Underground Rome: Capuchin Crypt

The Capuchin Crypt in Rome makes the Parisian catacombs look like a walk in the park. Underneath the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione, the small crypt is not easy to find but is worth the effort.

After walking past the church several times, we asked for directions and finally found the crypt. Photography is banned inside the crypt, so I have none, although there are many disrespectful tourists who have put them on the Internet so they are easy to find. But why spoil the surprise?

The shock of seeing small alcoves decorated with bones is something that has stayed with me, a sight I never imagined I’d see. Unlike the Parisian catacombs, which is a trail of skulls packed high along the walls, this crypt is a morbid work of art. Hundreds of jaws are gathered and used to make a chandelier, and thousands of meta tarsals are used as fringing on doorways. The bones have been methodically gathered, sorted and strung up around the room. There are humans, babies, devils, angels and not surprisingly, even the grim reaper. Who belongs to the bones? Some 4000 Capuchin monks. A plaque bears the haunting warning:

”¬†What you are, we once were. What we are, you someday will be.”

To shake off the morbid monk jitters afterwards, we gorged on yet more gelato down the street. When in Rome, right?

NEED TO KNOW

Time: 20 minutes

Price: Donation

Who: History buffs, ghost hunters and the strange breed of people who enjoy being frightened. Complete scaredy cats (such as myself) should see it anyway. Not advised for children.

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