Catacombs (Lima, Peru)

Written by Mark McElroy

This monastery’s crypt features decorative arrangements of human remains.

There was a time when, if you paid enough money, the monks at this Franciscan monastery (the San Francisco Monastery) would bury you in the catacombs beneath the church.

If you were particularly wealthy, you would be laid to rest in a private burial chamber. If you weren’t quite wealthy enough for a first-class berth, you’d be laid to rest on top of as many as eight or ten other pious folk in a space like this one:


And then, when demand outgrew supply, the monks would come in, dig everyone up, and start selling the same spaces to new residents. The old remains were often tossed over into huge cisterns, deep in the catacombs. One of these has been broken open to reveal its contents — though the bones probably weren’t this artfully arranged back in the day:


It’s a bit disconcerting, staring down at a sea of skulls.

“We’ll all be there, some day,” I say aloud.

“Well,” Clyde says. “Probably not down there.”

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Mark McElroy

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