Halloween means scary stuff right? At least, in modern times that’s what we’ve associated it with. People have marathons of horror movies, kids dress up as monsters and we do things to try and scare one and other. For me though, this Halloween I went on my scariest adventure yet, visiting the Capuchin Crypt in Rome.
The Capuchin Crypt is located in Rome and consists of murals made out of 3700 bodies, all to be said from capuchin monks. If you don’t know who the capuchin monks, you may recognise their name which was the inspiration of the popular caffeinated drink “cappuccino”. The crypt and it’s display of bones is meant to be a representation of life on earth and our mortal lives. The crypt is split into 6 rooms which house different images and meanings. These are;
- The Crypt of Resurrection
- The mass chapel
- Crypt of Skulls
- Crypt of Pelvises
- Crypt of leg bones and thigh bones
- Crypt of the three skeleton
My friend who took me there didn’t tell me what was in store. I thought I was simply going to a museum about coffee monks. When we entered the area with the crypts though I wasn’t sure what to say. I had to cling onto my friend’s arm and walked that way the entire time. The bones are everywhere. They are distinctly bones, but at the same time there’s not in the shape of bodies. Different bones have all been grouped together, made into strange patterns or simple piled up creating walls of bone.
The air is stale and dead. I feel like I’m breathing in dead bodies. There are empty skulls staring at me. There are skulls dressed in the monk’s robes with the pointed hood pull up, making them look grim. I feel like at any moment one of the heads will turn around, slowly, and look me in the eye with it’s empty eye socket. It’s not the full skulls that are the scariest part though. When you see a block of wall made up entirely of pelvic bones, and they are distinctly pelvic bones, it feels surreal. I’m thinking “pelvic bones shouldn’t be put on display like that.”
There’s something, in my mind, disturbingly wrong. To have your body, or your bones, dug up and the separated, put into little piles and stuck on walls. You’re head and your legs could be in different rooms. You’re no longer a person, you’re a bit of macabre art. The thing that truly terrifies me of the entire place is at some point in time, there was a person who had that vision. A person who envisioned bones and bodies, set up to display, who created hanging things out of arm bones and skulls. Who took apart fingers and knuckles and decided that they should create a frame around the skeleton of a child. Who displayed skeletons of children at all.
I think of this person, and I’m scared of them, even though they are long dead. I’m scared that they had this vision and somehow convinced an entire group of monks to do it. That this person has no name and the entire thing is covered up, that it took so long to do and countless rotting bodies waiting to be displayed.
I took me a while to feel normal after leaving the crypt, and I think a lot of people will see different things from it. I personally, saw something scary that I didn’t want to name, mostly the idea of a person that could do that. On the upside, at least he did that with already dead bodies and didn’t go out of his way to murder people to create it, unlike the characters out of Hannibal and True Detective. It’s scary when you think it’s real though. We’re so used to seeing these things on TV but then the fact it’s real hits you and your mouth becomes dry and your nose itches because dust from overhanging skulls have been seeping into you… For halloween a did a skull inspired look after seeing all the skulls in the crypt!