The Cult of Executed Criminals at Palermo
JUST south of the city of Palermo the river Oreto flows down from the adjacent mountains to the sea. It is crossed by a bridge of acutely-pointed arches, the famous Ponte dell' Ammiraglio, built in 1113 by the Admiral Giorgio Antiocheno, one of the companions of the Norman Count Roger, who with his brother Robert Guiscard conquered the island from the Saracens. The bridge is now disused in favour of a more modern structure immediately beside it. If you go from the city towards the bridge, just
... s the bridge, just before reaching it you may see on the right, down below the road, a little church mentioned in no guide-book and frequented only by the poorer classes of Palermitans. It is a dilapi dated, a pathetic structure, without any architectural pre tensions ; the front is cracked from top to bottom, and shored up with timber and stones. The site was perhaps once a part of the river-bed, and the building itself is probably not much more than two hundred years old. The original dedication seems to have been to the Virgin, for it was known as the Church of the Madonna del Fiume or Madonna del Ponte. For more than a century, how ever, it has been known as the Chiesa delle Anime de' Corpi Decollati, or more shortly as the Chiesa dei Decollati. It occupies the far end of a small quadrangular graveyard protected by high stone walls and shaded with cypress trees and oleanders. The Decollati are executed criminals. Herein lies the Downloaded by [New York University] at 11:50 21 June 2015 Plate VIII. CHIESA DEI DECOLLATI. '/he Chapel. '/'<> face p. 168.