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Fondazione Ariodante Fabretti
Società per la Cremazione di Torino

Morte, cremazione, igiene e società nel XIX secolo

Turin - Autumn 2003

A day of studies on the 120th anniversary of the foundation of the Turin Cremation Society

In the second half of the XIX century, the attitude of many prominent personalities in the political and academic circles was deeply influenced by the strong relationship existing between a scientific culture strongly characterised by Positivism and a reformist trend for a more modern society.  In Turin - a town in a prominent position as regards scientific Positivism -   we remember Jacob Moleschott, a materialist appointed to the chair of Physiology by Minister of Education Francesco de Sanctis, Giacinto Pacchiotti, town councillor and holder of the chair of Pathology and Clinical Surgery, Turin University Rector Michele Lessona, and Luigi Pagliani, holder of the chair of Hygiene, who wrote the actual sanitary legislation.

Hygienism - a sort of combination of several disciplines aimed at creating a new society characterized by such notions as “clean”, “healthy”, “virtuous” and therefore of a new moral order – couldn’t ignore the different problems concerning death, body putrefaction and cemeteries. And it actually intervened in these problems on different levels: cultural, political and legal.

At the same time, as followers of Positivism and Scientism, these scientists could immediately see  in cremation a perfect solution for the old problem of  pollution caused by interment and also a means for mitigating the anguish about apparent death (catalepsy). Part of a larger program for a truly lay society, Hygienism – with its cultural and philosophic background – is therefore of fundamental importance in the birth of the movement for cremation (together with anticlericalism) and has a primary role in the creation of the first crematories, not only in Italy.

The one-day meeting will be divided in two sections: morning hours will be devoted to the theoretical and ideological aspects on the subject of death and cremation as developed by XIX century Hygienism. In the afternoon attention will be focused on the connections between that line of thinking and the common sensibility.