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The Hurt(ful) BodyPerforming and Beholding Pain, 1600-1800$
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Tomas Macsotay, Cornelis van der Haven, and Karel Vanhaesebrouck

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784995164

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784995164.001.0001

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Palermo’s past public executions and their lingering memory1

Palermo’s past public executions and their lingering memory1

(p.248) 10 Palermo’s past public executions and their lingering memory1
The Hurt(ful) Body

Maria Pia Di Bella

Manchester University Press

European penal law’s practice has often been characterized by close relations with Christian notions of repentance and redemption. One impressive example of such a relation is the case of the Sicilian noble ranked Bianchi. From 1541 to 1820, 2,127 persons condemned to death in Palermo (Sicily) by the secular courts were handed to the Company of the Santissimo Crocifisso, so-called Bianchi, whose task was to comfort them, morally and spiritually, during the three days and three nights before their execution and also during the long processions that took them from the prison to the scaffold. The purpose assigned to this religious comfort and the ensuing procession was to instruct the culprit how to die a good Christian death. Such a death implied, in the view of the Bianchi, the repentance of the condemned and his willingness to accept torture and executions as the condition for their redemption. At the same time other social groups created confraternities in order to take care of the soul of the condemned persons by praying for their salvation during their execution, while the spectators gave way to a still enduring religious cult at the Church of the Souls of the Beheaded Bodies.

Keywords:   Sicily; Public Executions; Memory; Performance

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