Church of Santa Luciella ai Librai – Naples, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Church of Santa Luciella ai Librai

An unusual "skull with ears" sits in the crypt of this small church tucked away at the end of a narrow alley. 

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The church of Santa Luciella ai Librai is one of the many small historical religious sites in Naples. It’s hidden among the numerous narrow alleys of the city center, near the famous Via dei Presepi.

Its underground crypt was used as a burial site. Adherents to the Neapolitan Cult of the Dead often came here to pray. They often offered prayers to the especially to the “skull with ears,” hoping this anatomical curiosity would act as a messenger between the worlds of the living and dead. The skull lives up to its name—it has two pieces of mummified cartilage on either side, which resemble ears.

The church was originally founded in the early 14th century. By the 17th century, the sanctuary was used by a group of stonemasons who dedicated the site to Santa Lucia, protector of sight, as the workers often risked damaging their eyes.

The church was renovated in a baroque style during the 18th century, but was later abandoned. Since 2016, it has been entrusted to the cultural association Respiriamo Arte, which transformed the site into a museum that opened in 2019. The skull with ears, which remained tucked out of public sight during the time the church was abandoned, is once again available to listen to visitors’ prayers.

Know Before You Go

The site is opened on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with guided tours every 45 minutes and last entrance at 5:15 pm. On other days, guided tours are available only by booking in advance.