The Capuchin Crypt is situated beneath the Roman church, Santa Maria della Concezione. There is no official history of its development over the centuries, but it is known that some of the soil was brought from Jerusalem by order of Pope Urban VIII.
When the friars arrived at the church in 1631, they transferred 300 cartloads of exhumed brothers from the Friary Via dei Lucchesi. Upon entering the burial vault, the visitor sees a sign that reads: “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”
Five tiny chapels are arranged along a corridor, each decorated from floor to ceiling with the bones of nearly 4,000 Franciscan Capuchin friars. Various dioramas of corpses are shown, along with rosettes, crosses, stars, coats of arms, chandeliers, and clocks with no hands.
The Capuchin friar wore brown robes with a long pointed hood. This distinguished their habit from other orders such as the Benedictines and Augustinians. Eventually their specific vestment color became known as capuchin brown, and the long brown pointed hood soon gave way to the nickname, little hood.
In Italian, the Capuchin brothers are called Cappuccini, and their little hoods cappuccino. It is from the color of their hoods that the Italian coffee beverage, cappuccino, derived its name.
“Not here can we feel ourselves immortal.”-Nathaniel Hawthorne, A.D. 1860
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Excerpt from Ancient Minutus