I went to Porto, Portugal earlier this week. There were many things on my must do list, including visiting the Livrario Lello and tasting port in the city that made it famous. But also on this list was visiting the catacombs by the Church of Saint Francis.
I don’t consider myself a morbid person, and I certainly don’t want to fetishize death. I’m not particularly interested in the practical part of what happens to a body after years of being buried beneath the floorboards of a gilded church, either.
But I am frightened of dying. I think we all are, even the people who feel satisfied with the life they’ve lived and have somewhat come to terms with meeting whatever comes next. It’s one of the reasons that stories involving death have such urgency. We need to know why it happened and who was responsible. We naturally want the guilty party to answer for making anyone face that great unknown.
So, in the interest of confronting that fear–and, yes, some morbid curiosity–I went to the catacombs. I looked at the skulls. I saw the bones. And then I ran back out into the sunshine, thankful for another day of being alive to write my own story.
I hate to admit it, Cate, but I love stuff like catacombs and preserved bodies. One of my favorite destinations in Vienna is the crypt beneath St. Michael’s church. Noble families were buried there for centuries. During WW2 the crypt was rediscovered, and due to the atmosphere in the crypt, most bodies were well preserved and visible in their original 17th century clothing. Now that’s history!