Capuchin Crypt

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thumb, Italy]] The Capuchin Crypt is a small space comprising several tiny chapels located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini in Rome, Italy. It contains the skeletal remains of 3,700 bodies believed to be Capuchin friars buried by their order. The Catholic order insists that the display is not meant to be macabre, but a silent reminder of the swift passage of life on Earth and our own mortality.

Described by Frommer's as "one of the most horrifying images in all of Christendom", large numbers of the bones are nailed to the walls in intricate patterns, many are piled high among countless others, while others hang from the ceiling as light fixtures.

Construction of the crypt

Template:Rquote When the monks arrived at the church in 1631, moving from the old monastery, they brought 300 cartloads of deceased friars. Fr. Michael of Bergamo oversaw the arrangement of the bones in the burial crypt. The soil in the crypt was brought from Jerusalem,<ref name="walk"/> by order of Pope Urban VIII.

As monks died during the lifetime of the crypt, the longest-buried monk was exhumed to make room for the newly-deceased who was buried without a coffin, and the newly-reclaimed bones were added to the decorative motifs.<ref name="walk">Augustus John Cuthbert Hare, "Walks in Rome", 1882</ref> Bodies typically spent 30 years decomposing in the soil, before being exhumed.<ref name="ReferenceA">Jean Baptiste de Chatelain, "Rambles Through Rome", 1851</ref>

Rooms of the crypt

Template:Rquote There are six total rooms in the crypt, five featuring a unique display of human bones believed to have been taken from the bodies of friars who had died between 1528 and 1870.

  1. Crypt of the Resurrection, featuring a picture of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, framed by various parts of the human skeleton. 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 .
  2. 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 acronym DOM, which stands for Deo optimo maximo ("To God, the best and greatest"), a term initially used to refer to the pagan god Jupiter, but claimed by later Christians. 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 States at the battle of Porta Pia.Template:Citation needed
  3. Crypt of the Skulls
  4. Crypt of the Pelvises
  5. Crypt of the Leg Bones and Thigh Bones
  6. Crypt of the Three Skeletons The center skeleton is enclosed in an oval, the symbol of life coming to birth. In its right hand it holds a scythe, symbol of death which cuts down everyone, like grass in a field, while its left hand holds the scales, symbolizing the good and evil deeds weighed by God when he judges the human soul. A placard in five languages declaresTemplate:Quotation

Impact on visitors

Template:Rquote The Marquis de Sade noted that he found his 1775 journey to the crypt was worth the effort, and Nathaniel Hawthorne noted its grotesque nature in his 1860 novel The Marble Faun.

As of 1851, the crypt was only opened to the public, in exchange for an admittance fee, for the week following All Souls Day.<ref name="ReferenceA"/>

From 1851 to 1852, women were not allowed admittance to the crypt.<ref name="ReferenceA"/>

See also

  • Capuchin catacombs of Palermo
  • Capela dos Ossos
  • Sedlec Ossuary

References

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External links

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