In 1599, the occupants of the adjoining Capuchin monastery discovered that the bodies of the brothers they placed in their catacombs soon became naturally mummified (albeit with the aid of chemical infusions), and Sicilians began demanding to be buried along with them. In these chambers, the corpses of some 8,000 people in various stages of preservation now hang from walls and recline in open caskets. It would be easy to write the spectacle off as eerie (which it certainly is), but for the loved ones the deceased left behind, a spot here provided a bit of comforting immortality. Wearing their Sunday best, the dead are grouped according to sex and rank—men, women, virgins, priests, nobles, professors (possibly including the painter Velasquez), and children. This last grouping includes the most recent resident, 2-year-old Rosalia Lombardo, who died in 1920 and whom locals have dubbed “Sleeping Beauty.” Giuseppe Tommasi, prince of Lampedusa and author of The Leopard, one of the best-known works of Sicilian literature, was buried in the cemetery next to the catacombs in 1957. His great-grandmother, the model for the Princess in the novel, is in the catacombs.