Weird History

A Look Inside The Unsettling Roman Crypt So Creepy Even The Marquis De Sade Was Afraid Of It

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The Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini Crypt in Italy, better known as the Capuchin Crypt, contains the bodies of nearly 4,000 Capuchin friars. The Roman mausoleum resembles a mummy museum and contains thousands of artfully displayed bones and skeletons. Some more morbid visitors claim that this crypt is as awe-inspiring as any other beautiful Catholic church, with walls, ceilings, and chapels covered in the grim interpretations.

Some of the rooms in the crypt were created to showcase different body parts, including "The Crypt of Shin Bones and Thigh Bones" and the "Crypt of Pelvises." The large tomb was created to honor the dead and to remind the living that death is inevitable. A plaque welcoming visitors reads: "What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be."

The Capuchin monks moved to the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini from their old monastery near the Trevi Fountain in 1631. They brought with them the bodies of their deceased friars on orders from Pope Urban VIII. Monks who were buried the longest were exhumed and newly deceased monks took their spots. It was during this process that the bones of the bodies were disassembled and put on display.

American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne was deeply affected by the crypt, writing: "Not here can we feel ourselves immortal." French libertine Marquis de Sade wrote what is believed to be the earliest description of the crypt. He visited in 1775 and noted that it was a monument of funerary art “worthy of an English mind.” He'd never “seen anything more impressive.”