I've been sketching and etching a whole lot of skeletons lately, and I've been thinking back to some bizarre things that I've seen in my travels. In particular, I've been thinking about Italy, which is strange, since most of my inspiration for skulls and skeletons and the like comes from Mexico.
That said, some of the most macabre stuff I've seen has been in Italy, namely in Capuchin crypts. Capuchin monks are the monks that inspired the name of the delightful beverage "cappuccino" (either from the color of their robes or the looks of their strangely shaved heads). Capuchin monks are a type of Franciscan (from St. Francis). They are, to be sure, quite obsessed with death, or at least healthily interested in death, and they show this interest in varied and interesting ways.
The first show of this deathly interest that I saw was at Palermo, Sicily. I visted the Capuchin Convent there, where one can visit the downstairs crypts, which are replete with skeletons (some still with body hair) in full view, and in varying states of preservation. In most cases, the viewer is separated only by a thin sheet of chicken wire. One of the most shocking parts of the crypts, however, is a 2-year old girl that is nearly perfectly preserved. The method used for this preservation was a mystery until recently. You can see pictures of this place at this National Geographic site.
I have also visted the Capuchin crypts in Rome, which I have written about here before. You can see that post right here.
Look below to see some of my skull decorations...(By the way, 5 or 6 of them have sold, though I don't have a record of which, so if anyone would like to purchase one, contact me and we'll figure out if I have what you need. Thanks!)