I remember that we wandered into a crypt, an order of Franciscan monks. When the monks died, they found higher purpose. Skin and tendons would rot away, and in the decomposing they found strange beauty. The monks tore skeletons into pieces, sorted the parts, and folded each other into the décor: altarpieces, crucifixes, wallpaper, places to kneel and pray. Stacks of pious tibias still clutter the walls. Collar bones, jaws, and ribs lend order to the menagerie. Everything in Rome is made of past life. The sidewalks. The chandeliers.
There’s something we find romantic about the impulse to create. To break apart the body and reassemble it in parts. To let the excess fall away.
The monks stopped dying beneath Via Veneto. Dust settled on the bones.
Erica (@ericatrabold) is a writer of family and memory. Her essays and comics have appeared or are forthcoming in Seneca Review, Weave Magazine, Penumbra, and others. She writes and teaches in Oregon, where she is pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction.