Luxury hotel seekers head to one address in Rome: Via Veneto. Just down the block from the Jumeriah Grand and the Westin Excelsior lies another posh resting place: The Capuchin Crypt of the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini.
I found the Santa Maria chapel by accident on my last day in Rome and it was the highlight of my time in the city for its sheer eccentricity. You may remember the Capuchin monks from The Da Vinci Code as the monks who utilized methods of self-torture in order to be closer to God. While the book was certainly an exaggeration, maces, flails, and barbed belts are on full view in the museum attached to the chapel.
The museum is but a preview to the crypts below. I’ve been searching for a single word to describe what I felt upon viewing the first room in the crypt and can only come up with “breathtaking”. Old bones are old hat in Europe, but the Capuchins raised it to an art form. On every surface floor to ceiling are mosaics, frescoes, and tableaus: MADE OF 100% BONES.
We’re talking scapula butterflies.
We’re talking vertebrae crown molding.
We’re talking femur chandeliers.
We’re talking both horrible and beautiful…and unforgettable.
If you get to Rome, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you miss the Capuchin Crypt. Have you been? Please share your impressions in the comments.