Chiesa delle Cape di Morte

Church in Naples

Chiesa Delle Cape Di Morte
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Sailko

Consecrated in 1638, the intriguing Chiesa delle Cape di Morte (Church of the Skulls) in Naples is renowned for its dual-level structure. The upper church houses distinguished paintings, notably Luca Giordano’s The Death of St. Alessio and Massimo Stanzione’s Virgin with the Souls of Purgatory. However, it is the lower church that captures the most attention, accessible only through guided tours.

This subterranean level served as a communal burial site from the 17th to the early 19th centuries, providing a resting place for locals who couldn’t afford private burials. The area, filled with nameless graves and abundant bones, became a focal point for the cult-like worship of the anime pezzentelle (poor souls). Followers of this cult would adopt skulls and pray for the souls’ ascension to heaven, believing that the souls, once elevated, would return their gratitude through blessings and graces. The practice was so entrenched that up to 60 Masses were conducted daily, and on All Souls’ Day, the queue to the hypogeum stretched 450 meters to the Duomo.

Although burials ceased following the Edict of Saint-Cloud, which prohibited interments within city limits under Napoleonic rule, the wall shrines to the adopted skulls remain. Among these, the shrine of ‘Lucia’ is particularly notable. Lucia, an 18th-century teenage bride who died tragically from tuberculosis, is commemorated with a tiara-crowned skull. Legend has it that she has become the protector of young brides, and to this day, visitors leave bridal bouquets and jewelry at her shrine.

The guided tour also includes the upper church’s sacristy, which contains a modest yet exquisite collection of devotional art and ecclesiastical robes. Occasionally, the church hosts classical music concerts, offering a unique auditory experience in a historic setting. For upcoming events and more details, visitors are encouraged to consult the church’s website, available in Italian.

The Chiesa delle Cape di Morte appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Naples!

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Visiting Chiesa delle Cape di Morte


Monday – Saturday: 10.00 – 17.00

Sunday: 10.00 – 14.00


Upper Church free entry, Guided tours €7

Address: Complesso Museale Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco, Via dei Tribunali, 39, 80138 Napoli, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy
Duration: 40 minutes

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