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A. Sutherland – MessageToEagle.com – Under the city of Rome, there is a maze of long-forgotten ancient passages and temples; there are millennia-old underground burial chambers, which remember times when Christianity was only a forbidden cult and its members were executed as pagans and buried as martyrs.
One of the most original and eerie places in the underground realm of Rome is the Capuchin Crypt also known as the ‘Bone Chapel’.
The Capuchin Crypt is a very special place with the remains of 4,000 Capuchin monks buried by their order. Their standing and dressed in robes skeletons, are staring from the walls and in the background, there are hundreds of anonymous skulls of those who died long ago.
They ‘decorate’ the underground crypt with vertebrae chandeliers, skulls of real size and cross-bones.
The Capuchin Crypt with several small chapels is located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, in Rome, Italy and it comprises of six rooms filled with the bodies of friars who died between 1528 and 1870.
On one of the chapel’s wall there is written in three languages,
“What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”
Probably it has never been an intention to display strange place and its atmosphere as a macabre, but rather to remind of the passage of time, which takes lives with it. Still, the crypt is by many considered a morbid underground realm of death.
Arthur B. Frommer, a travel writer, and author of a series of travel guides wrote about the crypt:
“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…”
When the monks arrived at the church in 1631, 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, 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 and so, it continued.
The newly-retrieved bones were immediately used as a ‘decoration’.
The dead monks’ bodies usually spent 30 years in the soil during the process of decomposition, before being exhumed.
The crypt had its beginnings in ancient times when a cult for a dead – rooted in Catholicism, but also closely associated with the cult of the dead of Greece and Rome – was flourishing.
Written by – A. Sutherland – MessageToEagle.com Senior Staff Writer
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A. Frommer’s Guide