Human remains have been found on the coast of Monte Aretario, and with 85% certainty scientists claim that they belong to Michelangelo Merisi also known as Caravaggio. “Caravaggio died in Porto Ercole, and must remain here” says Mayor Arturo Cerulli. The northern league wants the remains to be transported to Milan, but Mayor Cerulli thinks otherwise claiming “I would not give them to Milan.” In Italy there is an established practice used when finding human remains: the place of burial is the place of death.
Advanced technology has allowed scientist to conclude that out of the eight possible theories surrounding Caravaggio’s death that Professor Maurizio Marini has the correct one. Professor Marini’s theory suggests that Caravaggio landed in Porto Ercole after fleeing Naples. It is believed that Caravaggio suffered a severe injury and was already ill when he reached the port in Tuscany. Soon after, Caravaggio contracted typhoid after eating contaminated food. Professor Marini’s believes that Caravaggio was taken to the Santa Maria Ausiliatrice hospital where he passed away. Caravaggio was buried in the church of St. Erasmus in 1610. Church records found by Professor Marini have Caravaggio’s death listed as 1609. However, Caravaggio’s official date of death is 1610 the conflicting dates can be explained by the Gregorian calendar which had not yet been introduced in this part of Tuscany. Records have also confirmed that Caravaggio was buried in a smaller cemetery, the Sebastiano cemetery. The Sebastiano cemetery was closed on 1956 and, the remains were then moved to the Rasmus cemetery.
The advanced technologies used to prove Professor Marini’s theory include a variety of methods. Examining the Skeleton using Carbon- 14 dating had allowed scientists to calculate the time period in which Caravaggio lived. A histological examination dates the skeletal remains between the ages of 37 and 45. Caravaggio died at the age of 39 making the age of the remains a match to the painter. Traces of mercury and lead were found in Caravaggio’s bones, which were common components of paint in his time. The committee for the promotion of historical, cultural, and environmental heritage can conclude with confidence that they have found the human remains of Michelangelo Merisi. However, there still remains the question of where the remains shall be left to rest. According to the established practices the remains should be left to rest where they were found and it appears that the mayor is willing to put up a fight.
Written by Shannon Coleman
Anthropology and Culture Intern at The Florence Newspaper