Memento morieris (Remember you will Die)

So in case you forgot today is All Hallows Eve, a celebration that is in a sense the love child of the Frenchcelebration of All Souls day on November 2nd – the Irish “celebration” of remembering the damned – and the English celebration of the 5th of November (Guy Fawkes). [Do not fret, a video explaining this will be posted either today or tomorrow]. Anyways, of this talk about souls past, I find it appropriate to make this post primarily containing helpful reminders, specifically Memento Mori.

In light of this inspiration, here is some art, stories and other things:

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, or Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins, is a church in Rome, Italy, commissioned in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII, whose brother, Antonio Barberini, was a Capuchin friar. It is located at Via Veneto, close to Piazza Barberini.

The crypt is located just under the church. Cardinal Antonio Barberini, who was a member of the Capuchin order, in 1631 ordered the remains of thousands of Capuchin friars exhumed and transferred from the friary Via dei Lucchesi to the crypt. The bones were arranged along the walls, and the friars began to bury their own dead here, as well as the bodies of poor Romans, whose tomb was under the floor of the present Mass chapel. Here the Capuchins would come to pray and reflect each evening before retiring for the night.

The crypt, or ossuary, now contains the remains of 4,000 friars buried between 1500 and 1870, during which time the Roman Catholic Church permitted burial in and under churches. The underground crypt is divided into five chapels, lit only by dim natural light seeping in through cracks, and small fluorescent lamps. The crypt walls are decorated with the remains in elaborate fashion, making this crypt a macabre work of art. Some of the skeletons are intact and draped with Franciscan habits, but for the most part, individual bones are used to create elaborate ornamental designs

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The crypt originated at a period of a rich and creative cult for their dead; great spiritual masters meditated and preached with a skull in hand.

A plaque in one of the chapels reads, in three languages, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”

Momento Mori Art

Below, I’ve put together a collection of famous memento mori artwork. Not only would these paintings of skulls and skeletons look badass hanging in your study, they can also help remind you that you’re dying daily, encourage you to quit wasting your life away on stupid stuff, and motivate you to start living the life God wants for you NOW.

Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death

This genre of art has its origins in late medieval times but became popular during the Renaissance.  Dance of Death paintings typically portray a skeleton (signifying Death or the Grim Reaper) walking, dancing, or playing music. To convey the universality of death, people from all walks of life — kings, popes, peasants, and children — are invited by jovial skeletons to follow them in a dance to the grave. Dance of Death art (and it also took the form of plays and poems), grew out of the grim horrors of the 14th century: famine, the Hundred Years War, and, most of all, the Black Death. The latter starkly demonstrated the way in which death united all, felling the population without the faintest regard for age or rank.

Vanitas Vanitatum Omnia Vanitas

In vanitas art, the certainty of death and our mortality are still the main themes, but there’s an added emphasis on the fleetingness and insignificance of earthly glory and pleasures. Common symbols in vanitas art include the skull (representing the certainty of death); bubbles (representing the brevity and fragility of life and earthly glory); smoke, hourglasses, and watches (every minute that passes brings you closer to death); rotting fruit and flowers (representing the fragility and decay of earthly things); musical instruments and music sheets (representing the ephemeral nature of life); torn or loose books (representing earthly knowledge); and dice and playing cards (representing the role that chance and fortune play in life).

[1] The words of Ecclesiastes, the son of David, king of Jerusalem. [2] Vanity of vanities, said Ecclesiastes vanity of vanities, and all is vanity. [3] What hath a man more of all his labour, that he taketh under the sun? [4] One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth standeth for ever. [5] The sun riseth, and goeth down, and returneth to his place: and there rising again,

[6] Maketh his round by the south, and turneth again to the north: the spirit goeth forward surveying all places round about, and returneth to his circuits. [7] All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea doth not overflow: unto the place from whence the rivers come, they return, to flow again. [8] All things are hard: man cannot explain them by word. The eye is not filled with seeing, neither is the ear filled with hearing. [9] What is it that hath been? the same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? the same that shall be done. [10] Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us.

[11] There is no remembrance of former things: nor indeed of those things which hereafter are to come, shall there be any remembrance with them that shall be in the latter end.

Ecclesiastes 1:1-12

We at the Dormitory understand that death isn’t the most pleasant thing to think about, but today I challenge you to pick out one of the memento moris above and really study it. Think about the symbols and what they mean. As you do so, ask yourself:  Am I dedicating my life primarily to activities and things that will simply fade away like smoke and bubbles? Or I am making the most of my life by creating a legacy that will live beyond the grave? Am I knowing, loving and serving Christ in all my thoughts, words, deeds and omissions.

Remember death Gentlemen, but more importantly remember the eternal life that can come after it with Life in Christ. May God Bless.

Reference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_della_Concezione_dei_Cappuccini

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/10/29/memento-mori-art/

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