There is no doubt about it, Rome is a fascinating city with a vast and exciting history.
The city also has its religious side, with the Vatican city and many other places relating to worship to explore. Here are just some of the less usual churches and other religious buildings to visit on a trip to Rome where you can pay your respects to the dead.
1. Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi and its 22 papal hearts
This beautiful, former Roman Catholic church was gifted by Pope John Paul II to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. However, the building, which overlooks the Trevi Fountain in Rome, still retains the hearts of 22 popes, stored in marble urns. The popes in question date from 1583 and Sixtus V, through to 1903 and Leo XIII.
The custom, known as “praecordia” was known to separate the organs from the deceased pope’s body to prevent decay until funeral arrangements were complete. The marble urns containing the hearts are still stored Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio.
The church also retains a collection of “ex voto,” or metal ornaments left by faithful members of the church as thanks for prayers that were answered.
2. Visit the Vatican Necropolis
Another place to visit the dead is contained under St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. In fact, St. Peter himself could be part of the remains stored here.
St. Peter’s Basilica is an essential part of a tour of the Vatican City, with its iconic art, sculpture, frescoes and more. However, the building also contains ruins dating back to the Roman Empire. A visit to the Scavi (Vatican Necropolis) takes visitors down three levels to a fascinating combined Pagan and Christian burial ground, dating back to the 5th century.
In this area, a small earthen mound can be seen which is cordoned off and lit for emphasis. This is believed by many to be the burial place of St. Peter.
3. The Crypts of Santa Maria della Concezione
In was in 1631 that the Capuchin friars moved from their friary at St. Bonaventure and moved into Santa Maria della Concezione. At the time of their move, Cardinal Antonio Barberini told them to take the remains of their deceased brothers with them into their new home, so that all Capuchin friars, living and dead, could be in one spot.
The crypts at Santa Maria della Concezione contain the bones of around 4,000 Capuchin friars. The friars died between the years 1528 and 1870 and can be seen hanging or lying in the crypt.
Rather than simply placing them into a tomb, the monks chose to decorate the walls of the various crypts with their bones, to remind themselves death comes to anyone at any time. They placed a plaque which simply reads: “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”
However, among the remains are a crypt of friars’ skulls, a separate crypt storing their leg bones and yet another containing merely pelvises. There is also a selection of monks, who have been mummified and hang from the walls wearing friar’s clothing.
When electricity was added to the crypts, some of the remains were incorporated into the light fixtures. There is even a skeleton displayed in an oval shape made from bones, which can be seen to be holding scales and a scythe, also crafted from bones.
Enjoy your visit to the dead in Rome and Vatican City! What better location is there to head to on Halloween?