As churches in Rome go, Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini is a fairly unexceptional one, but you will get a spooky shock if you creep down to the crypt! It consists of five dimly lit chambers, the walls of which are covered in the skulls and bones of 4,000 Capuchin friars; some of them intact and dressed in habits. The ossuary contains a crypt of skulls, one of leg bones and, perhaps strangest of all, one of pelvises. Cherubs, normally represented by the head of an infant flanked by two wings, are odd enough as symbols go, but the Capuchin version, a skull between two shoulder blades, takes some beating. There are also some interesting light fixtures which I am sure were not bought flat-packed on the shelves of the nearest Ikea store.
A plaque in one of the chapels reads “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be” so think on!
Several famous authors visited the crypt including, unsurprisingly, the Marquis de Sade who had “never seen anything more striking”. Mark Twain had a word or two to say about it at the beginning of a chapter in “The Innocents Abroad” and Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the crypt in his novel “The Marble Faun”. The crypt is well worth a visit but not for the impressionable.