A red marble sarcophagus lies in a small chamber in what used to be the Franciscan church of San Francesco al Corso (now the “G.B. Cavalcaselle” Museum of Frescoes). It’s claimed that this is the coffin that belonged to Juliet Capulet and that, thus, the crypt was the setting for the tragic finale of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
There may be no bodies on display and the evidence attesting to the site’s authenticity may be slim, but that hasn’t prevented the tomb from becoming a pilgrimage site like the nearby Juliet’s Balcony. While its sister site offers tourists an opportunity to celebrate (and relive) the passion of the star-crossed lovers’ courtship, the tomb encourages them to consider the dark flip side. (“For never was a story of more woe, Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”)
It’s easy to imagine the events of the play’s climax occurring in the intimate dark crypt. As the tomb evokes visions of the pair’s tragic double suicide, the surrounding area ensures that the complex is steeped in Shakespeare to augment the overall impression. Plaques bearing quotations and artworks inspired by the Bard decorate the complex and increase its appeal to fans of the great English playwright.
Ignoring the fact that the story and its characters are fictional, the monastery of San Francesco al Corso has been identified as Act V’s correct setting on the basis that it was the only Franciscan monastery outside Verona in the 13th century (when the play’s events were meant to have happened).
Changing fortunes and the impact of wars over the centuries saw the convent fall into decline but since 1973 the site has been part of Verona’s Museum of Frescoes. The many beautiful frescoes and sculptures on display make the museum well worth a look-in, even for those who aren’t swept up in - or convinced by - the melodramatic romance of the tomb.