxi-driver in Naples. He also happens to be an extraordinarily erudite man. He is familiar with every historic monument in the city, every legend, every story, and every noble family. He is the most unusual guide I have ever met, and it was he who introduced me to the skulls of the Fontanelle cemetery.

Fontanelle®SAR Mickael of Greece

The fontanelle is located in a long-abandoned immense quarry in the hills north of the San Gennaro gate. The area, known as Sanita, is one of the poorest in the city, but one of the wealthiest in terms of monuments. The vast galleries contains not skeletons, but pyramids and entire walls of human skulls.

Why? How did this come about ? Maybe they were the remains of an epidemic, but if that were the case, where are the skeletons? It’s a mystery…

Fontanelle Skulls®SAR Mickael of Greece

For decades, a curious cult practice developed…

When an inhabitant of Naples visited the Fontanelle cemetery, they would choose a particular skull from among the thousands that were piled up, attempt to communicate with the soul which inhabited it, and ask for a favour or service: healthcare, a lottery win, promotion, or success in love…

If the soul within the skull succeeded in providing a positive intervention and grant the wishes, the fortunate citizen would then clean and care for the skull, surround it with candles and flowers and pray for it.

If nothing happened, they would throw the skull into a corner of the cave, but most of the time, the skull – or  the soul within it – satisfied the Neapolitans’ demands. And so the number of honoured, decorated and well-tended skulls in the cemetery soon multiplied.

One skull in particular was much more richly decorated than the others. I asked why this was. “It is the skull that sweats”, I was told.

And indeed, the skull not only grants wishes, but also has the unique characteristic of exuding human sweat every night. Where does it come from? How does this happen.

It’s perhaps a miracle…

Fontanelle Skulls®SAR Mickael of Greece


by  Prince Michael of Greece