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The Museum Of Purgatory In Rome Is One Of The Creepiest Museums In The World

Updated October 11, 2019 335.7k views11 items

Travelers who flock to the Sistine Chapel may not intend to find creepy places in Rome, but one macabre, yet arguably holy spot could change their mind: the Museum of the Souls of Purgatory (Museo delle Anime del Purgatorio). Unlike other grim museums devoted to horror-worthy material, this tiny museum, nestled in one room of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Suffrage (Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio), contains holy artifacts: relics stained with the burned hand marks and fingerprints of people purportedly trapped in Purgatory.

In Catholic theology, Purgatory refers to a temporary place in the afterlife for sinners who need to atone for their sins before ascending to Heaven. The concept of souls trapped in Purgatory has existed in Catholicism since the 11th century, when a monk told Abbot Odilo of Cluny a tale of being stranded on an island with a strange hermit after a shipwreck. The hermit claimed a large rift burst open on the island, spitting flames and revealing anguished souls. Odilo established All Souls' Day to increase the number of prayers for deceased loved ones suffering in Purgatory. 

The artifacts in the Museum of the Souls of Purgatory function as creepy links to these trapped souls. There are 10 items on display, most carrying burn marks, which some believe serve as supplication for the living to pray feverishly to expedite their loved ones' entry to Heaven. The museum features clothing, prayer books, and money.

  • A Nun Who Died From The Plague Charred Another Nun's Apron

    In 1696 Sister Maria Herendorps was serving at a Benedictine monastery in Warendorf, Germany, when Sister Chiara Schoelers's ghost allegedly burned a handprint into her apron. Schoelers had perished in 1637 due to the plague.

    The museum display includes only a photograph of the garment, not the original relic. 

  • A Mom Left A Handprint On Her Son's Shirt

    Video: YouTube

    The deceased mother of Joseph Leleux of Wodecq, Belgium, reportedly appeared in 1789. Leleux had spent 11 days feeling queasy and ill-at-ease from hearing noises. His mother purportedly asked him to fulfill a promise in exchange for his inheritance from his father; she reminded him he needed to work for the Catholic Church and change his ways.

    Before leaving, she grabbed her son's sleeve and burned her handprint into the fabric. Leleux went on to found a devout, God-fearing congregation.

  • An Italian Nun Requested Prayers Via A Pillowcase

    While suffering from tuberculosis, Sister Maria of St. Luigi Gonzaga in Italy fell into a depression and prayed for death to end her illness. She died on June 5, 1894, then appeared to fellow nun Sister Margherita the same evening.

    Appearing in a haze, Sister Maria told Sister Margherita she was in Purgatory as punishment for interfering with God's will during her illness. Sister Mary requested prayers for her soul, leaving a singed fingerprint on Sister Margherita's pillow.

  • A Monk Left Multiple Burned Imprints On The Belongings Of An Abbess

    On All Souls' Day in 1731, the apparition of former abbot Fr. Panzini appeared to Mother Isabella Fornari, head of an order of nuns known as the Poor Clares, in Todi, Italy. He left a handprint and a cross on her wooden work table, along with additional handprints on a paper and her smock's sleeve, allegedly causing her to bleed