Capuchin Crypt

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.[1] 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.[2]

Rom, Santa Maria Immacolata a Via Veneto, Krypta der Kapuziner 1
Capuchin Crypt in Rome, Italy
Rom, Santa Maria Immacolata a Via Veneto, Krypta der Kapuziner 2
Capuchin Crypt

Construction of the crypt

The apartments for this purpose are very small, yet harbour hundreds of such tenants. They lie here till they are dried up; when they are brought to light again, in order to yield their former spaces to their successors.
— [3]

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.[4] The soil in the crypt was brought from Jerusalem,[5] by order of Pope Urban VIII.[6]

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,[7] and the newly reclaimed bones were added to the decorative motifs.[5][8] Bodies typically spent 30 years decomposing in the soil, before being exhumed.[9]

Rooms of the crypt

"This must be a revolting sight", said I to my friend; "and what appears to me yet more disgusting is that these remains of the dead are only exposed in this manner for the sake of levying a tax on the imbecility of the living".
— J. D. de Chatelain, 1851[9]

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.
  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.[10] The chapel also contains the tomb of the Papal Zouaves who died defending the Papal States at the battle of Porta Pia.
  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 declares

    What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be...

Impact on visitors

The reflection that he must someday be taken apart like an engine or a clock...and worked up into arches and pyramids and hideous frescoes, did not distress this monk in the least. I thought he even looked as if he were thinking, with complacent vanity, that his own skull would look well on top of the heap and his own ribs add a charm to the frescoes which possibly they lacked at present
— Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1869

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.[9]

From 1851 to 1852, women were not allowed admittance to the crypt.[9][11]

See also


  1. ^ Alba Amoia, "Stendhal's Rome: Then and Now"
  2. ^ Frank J. Korn, "Hidden Rome"
  3. ^ Arthur Aikin, "The Annual Review", 1806
  4. ^ Christine Quigley, "Skulls and Skeletons: Human Bone Collections and Accumulations", page 172
  5. ^ a b Augustus John Cuthbert Hare, "Walks in Rome", 1882
  6. ^ Tom Weil, "The Cemetery Book", 1993
  7. ^ Newman Hall, "The Land of the Forum and the Vatican"
  8. ^ Folke Henschen, 1965
  9. ^ a b c d Jean Baptiste de Chatelain, "Rambles Through Rome", 1851
  10. ^ Gary M. Devore, "Walking Tours of Ancient Rome", 2008
  11. ^ Charlotte Anne Eaton, Rome in the Nineteenth Century, 1852

External links

Coordinates: 41°54′16.7″N 12°29′19.2″E / 41.904639°N 12.488667°E

Aleksander Benedykt Sobieski

Aleksander Benedykt Stanisław Sobieski (Polish pronunciation: [alɛˈksandɛr bɛˈnɛdɨkt staˈɲiswaf sɔˈbjɛskʲi]; 9 September 1677 – 16 November 1714) was a Polish prince, nobleman, diplomat, writer, scholar and the son of John III Sobieski, King of Poland, and his wife, Marie Casimire Louise de la Grange d'Arquien.He was a candidate for election to the Polish throne in 1697, following his father's death, but was unsuccessful. In 1702, he declined Charles XII of Sweden's offer to set him up as a rival king to Augustus II of Poland. He died in Rome in 1714, having recently become a Capuchin friar.

Bocca della Verità

The Mouth of Truth (Italian: Bocca della Verità [ˈbokka della veriˈta]) is a marble mask in Rome, Italy, which stands against the left wall of the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, at the Piazza della Bocca della Verità, the site of the ancient Forum Boarium (the ancient cattle market). It attracts visitors who audaciously stick their hand in the mouth.

The massive marble mask weighs about 1300 kg and probably depicts the face of the sea titan god Oceanus. The eyes,

nostrils and mouth are open. Historians aren't quite certain what the original purpose of the disc was. It was possibly used as a drain cover in the nearby Temple of Hercules Victor, which had an oculus—a round open space in the middle of the roof, similar to that of the Pantheon. Hence, it could rain inside. It is also thought that cattle merchants used it to drain the blood of cattle sacrificed to the god Hercules. In the thirteenth century the disc was probably removed from the temple and placed against the wall of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin. In the seventeenth century it eventually moved to its current location inside the portico of the church.

Capela dos Ossos

The Capela dos Ossos (English: Chapel of Bones) is one of the best known monuments in Évora, Portugal. It is a small interior chapel located next to the entrance of the Church of St. Francis. The Chapel gets its name because the interior walls are covered and decorated with human skulls and bones.


Capuchin can refer to:

Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, an order of Roman Catholic friars

Capuchin Poor Clares, an order of Roman Catholic contemplative religious sisters

Capuchin monkey, primates of the genus Cebus considered among the most intelligent of the New World monkeys (those native to the Americas), named after the friars

Capuchin Crypt, a room located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome, Italy

Old Dutch Capuchine, a breed of fancy pigeon

Capuchin Church, Vienna

The Capuchin Church (German: Kapuzinerkirche) in Vienna, Austria is a church and monastery run by the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Located on the Neuer Markt square in the Innere Stadt near the Hofburg Palace, the Capuchin Church is most famous for containing the Imperial Crypt, the final resting place for members of the House of Habsburg. The official name of the church is Church of Saint Mary of the Angels, but it is commonly known in Vienna as the Capuchin Church.

Capuchin Crypt in Brno

The Capuchin Crypt in Brno is a funeral room mainly for Capuchin friars. The crypt was founded in the mid 17th century in the basement of the Capuchin Monastery in the historical centre of Brno. The bodies of people buried there turned into mummies because of the geological composition of the ground and the system of airing.Under a poverty vow, Capuchin friars believed coffins to be a luxury. The mummies are today considered a tourist attraction but are also useful for scientific research.

Catacombe dei Cappuccini

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo (also Catacombe dei Cappuccini or Catacombs of the Capuchins) are burial catacombs in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy. Today they provide a somewhat macabre tourist attraction as well as an extraordinary historical record.

Francis Baldacchino

Francis Baldacchino (June 6, 1937 – October 9, 2009) was the first Roman Catholic bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Malindi, Kenya.

Heldenberg Memorial

The Heldenberg Memorial is an open-air pantheon in the grounds of the castle at Kleinwetzdorf, Heldenberg, Lower Austria. It houses busts and statues of Austrian rulers and military personnel and was set up in 1849 by Joseph Gottfried Pargfrieder, a major supplier to the imperial army, who claimed to be an illegitimate son of Emperor Joseph II.

Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, an Austrian Army Field Marshal and national hero, died on January 5, 1858 after an accident in Milan.

The Emperor wished that he be buried in the Capuchin crypt (the Imperial Crypt in Vienna), however, Radetzky had bequeathed his earthly remains, and the right to bury him, to Pargfrieder, who had settled his debts earlier. On 19 January 1858, Radetzky was buried at the Heldenberg memorial. He lies in a crypt under a monumental obelisk, together with Field Marshal Maximilian von Wimpffen and Pargfrieder.

The site includes quarters for military invalids (an officer and twelve soldiers) who were intended to serve as guards of honour, however, these plans were never realized.

The site was renovated and expanded through the addition of a visitor centre for the 2005 Lower Austrian state exhibition ("Landesausstellung").

Imperial Crypt

The Imperial Crypt (German: Kaisergruft), also called the Capuchin Crypt (Kapuzinergruft), is a burial chamber beneath the Capuchin Church and monastery in Vienna, Austria. It was founded in 1618 and dedicated in 1632, and located on the Neuer Markt square of the Innere Stadt, near the Hofburg Palace. Since 1633, the Imperial Crypt serves as the principal place of entombment for the members of the House of Habsburg. The bones of 145 Habsburg royalty, plus urns containing the hearts or cremated remains of four others, are here, including 12 emperors and 18 empresses. The visible 107 metal sarcophagi and five heart urns range in style from puritan plain to exuberant rococo. Some of the dozen resident Capuchin friars continue their customary role as the guardians and caretakers of the crypt, along with their other pastoral work in Vienna. The most recent entombment was in 2011.150

Mondo Cane

Mondo Cane (meaning A Dog’s World, which is a mild Italian profanity; also known in the United States as Tales of the Bizarre: Rites, Rituals and Superstitions) is a 1962 Italian documentary film written and directed by Paolo Cavara, Franco Prosperi and Gualtiero Jacopetti. The film consists of a series of travelogue scenes that provide glimpses into cultural practices around the world with the intention to shock or surprise Western film audiences. These scenes are presented with little continuity, as they are intended as a kaleidoscopic display of shocking content rather than presenting a structured argument. Despite its claims of genuine documentation, certain scenes are either staged or creatively manipulated to enhance this effect.The film was an international box-office success and inspired an entire genre of mondo films in the form of exploitation documentaries, many of which also include the word "Mondo" (meaning “World”) in their title.


A mummy is a deceased human or an animal whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body does not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions. Some authorities restrict the use of the term to bodies deliberately embalmed with chemicals, but the use of the word to cover accidentally desiccated bodies goes back to at least 1615 AD (See the section Etymology and meaning).

Mummies of humans and animals have been found on every continent, both as a result of natural preservation through unusual conditions, and as cultural artifacts. Over one million animal mummies have been found in Egypt, many of which are cats. Many of the Egyptian animal mummies are sacred ibis, and radiocarbon dating suggests the Egyptian Ibis mummies that have been analyzed were from time frame that falls between approximately 450 and 250 BC.In addition to the well-known mummies of ancient Egypt, deliberate mummification was a feature of several ancient cultures in areas of America and Asia with very dry climates. The Spirit Cave mummies of Fallon, Nevada in North America were accurately dated at more than 9,400 years old. Before this discovery, the oldest known deliberate mummy was a child, one of the Chinchorro mummies found in the Camarones Valley, Chile, which dates around 5050 BC. The oldest known naturally mummified human corpse is a severed head dated as 6,000 years old, found in 1936 AD at the site named Inca Cueva No. 4 in South America.

Order of Friars Minor Capuchin

The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (Latin: Ordo Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum; postnominal abbr. O.F.M.Cap.) is an order of friars within the Catholic Church, among the chief offshoots of the Franciscans. The worldwide head of the Order, called the Minister General, is currently Roberto Genuin.


Pannonhalma (German: Martinsberg, Slovak: Rábsky Svätý Martin) is a town in western Hungary, in Győr-Moson-Sopron county with approximately 4,000 inhabitants. It is about 20 km (12 mi) from Győr. Archduke Otto Habsburg's heart is kept at the Pannonhalma Archabbey, while his body was laid at the Capuchin Crypt in the old Imperial capital of Vienna.

Papal Zouaves

The Papal Zouaves (Italian: Zuavi Pontifici) were an infantry force formed in defence of the Papal States.

Sedlec Ossuary

The Sedlec Ossuary (Czech: Kostnice v Sedlci) is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints (Czech: Hřbitovní kostel Všech Svatých), part of the former Sedlec Abbey in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have, in many cases, been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. The ossuary is among the most visited tourist attractions of the Czech Republic - attracting over 200,000 visitors annually.Four enormous bell-shaped mounds occupy the corners of the chapel. An enormous chandelier of bones, which contains at least one of every bone in the human body, hangs from the center of the nave with garlands of skulls draping the vault. Other works include piers and monstrances flanking the altar, a coat of arms of the House of Schwarzenberg, and the signature of František Rint, also executed in bone, on the wall near the entrance.

Skull Tower

Skull Tower (Serbian: Ћеле Кула; Ćele kula, pronounced [tɕel̩e kula]) is a stone structure embedded with human skulls located in Niš, Serbia. It was constructed following the Battle of Čegar of May 1809, during the First Serbian Uprising. Serbian rebels under the command of Stevan Sinđelić were attacked by the Ottomans on Čegar Hill, near Niš. Knowing that he and his fighters would be impaled if captured, Sinđelić detonated a powder magazine within the rebel entrenchment, killing himself, his fellow rebels and the encroaching Ottoman soldiers. Vizier Hurshid Pasha ordered that a tower be made from the skulls of the fallen rebels. The tower is 4.5 metres (15 ft) high, and originally contained 952 skulls embedded on four sides in 14 rows.

Following the Ottoman withdrawal from Niš in 1878, the tower was roofed over, and in 1892 a chapel was built around it. In 1937, the chapel was renovated. A bust of Sinđelić was added the following year. In 1948, Skull Tower and the chapel enclosing it were declared Cultural Monuments of Exceptional Importance and came under the protection of the Socialist Republic of Serbia. Further renovation of the chapel occurred again in 1989. As of 2013, 58 skulls remain on the tower. The one that is said to belong to Sinđelić is enclosed in a glass container. Seen as a symbol of independence by Serbs, the tower is mentioned in the writings of French Romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine and English travel writer Alexander William Kinglake. In the two centuries since its construction, it has become a popular tourist attraction, visited by between 30,000 and 50,000 people annually.

South Moravian Region

The South Moravian Region (Czech: Jihomoravský kraj; Slovak: Juhomoravský kraj; German: Südmährische Region) is an administrative unit (kraj) of the Czech Republic, located in the south-western part of its historical region of Moravia (an exception is Jobova Lhota which belongs to Bohemia). Its capital is Brno, the 2nd largest city in the Czech Republic. The region has 1,169,000 inhabitants (as of 30 June 2013) and the total area of 7,196.5 km². It is bordered by the South Bohemian Region (west), Vysočina Region (north-west), Pardubice Region (north), Olomouc Region (north east), Zlín Region (east), Trenčín and Trnava Regions, Slovakia (south east) and Lower Austria, Austria (south).

Tobias Kracker

Tobias Kracker (April 21, 1655-February 5, 1736) was a sculptor and painter from a family of artists who worked in Vienna during the 17th century and later throughout the Habsburg Monarchy.

He was trained in the school of his eponymous father (Tobias Kracker the Elder, who died after 1691.) Their work included portal figures and altars for the Vienna Schottenstift. Other students of the school include Balthasar Permoser, who lived in Vienna between 1670 and 1675.Tobias Kracker the Younger collaborated with Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Paul Strudel on the work on the Vienna Plague Column.

He also created designs (based on models by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt) for the Imperial Coffins of Emperor Leopold I (died 1705) and his oldest son Joseph I (died 1711) for the Vienna Imperial Crypt, also sometimes called the "Capuchin Crypt."

Death and mortality in art

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