Rome Guides: Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini our “Saint Mary of the Conception of the Capuchins” is a 1600’s church in the heart of Rome, a ten minute walk North-East of the popular Trevi Fountain and the same time South-East from the Spanish Steps. The structure was built by Antonio Casoni at the request of the Capuchin Cardinal Antonio Barberini - the brother of then Pope Urban VIII.

Though unimpressive from the exterior, Santa Maria features arguably the most famous painting of the Archangel with Guido Reni's Saint Michael (the one seen on many a holy card). Additionally, it boasts a painting of Saint Francis and the Virgin Mary by Domenichino, as well as the tomb of Pope Urban VIII. But none of these are what makes Santa Maria famous to tourists. Santa Maria is best known for its macabre crypt underneath the Church itself. Here lie the bones of roughly 4,000 Capuchin Friars - arranged in artistic configurations. From the spiraling designs on the walls, to the grottos, to the chandeliers - everything is made of the remains of deceased Brothers. One wall even features the Coat of Arms of the Franciscans - made with the members of one of the order’s members. Though perhaps unnerving, Santa Maria is a competent executor of the Christian idea of glorifying death as the entrance into neverending life. The souls of many of those godly friars are doubtless now in paradise though for the present they have left their bodies behind them. In looking upon displays like this we can think on this eternal destiny of man and consider not the grisliness of exposed skulls or pelvic bones, but how even in death these Capuchins are glorifying God. I highly recommend Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini - particularly if you are already visiting near a hub of famous locations like the Trevi Fountain or the nearby train hub. Although for several dozen euro you can purchase a guided tour online, there are cheaper self-guided tickets at the door which may be more to your liking. Sources: Amoia, Alba, and Enrico Bruschini. Stendhal's Rome: Then and Now. Edizioni Di Storia e Letteratura, 1997. Gilbert, Sari, et al. National Geographic Traveler: Rome. National Geographic, 2014.