Via Giulia (one of Rome's smartest addresses) is home to a number of churches, but none is quite as arresting as Santa Maria dell' Orazione e Morte (St Mary of Prayer and Death), whose façade abounds with graphic references to death.
The church was built for the Compagnia della Buona Morte (Company of the Good Death), a pious confraternity, set up in the 16th century to collect the bodies of people who were found dead and discarded in the countryside outside Rome. The company took it upon itself to provide the dead with a Christian burial.
At one time, the church was connected to the river Tiber by three tunnels, which were used for storing bodies prior to burial. The walls and ceilings of the one surviving tunnel are decorated with fantastic arabesques of human bones.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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