After a fairly long and reasonably boozy lunch in the Hard Rock Café in Rome with a friend not seen for many years, I was about to head back into the melée of my favourite city when he told me about a little known site just a few hundred yards away from where we were stood. Luckily from the Hard Rock it was downhill, and no more than three minutes later I found myself in front of the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. I had to look hard for the entrance to the church of bones, but found it and entered.
In the dark of the lobby, two menacing ladies informed me that entrance was free, although there was a box for donations should I wish. The look was enough to assure me that a donation would be wise. I was also told that photography wasn’t allowed, hence the photo’s are library shots, found on the net.
And yes, everything you see in that picture are made from human bones. There are a few stories about why this was done in this way, but whichever one is true, as you descend the stairs to the underground crypts, there is a definite chill in the air, and a lot of shuddering.
It’s a church, with all the things you would expect to see in a church, but also with a small corridor off to the right hand side. Down here are 3 (i think) different areas, macabre scenes. Passing underneath the arch of femurs, noting all the skulls to my right, the first room on the left featured two full size skeletons, with designs on the walls made from the small finger and toe bones.
The last room actually left me feeling very sad, as well as the overriding feeling of cold. One of the stories for the church is that all the bones were from an order of monks, but the scene gives lie to this. There were the complete skeletons of two small children, unlikely to have been more than two years old.
Its not easy to find, its not on a lot of guide books that I’ve read for Rome, and it left me feeling pretty morose when I left. I’ll never go and see it again, but would absolutely urge people to go and see it whilst there, it’s not to be missed but also unlikely to be enjoyed.