And another time when I was in Atlanta, my sister and I drove to Dahlonega, GA (about a 65 mile trip, one way) to see a zedonk. Yep, a zedonk; half zebra, half donkey. Sara had read an article about it, see, and so since we had a day free, we really didn't have any other choice. I mean, come on guys! Zedonk! The Chestatee Wildlife Preserve was one of the weirdest places I've ever been, but that's another story for another blog entry that doesn't fall in the middle of my Italy series. To summarize, this zedonk was crazy. It was like a regular donkey with tall, zebra-striped legs. And we drove for over two hours that day to see it. Yep.
Whenever people visit me in Madison, some of my favorite places to go include Dr. Evermore's, home of the Forevertron, The Mustard Museum, and the awesome optical illusion of the Capital that you can see from just south of Monona Bay. And although I've still never been to the taxidermy museum in a funeral home (which includes squirrels in various poses and situations), I have big plans to go very soon. Big plans.
I guess I've always loved stuff like this because it's a little funny, or maybe you could even say it's "off the beaten path." That's what people say, right? In fact, I enjoy scouring this one website, Roadside America, to find more hilarious and unusual sights. But today, every "strange" thing I've ever seen fell into the background. Want to know why? Because today we visited a church in Rome that was decorated with the bones of monks. Hundreds of thousands of monk bones.
We got to the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini Church at about 9 am, right as they were opening. We went directly to the lower level which holds the Capuchin Crypt. This is where one will find the bones. It is believed that over 4000 bodies, mostly those of friars, were brought to this church over a period of about 350 years, between 1528 and 1870. The soil on the ground of the crypt was brought to Rome from Jerusalem, and the bones were arranged to decorate six separate rooms in the crypt, each with a different name, and seemingly, a theme:
- Crypt of the Resurrection
- The Mass Chapel
- Crypt of the Skulls
- Crypt of the Pelves
- Crypt of the Leg Bones and Thigh Bones
- Crypt of the Three Skeletons
And the skulls. Oh my god, the skulls. One small area contained probably about 400-500 skulls. They were stacked on top of each other in one area, three wide and eleven high, to make an outlined space. On either side of these columns, more skulls were stacked, but randomly, with neck bones between them to fill the empty space.
In the last small room, The Crypt of the Three Skeletons, one full skeleton hung from the ceiling. In one hand, it carried the scales of justice. In the other, a scythe, which is the tool of the Grim Reaper. Death. And yes, everything, the scales, the scythe, everything, was made from more bones. And underneath the hanging skeleton, a quote:
En Italiano: « Noi eravamo quello che voi siete, e quello che noi siamo voi sarete. »
In English: "What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be..."
This place was crazy. It was both chilling and fascinating, leaving me with a weirdly desperate feeling in my stomach - desperate to get out, and soon after, desperate to go back in. This is one of the strangest and most memorable touristy things I've ever done. I mean, The Mustard Museum is great and all, but cannot even hold a candle to the Monk Bones Church. Not even close.