Amazing Art Made from the Bones of Capuchin Friars

The crypt beneath the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Rome is decorated with intricate scenes and designs made from 4,000 skeletons. It is a work of art and memento mori, a reminder that we are all mortal and will face death. These skeletons once belonged to Capuchin friars. In 1621, a Capuchin cardinal was granted land in Rome to build the bigger church they needed. It was completed in 1631. They moved the remains of friars buried at the previous church to a crypt below the new church. Other Capuchin friars were brought to the church from all over the world for burial there over the next hundred years.  

Some time in the mid-18th century, someone decided to use those bones as decorative artworks, and arranged them into complex scenes in all six of the crypt's alcoves. Some skeletons were kept intact and posed in friar's robes, while most bones were sorted by shape and used to construct other objects or line the walls. The crypt is now open to the public by going through the church's museum. Read about the crypt of the Capuchin friars and see lots of pictures at Smithsonian.

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