If you’re one of those people who wants to have the best cocktail party conversation when you come back from your trip to Rome, you’re going to have to do a lot better than recounting your visions of the Sistine Chapel for the first time. People have heard that one before. What they haven’t heard about, I’ll wager, is the Museum of Purgatory.
In business for about 100 years, the Museum of Purgatory (or the Souls of Purgatory Museum as it’s sometimes called) is entirely contained within one small room of the Church of the Sacred Heart in the Prati neighborhood of Rome – on the same side of the Tiber River as Vatican City. Along one wall of the room, you’ll find photographs of objects or the objects themselves which are supposed to be showing evidence of contact made to the living from souls trapped in Purgatory. The objects include things like hand prints and fingerprints which appear to be burned onto the pages of books, bed linens and clothing.
The idea is that people who get stuck in that midway point between Heaven and Hell can get into Heaven faster if they are prayed for by the living. So, they send messages to their loved ones asking for a prayer or two in order to hasten the move out of limbo. The museum, which sees about 4,000 visitors a year, was started by a French priest who traveled Belgium, France, Germany and Italy in search of the items which are now on display. He eventually died in the one-room museum in 1912, and nothing has been added to the museum since.
Whether you visit the Museum of Purgatory for a glimpse of the religious or the paranormal, remember to be respectful. You are, after all, in a church.
Location: Chiesa del Sacro Cuore in Prati, Lungotevere Prati 12, Roma
Once inside the church, walk down the right aisle until you see a door on the right, just before the end of the aisle. Ask to see “il museo.”
Hours: roughly 07:00-11:00 and 17:00-19:00
Check out my recommendations for more weird things in Rome you can visit!
For more information, see this article.
Photo by: André Luís