Ossuaries, crypts and catacombs

25. 11. 2013

Ossuaries, crypts and catacombs – dark places with a special atmosphere where you might start to feel scared.

Memento mori. Dust to dust. Such as are you, we have been, such as we are, you will be – some of the common inscriptions above the entrances to crypts and ossuaries. These are places where we often don’t feel comfortable. Ossuaries should not, however, scare us, but serve as a reminder of the transience of human life and the existence of death. 

The most beautiful and most-visited

An exceptionally inventive, and bizarre, decoration, a chandelier made out of all bones of the human body, the coat-of-arms of the Schwarzenberg family and a complication decoration made out of human shoulder-blades and pelvises – these are the main artefacts on show at the ossuary in Kutná Hora. The ossuary can be found beneath All Saints’ Chapel in the cemetery, which, similarly to the nearby cathedral, bears the unmistakeable imprint of Baroque architect Jan Blažej Santini.

More modern in its look is, however, the unique ossuary at the Church of St. James in Brno, the second largest of its type in Europe after the Paris catacombs. Your visit to this special place will be accompanied by music, maybe tempting you to visit the other subterranean attractions in the city.

Secret symbolism

Human remains are also arranged into the form of an anchor, cross and heart, symbols of hope, faith and love, and other ornaments at the ossuaries in the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew in Kolín and the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul in Mělník. This mysterious subterranean space was opened to the public after the First World War. At the same time, the Capuchin crypt in Brno also welcomed its first visitors. Here the mummified body of monks and Baron Trenck, the commander of the feared Pandur regiment in the days of Empress Maria Theresa, sleep their eternal sleep. A similar attraction for tourists are the catacombs and mummies beneath the Jesuit church in Klatovy and the catacombs, including several dozen mummified bodies that can be viewed on tours of the monumental Baroque church in Broumov.

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