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Recalling a visit to the Strange Capuchin Cemetery in Rome

October 14, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

cemetery_of_capuchinsWith Halloween approaching, I thought I’d blog about a few of the eeriest places I’ve visited over the years. Without a doubt, the Capuchin Cemetery in Rome, Italy, takes the dubious honor.

You’ll find the cemetery, actually a crypt beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (Immaculate Conception), on the Via Veneto near Palazzo Barbareni. The ghastly chamber reeks with decay and is divided into five tiny chapels linked via a dim passageway. The place is so weird, even Dan Browne skipped a mention in his book, Angels and Demons.

Within lies the final resting place for over 4,000 Capuchin friars who died between 1528 and 1870. Some were first buried elsewhere and then transferred here. The soil in the crypt was brought from Jerusalem. A few dozen skeletons remain intact, draped in hooded Franciscan habits. Large numbers of bones adorn the walls in complex decorative patterns; some resemble bas-reliefs, others hang from the ceiling as working light fixtures. One chapel overflows with countless leg bones and skulls.

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The first room, known as the Crypt of the Resurrection, features a picture of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, framed by parts of a human skeleton. Visitors are encouraged to interpret the displays of funereal art as the Christian belief in resurrection and everlasting life.

A plaque in one of the chapels reads, in three languages, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”

I honestly can’t describe the macabre, grotesque effect, albeit with a certain artistic merit. The unearthed skeletal array makes this sacred shrine more a ghoulish tourist attraction. One needs only a few minutes to see the place, if at all.

More Angels and Demons in Glorious Rome

June 5, 2009 by · Comments Off on More Angels and Demons in Glorious Rome 

Part 9- The Finale

Although Mimi’s virtual Angels & Demons blog tour is complete, I must add one more post. Here are some photos showing a few more angels and demons in Rome, and some of the city’s other wondrous sights.

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Storey grave in the Protestant Cemetery of Rome

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Pyramid of Cestius in Rome

This weeping angel hugs a grave in the Protestant Cemetery of Rome . John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are also buried there. The cemetery’s main attraction is the pyramid of Caius Cestius. Cestius was a wealthy and eccentric magistrate, inspired by Egyptian relics. In 12 BC, he commissioned himself a tomb. According to the inscription, it was built in just 330 days using brick and marble.

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Bocca della Verita, the Mouth of Truth

Bocca della Verita, the Mouth of Truth

This grotesque face is actually a medieval drain cover set into the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, a beautiful 6th century church. Legend says the mouth will snap shut on the hands of liars. The two little boys waiting in line ahead of me were very nervous. They asked, "Does it take just a few fingers or your whole hand?"

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Statue of Cardinal Rodrequez

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Scala Santa, the Holy Staircase

The tomb of Cardinal Rodreguez in Santa Maria Maggiore, dates from 1299. The church is famous for superb mosaics and a gorgeous marble floor. Below, is the Scala Santa or Holy Staircase that Christ is said to have climbed to his trail. It was dismantled and brought to Rome by St Helena in the 4th century. The faithful climb to the top on bended knees.

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Ruins at Largo Argentina

The remains of four temples, dated among the oldest in Rome, were discovered in the 1920’s at the center of Largo Argentina. The site is now a cat scantuary where scores of furry friends make their home.

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Piazza del Campidolgio

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Rooftop view of Rome & the Vatican

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City Lights of Rome

Sunrise an sunset are spectacular times to shoot photos. The city comes alive at night (above) yielding a new perspective on ancient classics. Below is a view of the Tiber River before dawn.

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Mist on the Tiber River before dawn, Rome

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Roman Soldier at Colosseum

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Exterior of Rome's Colosseum at dusk

For a fee you can have your photo taken with this Roman soldier at the Colosseum.

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Rome's Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain, made popular by Aubrey Hepburn in the movie Roman Holiday, draws a mob of tourists. They come and throw three coins, supposedly assuring their return. I'm just superstitious enough to believe it, so I always visit and toss my coins into the foaming fountain. Arrivederci Roma.

All photographs copyright: Debi Lander.

Debi Reviews Angels and Demons: The Movie

May 25, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

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Angels & Demons- The Movie starring Tom Hanks

Part 8- Angels & Demons: The Movie

Most know I’m a fan of Dan Brown ‘s best-selling books, which I mentioned at the beginning of my virtual Angels & Demons blog tour . Can’t wait to read his new release, The Lost Symbol, coming out September 15, 2009.

However, neither movie based on his novels, The DaVinci Code nor Angels & Demons, have captured the intrigue and suspense of the written word. Hmm, maybe that reinforces the need to read instead of being fed video?

I’m captivated with the way Brown drops in behind-the-scenes nuggets, factual details (for the most part) about artisans, art and religious history. Brown tells it like a great tour guide, providing insight with anecdotes that make a place come alive.

But, Director Ron Howard was unable to bring the profusion of historical data onto the big screen, at least not to the degree that Brown incorporates it into his storyline. And, who can blame Howard; he only has two and half hours?

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Movie Scene- The College of Cardinals walk to the Sistine Chapel

Suspense seems to be the quintessential element the movies aren’t replicating. Film should have the advantage by presenting the viewer a visual illusion, the actual scene. The camera can zoom in or fade out the focus. The novel writer has to rely on the reader’s imagination to create the picture.

Sound also helps build suspense, the muffled thump of heartbeats or gradual crescendo of spine-tingling music. Howard’s film, Apollo 13, had me on edge, even though I knew of the astronauts safe return. Angels & Demons fares better than the DaVinci Code, but still fails to capture the fervor generated by the book.

I’m also a devotee of talented actor Tom Hanks ; loved him in Big and was crazy about his performance in Castaway and Terminal. But, I think moviegoers can’t quite connect with his role as Professor Langdon. Viewers don’t identify with him because they don’t feel his emotions.

Non-reader moviegoers won’t understand Langdon’s depth of knowledge or the meaning of the symbolic clues. Trying to squeeze that information into a scene doesn’t work. Langdon comes off like an uptight British gent instead of an empathetic soul, thrown into a life and death situation. There’s no time to build his character, there’s too much story to tell.

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed watching Angels & Demons. Howard blessed us with a new ending; Brown’s version was a devil, a disappointment at the end of a good book. The movie offers an alluring tour of Rome. And, I thought the creation of the Vatican scenes were superb, considering filming was not permitted inside the holy confines.

Perhaps Hollywood should move on to Steve Berry books. I, for one, would love to see The Amber Room made into a movie. On second thought, I want to visit Russia’s Amber Room in person. But right now I’m looking forward to a trip to Paris, and can’t wait to follow the DaVinci Code Rose Line .

Photos Courtery of Sony Pictures

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