A little more than a year ago, I was studying abroad in Spain for 3 ½ months and spending my weekends traveling around Europe. One of my destinations was Rome, an ancient and history-filled city—which also happens to house a small crypt in the church Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. This crypt is one of the coolest places for a lover of horror to visit because it is entirely decorated with human bones.
The church was commissioned in 1626, and soon after, the bones of Capuchin monks were exhumed from their burial place and arranged along the walls of the crypt. Today there are about 4,000 dead friars down there. There are even a few full skeletons standing upright in monk habits.
In this grotesque work of art are skulls, leg bones, pelvises—you name it—carefully placed into detailed decorations: macabre and beautiful at the same time. There are five rooms with skeletal scenes, and a plaque in one of them reads the memento mori:
“What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”
If you ever get the chance to visit something like this ossuary, do it. Similar places are the Catacombs of Paris and the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic. It’s not only a fascinating artistic display, but also a haunting reminder of our own mortality.