Urbania is located near Urbino, in the heart of that Italian region named Marche.
This is a medieval village in which it is easy to get lost.
Between the sacred and the profane, it's like entering a time of fables.
|Right like in a fairy tale|
Here, among the ancient farmhouses scattered over the country and the imposing ducal palace, resist old traditions and apotropaic farmers rites, craft shops (like the artistic decoration of ceramic) and old recipes passed down in families.
And there's a story worth telling.
In 1567 in Casteldurante (ancient name of Urbania), was born the
"Brotherhood of the Good Death"
which consists of 120 people, including secular and religious.
The purpose of the charitable religious group was the free transport of the bodies, assistance to the dying and executed, record
in special books of the dead and the distribution of alms to their relatives.
|Ancient ceramic decoration|
The burial of the bodies took place in the back of the small
Church, on land used as a cemetery.
In early 1800 Napoleon issued the edict of Saint Cloud, which established the cemeteries outside the walls of the city, for health reasons.
In the small cemetery of Urbania, just behind the church, began the work of exhumation of the bodies.
Some of them, amazingly, emerged intact.
Eighteen mummies were found in 1833 in Urbania.
Thus they were displaied behind the altar of the chapel, which has since taken the name
"Church of the Dead".
It's amazing to discover, in an ordinary place of prayer, those ancient relics preserved and arranged like in a museum.
Perhaps the church authorities exposed the remains with the intention to remind people the transience of life; the fact that, as some say,
"On this earth we are just passing through."
The bodies on display, in addition to the skeletal structure have the skin, organs, in some cases the hair, the genital organs and seem to observe us, with their dark withered faces, from a mysterious world of shadows.
Thanks to records kept by the "Brotherhood of the good death" and the excellent state of preservation of the remains, it's been possible to reconstruct the stories of some characters, particularly curious.
At the center of the group is the prior Vincenzo Piccini, recognizable by his black coat with the seal of death, typical of the religious brotherhood to which he belonged.
With him, his wife and son.
Among the mummies that one of the baker said "Lunano" and the woman died in childbirth.
Following is a young man stabbed during a dance party, with the hole in the heart visible.
Then a hanged man.
Of all the bodies who stands out, there is one, it is said, of a man buried alive in a state of apparent death. He woke up as prisoner of his tomb, and then go back to sleep forever. This mummy is recognizable because of the particular posture of the body, which tells us his unfortunate story.
|Ancient picture of the church of the dead|
It's worth taking a look at the ceiling of the unusual museum to see the macabre chandelier made of human skulls and bones.
Let's leave the church and the death behind us to discover this fascinating city.
Let's take a walk among the narrow, winding streets, among the characteristic shops and old inns where you can taste the classic dishes of local tradition, talking to inhabitants to discover the wonders of a village frozen in time.
|San Cristoforo square|
An old peasant custom, still in use by people of ancient Casteldurante is that one of onions used to make predictions about the new year.
The origin of this custom dates from the late Middle Ages when, for local farmers, was of vital importance to know in advance the weather to get a good harvest.
In the night between 24 and 25 January (the night of St. Paul of the signs) 12 slices of onion are sprinkled with salt and exposed outdoors on a wooden plank, facing east.
Each month is represented by a slice of onion and, thanks to the ancient knowledge passed down in families, you can find out how it will be the future for the coming year.
In Urbania still live some people who, faithful to the traditions, maintain this ancient farmer rite. You only have to look among the citizens.
Many argue that these predictions are very reliable.
|Urbania. Barco ducale|
an original medieval recipe
2 kg of leeks
1.5 liters of fresh milk
3 medium sized onions
100 g of dry bread
Wash the leeks thoroughly and save only the white part.
Cut into pieces and parboil them in salt water. Drain and keep aside.
Peel and slice onions thinly; fry them in olive oil, being careful not to burn.
Soak stale bread in ½ liter of lukewarm water.
Put the milk into a saucepan and join leeks and onions.
Crush well the bread with a fork and as soon as you got a composite rather homogeneous, add it to the previous mixture (milk, onion, leeks).
Cook over low heat for about thirty minutes, until the mixture has thickened.
Add salt according to our taste and serve as hot soup.
|Urbania. Ducal Palace|