Chapter 60: Sepolcri

Sepolcri in Italian means tombs as in cemetery tombs.

When I returned to Miglierina in April 2001, accompanied by my uncles and aunts, one of the first places the mayor showed us was Miglierina’s cemetery, located near the town’s summit. The cemetery is a key for Italian Americans to find relatives and ancestors. For us, we wanted to find more Sacco family members so we could learn more about them through official documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates. Unfortunately for us, there were hardly any Saccos in the cemetery. How could that possibly be? Another mystery!

It wasn’t until I read Padre Antonio Caccetta’s history of Miglierina (Miglierina: un paese due campanili). Padre Antonio’s book is my greatest source of information about my nonni‘s village. His book also unveiled the mystery behind the lack of Saccos in the cemetery.

It’s a long story but I’ll keep it short.

In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, having conquered Italy, issued a decree that the dead could no longer be buried in or under churches. Issued for reasons of hygiene, most Italian cities and towns in Italia Settentrionale (Northern and Central Italy) conformed to the Emperor’s decree. L’Italia Meridionale (Southern Italy) was a tougher nut for the Emperor to crack. Miglierina, for example, adhered to the decree on January 1, 1878–some 74 years later!

That means that all the Saccos, or at least those prior to 1878, were buried under the church, like Christians in the catacombs! In fact, a Sacco was the last one buried there in the church of Santa Maria. But, the story gets more interesting!

Saverio Sacco died on December 28, 1877 and was buried in the catacombs. So, who was Saverio Sacco–a name none of us had ever heard of? Saverio died at age 7 days. Saverio was the son of Cesaria Sacco. The father is incerto, uncertain.

So, mysteries remain!

Where are my nonno Cesare Sacco’s parents buried? Where’s his sister or aunt Elisabetta buried? Where are all the Saccos?

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About growingupcalabrese

Professor of French and Italian at San Diego State University
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