The island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, Italy, is picturesque and historical. Many travelers are drawn to Castello Aragonese, which was built into an islet (read: mini-island) and connected by a walkway.
Castello Aragonese was built in 474 BC and over the years was used as fortress, a city, a prison, and a convent. It’s a super interesting place to visit and provides gorgeous views and photos of the Mediterranean Sea. You can spend several hours climbing stairs and taking narrow walkways. After you’ve filled your camera and enjoyed the breeze, make sure that you follow the signs to the Nun’s Cemetery.
During the castle’s stint as a Poor Clares convent, the nuns did their normal duties of worship, gardening, castle upkeep… and preserving their dead.
When a nun would die, she would be placed, naked, into a chair in this creepy room. There were holes at the bottom of the chairs (much like a toilet) and a vase placed underneath. As the nun slowly decomposed, the “fluids” (so grateful the visitor’s brochure gave us the gory details!) would drain into the vases. When the nun had finally reached full-skeleton status, her bones would be carted away and the vases would be moved to their chapel to be worshiped. The living nuns would visit this room full of dead bodies and chairs every day to pray for their dead. We venture a guess that the exposure to the dead in these cramped conditions also spread disease, thus keeping the “death chairs” filled year-round.