Some people find it macabre and some find it a celebration of life on earth. The Capuchin order of Franciscan monks (whose crypt it is) consider it a homage and reminder of the swift passage of life on earth. Located in Rome beneath the 17th century church Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on Via Veneto near the Piazza Barberini, the walls of this ossuary chapel are lined with thousands of bones, totaling the remains of around 4,000 people.
Just after the church was finished in 1626, remains of thousands of monks from the Capuchin order were removed from an earlier friary to this crypt and nailed to the walls in quite startling patterns, drawing on the then fashionable Baroque and Rococo styles – even in remembrance the Italians are stylish! There are even bones used in the light fittings.
A Capuchin Crypt tour consists of six small chapels: the Crypt of the Resurrection, Crypt of the Skulls, Crypt of the Pelves, Crypt of the Leg Bones and Thigh Bones, Crypt of the Three Skeletons, and The Mass Chapel which has no bones. The skeleton decorations were added to until about 1870.
The Capuchin monks are an offshoot of the Franciscans established in 1525 by a number of monks who wanted to get back to the simple purity of the way Saint Francis himself lived and worshiped. They traditionally wear a simple tunic with a hood and the name Capuchin comes from the word capuce meaning hood.