Despite the beauty and incredible preservation of Pompeii, there is a sadness to visiting it as well. An estimated 2,000 people
were estimated to have fallen victim the Vesuvius’ cataclysmic eruption. Of those, the remains of over 1,000 have been discovered during excavations in addition to the remains of animals. After being buried by the volcano, the soft tissue disintegrated leaving hollow cavities with bones inside. When possible, the hollow spaces have been filled with plaster and then carefully excavated. What results are hauntingly poignant plaster casts of humans and animals captured in their very last moments of life.
Many of the “plaster citizens” are in a museum in Naples, but several are to be found at Pompeii. I’ve been to many cemeteries and memorials, but nothing is quite like standing in front of these plaster citizens. The horror that these souls felt as Vesuvius poured its fire and ash from the sky is hard to really grasp. Mixed with the sense of sadness is a reverence for the fact that their remains have survived in a very unique manner that reaches out from 2,000 years ago to touch us today. I like to think that we’re honoring their memories by visiting this special place and learning about their lives.