Matera, Italy: Chiesa del Purgatorio
We are in Matera, the capital of culture 2019: skulls and skeletons are omnipresent in this church dedicated to souls trapped in purgatory.
The Church of Purgatory, in italian “Chiesa del Purgatorio” was built between 1725 and 1747 and It, like other “purgatory churches,” was constructed as a place for people to pray for the souls trapped in limbo between heaven and hell. Located just outside the iconic Sassi di Matera, this 18th-century baroque church is curiously adorned with numerous skulls, skeletons, and other death-related decor.
On the upper part of the facade there are angels, fruit baskets, and penitents wrapped in flames, while on the lower part, the wooden door is divided into 36 squares, and It’s decorated with four skulls of nobles and clergymen. Just under these, four skulls representing common people, with four more on the side of the entrance.
Some bones also adorn the other squares of the door. Above the wooden door, on the tympanum, two skeletons, one with a scythe and one with an hourglass, stand next to an emblem showing a skull and a person between flames, and the side doors also show skulls above them.
Inside the church, there are paintings representing the souls stuck in purgatory and various saints, while many other small decorations with skulls and skeletons can also be found in various places of the church, where a pipe organ dating back to 1755 is above the entrance on the inside.