The Sedlec Ossuary
It is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora in the CzechRepublic. It is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have in many cases been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. An enormous chandelier of bones, which contains at least one of every bone in the human body, hangs from the center of the nave with garlands of skulls draping the vault. Other works include piers and monstrances flanking the altar, a large Schwarzenberg coat of arms, and the signature of Rint, also executed in bone, on the wall near the entrance.
The Capuchin catacombs of Palermo
The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo (also Catacombe dei Cappuccini) are burial catacombs in Palermo, Sicily. Today they provide an extraordinary historical record. Palermo’s Capuchin monastery outgrew its original cemetery in the 16th century and monks began to excavate crypts below it. In 1599 they mummified their dead brother Silvestro of Gubbio, and placed him into the catacombs. The bodies were dehydrated on the racks of ceramic pipes in the catacombs and sometimes later washed with vinegar. Some of the bodies were embalmed and others enclosed in sealed glass cabinets. Monks and people buried there were preserved with their everyday clothing and sometimes with ropes they had worn as a penance.
Austria’s Skull Ossuary
The Beinhaus in Hallstatt is housed on the ground floor of St. Michael’s Chapel next to the parish church and has rows of skulls, over 600 in all, arranged above stacks of bones. The earliest remains date from the end of the 18th century but the majority are from the 19th century. The reason for their existence is that, because of pressure for space, the lease on graves was very short and bodies were exhumed to make way for new burials. The bones were then taken to the ossuary for storage. The identity and date of death was recorded on each skull along with sometimes elaborate floral and plant decorations.
Capela dos Ossos
The Capela dos Ossos (English: Chapel of Bones) is one of the best known monuments in Évora, Portugal. It is a small interior chapel located next to the entrance of the Church of St. Francis. The Chapel gets its name because the interior walls are covered and decorated with human skulls and bones. The ceiling is made of white painted brick and is painted with death motifs. The number of skeletons of monks was calculated to be about 5000, coming from the cemeteries that were situated inside several dozen churches. Two desiccated corpses, one of which is a child, dangle from a chain. And at the roof of chapel, the phrase “Melior est die mortis die nativitatis (Greater is the day of death than the day of birth).
Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini
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.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 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. 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. 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.”
Catacombs of Paris
The Catacombs of Paris or Catacombes de Paris are an underground ossuary in Paris, France. Located south of the former city gate (the “Barrière d’Enfer”), the ossuary holds the remains of about six million people and fills a renovated section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of Paris’s stone mines. Opened in the late 18th century, it has been open to the public on a regular basis from 1874. The official name for the catacombs is l’Ossuaire Municipal, but Parisians today often refer to the entire tunnel network as “the catacombs”. Because of the size of the city the cemeteries quickly became overcrowded. By the 17th century, the sanitary conditions around Saints Innocents had become unbearable. As it was one of Paris’s most sought-after cemeteries and a large source of revenue for the parish and church, the clergy had continued burials there even when its grounds were filled to overflowing. Soon the catacombs were born.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. Its current Romanesque and Gothic form seen today was largely initiated by Rudolf IV and stands on the ruins of two earlier churches, the first being a parish church consecrated in 1147. What is most fascinating here is the crypt and catacombs. Surrounded by cemeteries dating back to Roman times, it has sheltered the bodies of notables and commoners. It has always been an honour to be buried inside a church, close to the physical presence of the saints whose relics are preserved there. Those less honoured were buried near (but outside) the church.
The skull chapel in Czermna
Skull Chapel in Czermna (Kaplica Czaszek) is a chapel located in Kudowa-Zdroj, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. The chapel was built in 1776 by the local parish priest Wacław Tomaszek. It is the mass grave of people who died during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), three Silesian Wars (1740–1763), as well as of people who died because of cholera epidemics and hunger. Together with J. Schmidt and J. Langer, Tomaszek collected the casualties’ bones and put them in the chapel. Walls of this small, baroque church are filled with 3,000 skulls, and there are also bones of another 21 thousand people interred in the basement. The skulls of people who built the chapel are placed in the centre of the building and on the altar. It is the only such monument in Poland.
This is an underground ossuary in Brno, Czech Republic. It was rediscovered in 2001 in the historical centre of the city, partially under the Church of St. James. It is estimated that the ossuary holds the remains of over 50 thousand people which makes it the second-largest ossuary in Europe, after the Catacombs of Paris. The ossuary was founded in the 17th century, and was expanded in the 18th century. It’s been opened to public since June 2012. The bones thought to be from the 1600 and 1700s, are believed to have been dug up from an old cemetery to make space for more burials, as in most of the ossuaries and catacombs in Europe. It is clear that many of the people died of diseases which can be seen in the coloration of the bones themselves. Though all the bones are tinted yellow — having never been exposed to sunlight – the extra yellow ones likely died of cholera, while the red tinted bones probably died from the plague.
Saint Francis Monastery, Lima, Peru
Convento de SanFrancisco is the Spanish name for Saint Francis Monastery located in Lima, Peru. The church and convent are part of the Historic Centre of Lima, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991. Aside from a church and monastery it also contains a library and catacombs. Lima’s first cemetery were the Catacombs below the monastery contain an ossuary and some secrete passageways are said to connect to the cathedral and the Tribunal of the Inquisition. The catacombs remained in use until 1808 when a city cemetery outside of Lima was founded. The catacombs were discovered in 1943. It is estimated to contain 70,000 burials. Bones line up along narrow hallways underneath the church, and one area contains several large and deep holes, filled with bones and skulls arranged above each other in circular patterns.