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Urbania, Italy

Chiesa dei Morti (Church of the Dead)

Eighteen mummies have stood guard behind the altar of this tiny church since 1833 

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Chiesa dei Morti, or the Church of the Dead, is a tiny church - and the main attraction - in Urbania, a lively medieval town located in central Italy.

As soon as visitors enter through the Baroque doorway of the church, they are brought into the chapel, known as the mummy cemetery, a macabre display that has kept people coming back for generations. In the cemetery, eighteen mummies are standing in individual glass cases that have been on display behind the altar since 1833. Naturally mummified by the presence of a special mold that sucked all of the moisture out of the bodies, these individuals are famous both in and outside the community.

A tour guide will be able to tell you how each of the mummies passed away. One, which suffered from Down's syndrome, died of heart failure; another died while in labor; one was murdered.

The Brotherhood of Good Death, a group founded more than 400 years ago in 1567, is responsible for the mummy display. The originals goals of the brothers were to provide free burial for the dead and keep a record of the deaths.

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