One of the most interesting sites in Rome is the church Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappucini. Here is some of the information on this most unusual site.
Not for those that are a bit squeamish about death the bones have been used to decorate all the chapels to honor the brother friars. It should be visited with veneration and respect but is one of the most unusual sites that I have seen. The inscription by the exit says You are what we have been. You will be what we are. It really gives you a perspective of our place on this earth.
Capuchins have always been “brothers of the people”, particularly during the various epidemics that have struck Rome, and during the last war with its episodes of racial discrimination. The old friary was once the international headquarters of the Order, and is now the Provincial headquarters of the Roman Capuchins. It is ordinarily staffed by about 15 friars who are occupied in various tasks such as prayer, study and the apostolate. There is also a flourishing fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO).
Chiesa di Santa Maria Immacolata Concezione – Convento e cripta dei Cappuccini is the first Roman Church dedicated “to God in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. It is led by the Minor Capuchins, the group of Franciscan friars living in the adjacent convent rebuilt from 1928 to 1933, after that an old one dating back to 1631 had been demolished to open Via Veneto and to build up the Ministry for Corporations, as it was then called.
THE VAULT OF THE CHURCH is barrel-like. At its centre there is the Assumption by Liborio Coccetti (+1728). ON THE TWO SIDES OF THE PRESBYTERY’S BOW the pictures with St. Francis and St. Clare painted by the Capuchin Paolo Piazza (Cosmo da Castelfranco Veneto, +1620). The only remarkable tomb as a monument is the one belonging to Prince Alessandro Sobieski (+1714), the son of John III, the winner over the Turks in Vienna, by Camillo Rusconi (+1728).
The Convento dei Frati Cappuccini church is famous for its five subterranean chapels decorated with the bones and skeletons of 4000 dead brothers-Capuchins from the 17th century onwards. To realize this idea, they had to bring the “material” from the old ceno by S.Nicolo’ de Porcis on the Quirinal (modern Chiesa di S.Croce e S.Bonaventura) through 300 trips up and down in the carriages full of bones in the period between 1627-1631. The ground covering the pavement of the cemetery is said to be brought from the Holy Land. There is an interesting inscription by the exit: “You are what we have been. You will be what we are.”