Thursday, December 20, 2012
Memento Mori: The Capuchin Crypt
The bones of more than 4,000 bodies decorate several crypt niches along a subterranean passage in the depths of the church.
The Capuchin monks who arrived at the church in 1631 brought the remains of their bretheren and filled the crypt with soil from Jerusalem. Fr. Michael of Bergamo began the tradition of decorating the crypts in this fashion.
The crypt has inspired many a writer to ponder the site's meaning and impact:
"The reflection that he must someday be taken apart like an engine or a clock...and worked up into arches and pyramids and hideous frescoes, did not distress this monk in the least. I thought he even looked as if he were thinking, with complacent vanity, that his own skull would look well on top of the heap and his own ribs add a charm to the frescoes which possibly they lacked at present” —Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1869