Rome: Our Lady of the Conception Capuchin Church
Without doubt this is one of the most unusual churches you will see in Rome, or anywhere else for that matter. The church itself is fairly plain, in keeping with the Capuchin way of life. But what sets it apart from the many other churches in the city is the crypt underneath the church: five separate alcoves containing the skeletons of over 4,000 friars. In some cases they are laid out wearing their vestments.
It was in 1631 that the Capuchin Friars came here from their previous location near the Trevi Fountain and brought with them the remains of their deceased bretheren. As time went on, others were interred here as well, and then later the earlier remains were exhumed and placed on display.
A sign greets visitors, which translated into English, reads:
“As you are, we once were. As we are, you shall be one day be“.
There are six alcoves, five of which house the bones while the sixth is the Chapel where Mass is celebrated. These are not necessarily complete skeletons, often it is just the skulls of the deceased Friars. There are some who consider this a rather macabre experience and others who are fascinated by it.
As Christians, of course, we believe in the Resurrection and that this earthly life is brief compared to the eternity we hope to spend with Our Lord. This church is taken as a reminder of how fleeting life is here on earth.
Of special interest is the tomb of Justin Martyr in the crypt area. A great defender of the Fatih, he was beheaded in Rome in 165 AD. You can read more about Justin Martyr here.( external link)
The church is open daily except Thursday, 9:00 a.m. until noon and then afternoons from 3:00 until 7:00 p.m. Last admission is at 6:30 p.m. There is a nominal charge for admission. No photographs are allowed.
Address: Via Vittorio Veneto, 27 00187 Roma, Italy
GPS coordinates: 41° 54′ 17.9316” N, 12° 29′ 18.4380” E
Tel: +39 06 8880 3695
Click here for the official website of the Capuchin Church in Rome