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Editors' Blog

Posted by Cass - 10 August 2014

A Dark Roman Secret!

The Capuchin Crypt within the church of Santa Maria della Concezione on the swanky Via Ventato is a truly unusual sight. Amid the hustle and bustle of modern life we entered a tranquil and eerie underground passage to find something quite unique. The Danse Macabre by Saint Saens whispered in our ears as we made out way along the dark corridor.

When the friars of this small church needed to make room for new bodies in their small cemetery they came up with a novel idea.  They exhumed the bodies and created six chambers which they decorated with the bones of their dead brothers and also paupers of the parish over a period of 100 years.

The mortal remains of over 3,700 people were arranged in a certain order to create pictures and patterns.  All reminders that death awaits us all.

They thought these extraordinary compositions provided an excellent opportunity for a positive avowal of the Christian sense of human life and the resurrection that awaits it.

It is said that the earth around the bones was brought from Jerusalem so it made this site even more important.

Each niche is different and uses different bones to create patterns and images of extraordinary tenderness. The most moving of all was the tiny skeleton of an eight year old Barbarini princess holding a scythe and scales.  We usually think of death as Old Father time but this little body really made you think.

At the exit is a 'momento mori' which states "What you are we used to be. What we are you will be.! A timely reminder to appreciate what we have now.  In a strange way we found it quite uplifting but very thought provoking.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs so here is a link to the Capuchin Crypt. which will give you a flavour of this place. 

I can truly say I have never seen anything like it in my life.

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