Page:Tale of Paraguay - Southey.djvu/181

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175
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tance from town, the beautiful gardens of which serve as a public walk. You are shown, under the fabric, a vault divided into four great galleries, into which the light is admitted by windows cut out at the top of each extremity. In this vault are preserved, not in flesh, but in skin and bone, all the Capuchins who have died in the convent since its foundation, as well as the bodies of several persons from the city. There are here private tombs belonging to opulent families, who, even after annihilation, disdain to be confounded with the vulgar part of mankind. It is said, that in order to secure the preservation of these bodies, they are prepared by being gradually dried before a slow fire, so as to consume the flesh without greatly injuring the skin; when perfectly dry, they are invested with the Capuchin habit, and placed upright, on tablets, disposed step above step along the sides of the vault; the head, the arms, and the feet are left naked. A preservation like this is horrid. The skin discoloured, dry, and as if it had been tanned, nay, torn in some places, glued close to the bones. It is easy to imagine, from the different grimaces of this numerous assemblage of fleshless figures, rendered still more frightful by a long beard on the chin, what a hideous spectacle this must exhibit; and whoever has seen a Capuchin alive, may form an idea of this singular repository of dead friars."—Sonnini.