Inspired By Italy #4: The Capuchin Friars

Capuchin Sign.jpg

This plaque marks the beginning of a long corridor running beside a series of 6 small chapels (think alcoves), and more fitting words could not be found. But it’s not a place for weak stomachs.

I’ll let you do your own Google searches about the Capuchin friars, an order within the Franciscans that sought, in the 1520s, to bring the Franciscans back from perceived liberalism. You can use Google Maps to see the street view of the crypt and museum with the church above them.

The real story, however, is the unusual “artwork” in the crypt itself. I use that term loosely because the art is almost completely made of skeletal remains. You know, bones. There’s literally a chapel of pelvises and a chapel of leg bones. Everywhere you turn there are bones – a chandelier of pelvises, arm bones arranged to form a flower, skulls stacked to fill a wall.

Yes, it’s a little creepy. However, it is an attempt to make a point.

How often do you consider your own future? How often do you ponder what will come of your body in another 100 years? These bones are set inside of a building that’s more than 400 years old. People don’t live 400 years. In that time, our bodies decay, our flesh fades, and eventually our bones become dust.

Even the Bible urges us to consider our future. In Hebrews 9, we are reminded that man is appointed to live and to die and, after that, to face judgment. And these friars wanted the reality of death and of a future judgment to impact our lives on earth.

For example, our evangelism should be fueled, in part, by a love for the lost and the reality of death and judgment and hell. Our parenting should have an awareness of our own mortality and the future of the church and our descendants. We should even approach our work and participate in society in ways that recognize our influence for Christ may very well outlast our lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not recommending joining up (they are all over the globe, including the United States). And there are certainly aspects of their beliefs that are outside of the commands of God. But we could still learn to ponder eternity, to live in light of eternity, and learn from this admittedly unusual crypt.