Memento Mori

Today is Halloween. People in costume will be hanging out at Campo de’ Fiori, or hitting a club. But for a spooky Halloween, all you have to do is go to a church or two, and look around a bit.

Throughout Rome, one finds the memento mori, literally, “remember death.”  In other words, remember that life is short, and no matter how young and beautiful you are today, someday you too will be reduced to mere dust.

Skull at Santa Maria sopra Minerva -- a church full of them!
Skull at Santa Maria sopra Minerva — a church full of them!

Santa Maria sopra Minerva and Santa Maria del Popolo have some wonderful examples of memento mori.

The "death hole" in the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo
The “death hole” in the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo

One particularly spooky church is Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, the church of “prayer and death.”  Despite repeated attempts, I have yet to get inside, as it is rarely open (and, being Rome, sometimes when it is supposed to be open, it’s not).  But just a look at the outside is creepy enough …

A memento mori of a skeleton on Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morti
A memento mori of a winged skeleton on Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte

Indeed, this church reminds us that even those that achieve fame — as characterized by a wreath of laurel leaves — will someday be nothing but bones.

A fabulous skull, topped by a wreath of laurel leaves. at Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte
A fabulous skull, topped by a wreath of laurel leaves. at Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte

 

 

 

 

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