Old Bones

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by tvordj on November 23, 2012

The Church of Santa Maria della Concezione is an unusual one. In the crypt, which is above ground level (though perhaps at one time it wasn't) has several little chapels. They are decorated. With patterns made of bones. Real bones. the bones over 4000 Cappuchin monks. Really.

There is a sign in the crypt that says "What you are, we once were. What we are, you someday will be." This is to remind us that life is fleeting. The bones are arranged on the walls and ceilings in elaborate patterns. Skulls are stacked up around the skeletons of other monks wrapped in brown robes. Even the hanging light fixtures are made of brown aged bones. It's truly bizarre, somewhat unsettling and yet beautiful.

The original monks arrived in 1631 bringing 300 carts filled with their deceased brothers. Soil was brought from Jerusalem. When the friars passed on, they would be buried but those buried for longer and had turned to skeletons were then exhumed and their bones added to the designs. This went on until the late 19th century.

There are six chapels of varying design. Above, in the lower level of the church, is a little museum about the history of the Cappuchin monks with lots of interesting artifacts in glass cases. There is an entrance fee but it's only a few euro. The church is also worth a visit for the beautiful art. it was newly built when the monks arrived. We didn't get to see the church when we visited the crypt as it seemed to be closed to the public that morning.

Location: Take the metro to Piazza Barberini and head up Via Veneto. It's only a little ways around the corner from the piazza.
Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini/Capuchin Crypt
Via Vittorio Veneto 27
Rome, Italy


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