Years of hard work and study spent on preserving organic substances somehow convinced Gorini that his method of petrifaction, very expensive but also extremely long in the making, would only find rare applications. Instead, the goal of a scientist like Gorini was to make his discoveries, never lacking practical use, available to the community. Petrifaction could be done on the bodies of celebrities like Mazzini, Rovani or other famous characters, to preserve their remains and create laic relics; but it certainly could not be requested by anyone, considering the difficulties in applying the method. Furthermore, and not without irony, the same scientist said that if everyone was to be petrified, soon the preserved specimens would outnumber the living. So, at the beginning of the 1870s, after being repeatedly encouraged by Agostino Bertani and Gaetano Pini (who were supporters of cremation) Paolo Gorini tackled the issues of "laic death" and crematoriums. Taking Gorini into this new adventure was his usual repulsion for decay. Petrifaction and cremation, stone and ash (quoting Angelo Stroppa), represent two sides of the same coin, spent on the complex cultural thanatology of the 19th century.
The scientist wrote:
However, Gorini got almost by chance the idea of cremation:
Not considering the famous cremationist ceremony of 1822 wanted by George Byron for his poet friend Percey Shelley, the cremationist principle, as Fulvio Conti reminds us, began to "come out of the small environment of academic debate and to interest a larger public" only in the 1870s. Such funerary practice was one the themes that the reforming élites could concentrate on to realize some significant progress in the hygienic-sanitary field, and to secularize and civilize society. The major exponents of the debate over cremation were Jakob Moleschott, Ferdinando Coletti, Felice Dell'Acqua, Giovanni Du Jardin, Gaetano Pini, Malachia De Cristoforis, Luigi Pagliani, Cesare Musatti, and the focus was on three main aspects: sanitary, medical-legal and religious.
For the supporters of the "laic death", cemeteries were a real breeding ground for infections, and it could be proved (thanks to the newborn disciplines of bacteriology and microbiology) that decomposition polluted the water and the air of the surrounding areas of the sepulchres. Even though the Napoleonic edict of Saint Cloud of 1804 (which reserved spaces for cemeteries and promoted the modern use of separating them from the cities of the living) had been extended to Italy two years after its promulgation, the re-discovery of cremation happened thanks to the philosophes dell'Encyclopédie and was spurred by the discomfort created by the burials in housings and churches. In the second half of the century, says Sergio Luzzatto, the laicism born from the conflict between Church and State was reinforced by renewed scientific interests in favour of materialism. The anti-clerical front's priority was to subtract from the Church its monopoly over the management of the deceased; whereas the Church remained faithful to the biblical warning that man is dust and to dust it must returm.
Interment is surely typical of the Christian tradition; and during the second half of the 19th century the Church had been forced to defend its customs from various societies, very much under the influence of Masonry, supporting and exalting cremation as a way to follow atheism. Still, the Church had the support of several scientists, especially Paolo Mantegazza, a famous doctor and anthropologist of the time.
There are many evidences of the hostility of the Church of Lodi towards Gorini: in 1851 the magazine «L'Amico Cattolico» ("The Catholic Friend") branded him as materialistic and too empiric; in 1863 the nuns of S.Anna refused to let Gorini stay in the house where he lived and in 1882 they fought against the proposal of the town council to place a commemorative stone dedicated to him on the same building.
In the crematorium designed by Paolo Gorini, the body is placed supine upon a frame, with wheels, and pushed inside the oven. Once the oven is closed, the body is horizontally enveloped from head to toe by the flames created by the wood-fired furnace located behind and underneath the remains. At first the chimney takes the smoke downwards, underneath the feet of the body, then it bends upwards in a funnel, at the beginning of which a second furnace burns any further residue. The first "gorinian" crematorium was built in the cemetery of Riolo in 1877 and during the night between the 5th and 6th of September of the same year the first cremation was accomplished.
The furnace was fuelled by softwoods, about 200 kilograms for two hours. A lot of cemeteries adopted the "gorinian" crematorium: Milan (1877, by the architect Carlo Maciachini), Cremona (1883, by the engineer Francesco Podestà), Rome (1883, eng. Salvatore Rosa), Varese (1883, arch. Augusto Guidini), Turin (1888, arch. Pompeo Mariani). It was also built in London (cemetery of Woking, 1888, eng. Turner) and in Paris (cemetery Pére Lachaise, 1887, arch. Formigé).
The Collezione Paolo Gorini is located inside the Ospedale Vecchio of Lodi, situated in the wonderful 15th century Chiostro della Farmacia.
Wednesday from 10.00 to 12.00,
Saturday from 9.30 to 12.30,
Sunday from 14.30 to 16.30.
The Collezione Paolo Gorini, born in 1981 in the former chapter house of the Ospedale Vecchio, currently presents a new arrangement, thanks also to the works done to expand rooms, create a reception and conference room.