Today we visited the Galleria Borghese. The gardens are four square acres of lush landscaping with statues and fountains dotting the pathways. The galleria houses what was once the private collection of the Borghese family including sculptures by Bernini and art by Caravaggio and Raphael. The sculptures were amazing. Jeff was most moved by The Rape of Proserpine while my favorite was Apollo and Daphne. The realism and details used by Bernini transports you to a place and time where you believe that Pluto has selected Proserpine as his bride as she struggles against his strength or Apollo pursues the fair Daphne even as she is transformed into a laurel tree to escape him. After using my imagination to complete sculptures without heads or arms or heads and arms, fully formed bodies was refreshing. It is also a reminder of all that was lost.
Galleria Borghese is just North of Barberini Square home of the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. Beneath this unassuming church is perhaps the most horrific thing I have seen. It is so disturbing, I cannot believe that it is real. It looks like something from Ripley’s Believe It or Not. To instill the proper mood, read the rest of this post with Vincent Price as the narrator. Beneath the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini is the Capuchin Crypt. The Capuchin friars believed in resurrection and as such, their mummified and skeletal remains (an estimated 4,000 friars) are arranged in funereal art in the six rooms of the crypt. As I descend into the crypt, I am at the beginning of a long hallway in front of a shrine. Already, I can see the bones. The hallway closes in on me and my flesh is clammy. There is only one way to go although I look back to be ensure an escape route.¬† There is a sign warning visitors not to touch the bones. Yeah right… Because that was MY first thought. Jaw, pelvis, skull, leg, arm, vertebrae, knee and other bones that I am too freaked out to spend time identifying are stacked, nailed to the walls, hung from the ceiling, and otherwise positioned to create florets, butterflies, clocks, hourglasses, chandeliers and other shapes.¬† In the last room, is the macabre masterpiece depicting death with a scythe and his weights to judge good and evil. My friends, I am here to tell you I don’t want to be anywhere near Barberini square if resurrection day comes.
If you are looking for corresponding pictures, unfortunately the Capuchin Crypt and Galleria Borghese do not allow photography. I do regret not getting a picture of my face before and after the crypt. Jeff says that he has rarely seen me so unsettled.