Inside Naples' 'Cult of the Dead'

Visitors bring gifts for the dead and ask for favors in return.

A large number of the residents arrived during the plague of 1656, which claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 -– half the population of the city of Naples. The cave became a chaotic pile of skulls and bones until 1872, when Father Gaetano Barbeti began cataloging and organizing the remains, stacking them on shelves and places them in boxes. As the sorting took place, volunteers began praying for the deceased, beginning a long tradition of care and ritual, and tales of miracles.