A unique collection to get to grips with the mystery of faith
The Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory is housed in a room opposite the sacristy of the small neo-Gothic church of the Sacred Heart of Suffrage, on the Prati riverfront, nicknamed the “little Milan Cathedral”. It houses a very unusual collection commissioned by French missionary Victor Jouet following the events of 15 November 1897, when a mysterious fire broke out in the Rosary Chapel, in which the altar painting was spared.
In the flames, the priest and the worshippers saw a suffering face, which was then enigmatically imprinted on the wall, a reproduced image of which is displayed in the exhibition. This convinced the priest that the soul of a deceased person in pain and condemned to purgatory wanted to contact the living. This led him to travel around Europe searching for evidence of the afterlife and the deceased’s contact with living relatives.
The collection includes fabric, tunics, skullcaps, breviaries and wooden tablets recounting apparitions of the deceased to relatives and believers, witnessed by their “scorched imprints”. These testimonies, circumstantiated and each with a unique history, mostly date to the 18th and 19th centuries and were motivated by requests for prayers or memorial masses to reduce the deceased’s time in purgatory and hasten their ascension to Heaven.