Lampshades of Shoulder-Blades

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by airynfaerie on October 20, 2009

Possibly one of the most creepiest places in Italy, the Capuchin Crypt is a hallway full of bones. Located in a room beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome, this crypt dates back to the early 1600s when Pope Urban VIII's brother who was of the Capuchin Order exhumed bones from past friars to begin the crypt's collection. The total number of bodies grew over the years and now is an amazing disply of over 4,000 friars buried until the late 1800s.

Just off the Rome's tree-lined famous avenue of Via Veneto, the church has a elegant exterior, and we didn't completely know what to expect when we entered. We walked down the stairs on the side, through a small doorway, and past the attendant and a table with a donation basket, then turned to see the hallway of bones. The couple in front of us had to leave right away as the lady was a bit to shaken by the scene. It was shocking at first, as growing up in modern America, we're not used to seeing dead bodies, bones, or anything like this.

From the somewhat short hallway, there are several little chapel rooms off to the left. These chapels are named very point-blank from "Crypt of the Skulls", "Crypt of the Pelvises", and "Crypt of the Leg and Thigh Bones". As soon as you look into each one, you can identify right away which chapel it there were stacked femur bones comprising the total perimeter of the "Crypt of Leg Bones".

It was so strange to see human bones used as intricate decorations in this place. Lampshades made of shoulder blades, door posts of vertebrae, crosses with arms, and even entire intact skeletons of children hanging on the ceiling. Even though this was known as an honor for your body to be used in this way during that time, it's such a stark difference to the way we treat the dead now -and almost seems irreverent. But the more I thought of it, the more I liked the idea that the bodies and bones were used in a decorative and honorary way as this, because it seems to signify even more what the church claims to believe...that the soul of a person lies somewhere else after death, and the body is just earthly material again.

There are a few friars who are believed to have miraculously not decomposed fully, as skin still remains around the skeletal figures, and many wear their original friar robes. No matter your beliefs, this is a very unique stop in Rome - not too haunting, although a bit shocking - but very interesting!

• Via Vittorio Veneto 27
• Open 9am - 12pm, 3pm - 6pm (Fri - Wed)
• Free admission (Donation suggested)
Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini/Capuchin Crypt
Via Vittorio Veneto 27
Rome, Italy

© LP 2000-2009