The Capuchin Crypt ☆☆

The Capuchin Crypt, Rome, Italy (Photo by Unknown)

The Cimitero Monumentale dei Frati Cappuccini—better known simply as the Capuchin Crypt—is one of the eeriest sites in Rome: a series of chapels mosaicked with the bones of long-dead monks

, The Capuchin Crypt, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Unknown)
, The Capuchin Crypt, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Aaron Fellmeth Photography)
, The Capuchin Crypt, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Dnalor 01)
, The Capuchin Crypt, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Unknown)
, The Capuchin Crypt, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Dnalor 01)

Depending how you look at it, the cappuccini are monks with either a death wish or a rather healthy attitude toward their own mortality.

They're a weird lot, very polite but with a penchant for making mosaics out of the bones of their deceased brethren.

Which came first, cappuccino or the Cappuccini?

The popular coffee drink made with espresso, steamed milk, and a dollop of foam was named after the monastic order of Capuchins since the coffee's dun color matched that of the monk's robes. Given that, the Cappuccini's Rome church couldn't be in a better location: On the Via Veneto, famously lined with cafes eager to serve you their namesake drink.
That's what happened in the crypt of this church—the entrance is halfway up the staircase to the front doors of the (otherwise uninteresting) Santa Maria Immacolata Concezione—where five chambers were filled between 1528 and 1870 with mosaics made from over 4,000 dearly departed cappuccini (first dried out by temporary burial in the floors filled with dirt from Jerusalem).

These fantastic displays form morbid patterns and baroque decorative details, from rings of knucklebones and garlands of pelvises to walls made from stacked skulls and scapulae used to create butterflies or hourglasses in an all-too fitting memento morimotif. 

A few bodies lean against the walls in varying states of advanced desiccated decay, and the full skeletons of two Barberini princelings adorn the last chamber, near a placard that drives home the ashes-to-ashes point, in several languages:

What you are, we used to be
What we are, you will become.

Yep. Creepy.

Photo gallery
  • , The Capuchin Crypt, Italy (Photo by Unknown)
  • , The Capuchin Crypt, Italy (Photo by Unknown)
  • , The Capuchin Crypt, Italy (Photo by Aaron Fellmeth Photography)
  • , The Capuchin Crypt, Italy (Photo by Dnalor 01)
  • , The Capuchin Crypt, Italy (Photo by Unknown)
  • , The Capuchin Crypt, Italy (Photo by Dnalor 01)
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How long does the Capuchin Crypt take?

You can see it in 10 minutes, but most people take 20 minutes or so. The details are as fascinating as they are gruesome.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).