Nestled in Rome just outside the Vatican, a small unassuming museum dedicated to the souls in Purgatory displays simple items such as prayer books and clothing.
Nothing too unusual, until you realize that each allegedly show the
marks of the deceased – such as inexplicably burned fingerprints – when
they appeared to loved ones asking for prayers from Purgatory.
The Museum of the Souls in Purgatory is located inside of the Church
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Prati, near Castel Sant’Angelo, and
contains around 15 of these testimonies and artifacts, collected from
around Europe by a French priest Victor Jouët.
In many of the cases, it is held that the marks were left as proof
that the deceased had really appeared, asking for prayers or for Masses
to be said for their souls.
One artifact in the museum is the fingerprint of Sr. Mary of St.
Luigi Gonzaga, left on a pillowcase when she appeared to Sr. Margherita
of the Sacred Heart on the night after she died in 1894.
The appearance was recorded in the archives of the monastery of St.
Clare of the Child Jesus in Bastia, Italy. According to the records, Sr.
Mary told Sr. Margherita that she was in Purgatory as expiation of her
lack of patience in accepting God’s will.
Another is the prayer book of Maria Zaganti which shows three
fingerprints left by her deceased friend Palmira Rastelli on March 5,
1871. The sister of the parish priest, she asked appeared to her friend
to ask for Masses to be said by her brother Fr. Sante Rastelli.
A mark of fiery fingerprints were also left on the German prayer book
of George Schitz by his brother Joseph on Dec. 21, 1838. He asked for
prayer in expiation of his lack of piety during his life.
The Museum of the Souls in Purgatory was created by Fr. Victor Jouët
in 1897. A Missionary of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Jouët founded in Rome the
Association of the Sacred Heart of the Suffrage of the Souls of
Purgatory. The chapel the Association used from 1896-1914 was located at
the place where the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is now.
In 1897 the chapel caught on fire. When Fr. Jouët rushed into the
chapel, he saw the image of a human face, looking sad and melancholy,
impressed upon the wall behind the altar. He believed it to be from the
soul of a deceased man trying to contact those on earth.
After this occurrence, the priest decided to create a museum
dedicated to the artifacts of other appearances of souls in Purgatory.
He travelled around Europe and Italy collecting the items and
Each piece in the museum was collected by Fr. Jouët from the same
person who experienced the vision. The image of the man from the chapel
can also be found there.
While he travelled around, Fr. Jouët also asked for money to build a
church on the site of the chapel, which he had received a message to
build in a dream.
Other artifacts in the museum include the print of a hand and a cross
left on a the wooden table of Venerable Clara Isabel Fornari, abbess of
the Poor Clares of the Monastery of St. Francis in Todi, Italy, by the
deceased Fr. Panzini, on Nov. 1, 1731.
There is also a copy of an Italian 10 lira banknote, one of 30 notes
left at the Monastery of St. Leonardo in Montefalco by a deceased priest
between Aug. 18 and Nov. 9, 1919.
Catholic teaching on the afterlife is that there are three places for a soul to go after death: Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, those who go to
Heaven are “(t)hose who die in God’s grace and friendship and are
perfectly purified live for ever with Christ.”
Those souls that go to Hell are those who have freely chosen through
mortal sin “exclusion from communion with God and the blessed.”
Purgatory is a place where the souls go who die in friendship with
God but are still imperfectly purified. Purgatory is where “after death
they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to
enter the joy of heaven.” These souls are ensured eventual entrance into
Heaven, once they are purified.
The Church teaches that souls in Purgatory rely on the prayers of
souls still on Earth to relieve some of their temporal suffering and
speed their journey to Heaven. In return, the souls in Purgatory can
also pray for those on earth.
On Nov. 2, the Feast of All Souls, Pope Francis offered Mass for all
the departed in Flaminio Cemetery in Rome. Speaking about the sadness of
losing a loved one, the Pope said that “in this sadness we bring
flowers as a sign of hope, and also, I dare to say, of celebration – not
now, but in the future.”
“All of us will make this journey,” he said. “Sooner or later, but
everyone. With pain, some more some less, but all. But with the flower
of hope, with that strong thread of hope that is anchored in the