Located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione die Cappuccini on the Via Veneto, Rome (near Piazza Barberini) lies a crypt housing the remains of over 4,000 bodies believed to be Capuchin friars, buried by their order. 

Rome Church of Bones

MY VISIT TO THE CAPUCHIN CYRPT

I first heard of the Capuchin Crypt, Rome on a travel programme just days before I left for Rome back in 2011. I hoped  it wasn’t going to be a honey pot for tourists and I’m pleased to say, I wasn’t disappointed. This could be due to the lack of advertising and media surrounding it. Whatever the reason, I’m sure you will agree that some of the best places are those tourism hasn’t yet found or at least not yet spoiled. 

The Capuchin Crypt is a small space comprising several tiny chapels. It is technically free to enter however you’ll be expected to pay a ‘voluntary’ contribution. 

Capuchin Crypt, Rome

The Catholic order insists that the display is not meant to be macabre, simply a silent reminder of the swift passage of life on Earth and our own mortality.

Large numbers of the bones are nailed to the walls in decorative patterns, many are piled high among countless others, while others hang from the ceiling as light fixtures. I felt the patterns surrounding you almost resemble Christmas decorations. I wouldn’t like to say the design of bones is vulgar or feels disrespectful (the key to interpreting the crypt’s displays of funereal art lies in the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body and everlasting life) however I personally found it quite hard to be emotionally moved in these crypts.

Church Of Bones Rome

INSIDE THE CAPUCHN CRYPT

The Capuchin crypt consists of 6 rooms, five  of which are featuring these displays of friars remains that had died between 1528 and 1870.

The Mass Chapel, as an area used to celebrate Mass, does not contain bones. In the altar-piece, Jesus and Mary exhort St. Felix of Cantalice, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua to free souls from Purgatory. The chapel contains a plaque with the acrony DOM, which stands for Deo optima maximo (“To God, the best and greatest”). The plaque contains the actual heart of Maria Felice Peretti, the grand-niece of Pope Sixtus V and a supporter of the Capuchin order. The chapel also contains the tomb of the Papal Zouaves who died defending the Papal State at the battle of Porta Pia. 

Capuchin Crypt

Although Rome is full of awesome sights and ancient history I would certainly recommend a trip to these crypts. It will take you longer getting to the crypt than the time you’ll spend inside (it is very small) however it will definitely be somewhere which sticks with you long after your visit. 

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