The hauntingly beautiful chapels beneath Rome’s church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini served as the burial chambers for Capuchin friars for centuries. As there were more bodies than space, older graves were dug up, and bones of the dead were used to create intricate designs decorating the chapel walls and ceilings.
The Capuchin Crypt, a series of six small chapels used to bury Capuchin monks who died between 1528 and 1870, ultimately held around 3,700 bodies interred in the crypt’s sacred soil brought directly from Jerusalem. You can walk through the bone chapels to admire the unique decorations created by the skeletal remains of the deceased, said to be a reminder of the fleeting nature of mortality.
The best way to understand the historical and religious context of this remarkable site is to join a small-group crypts and catacombs tour. These tours typically visit the Capuchin Crypt and accompanying museum along with the ancient Roman catacombs under the Basilica of San Clemente with a tour guide. To avoid the daytime crowds, you can also opt for an private tour with exclusive after-hours access to the crypt.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This is a slightly macabre stop, so is not recommended for children or anyone who is claustrophobic or squeamish about human bones.
- Book a skip-the-line tour to avoid long waits, especially in the summer months.
- The crypt is not a haunted house, but a sacred burial space. Wear modest clothing, covering shoulders and knees, and maintain a respectful decorum.
- Photography is not allowed.
- The crypt is not accessible to wheelchairs or strollers.
How to Get There
The Santa Maria della Concezione church is on Via Veneto, not far from the Piazza Barberini metro stop on line A. The Capuchin Crypt is underneath the church and has its own designated entrance.
When to Get There
The Capuchin Crypt is open year-round; check the website for hours. The underground site is a cool reprieve from the summer heat, yet can be very crowded during this time.
Modern Rome sits on top of thousands of years of history, which is why the capital of Italy is known as the Eternal City. One of the best ways to explore the city’s remarkable past is by taking guided tours through Rome’s many underground sights, including remains of villas and monuments from ancient Rome as well as medieval crypts and catacombs.