May 24, 2024


Let’s get acquainted with a strange event today. Before that, tell me, have you ever seen a chandelier made of skeletons? Have you ever seen the beautiful architectural structures made of human skulls or windows, doors, pillars made of flesh and blood human bones?

You must be thinking of a horror story or movie, not at all, This is what happened in the real world. These architectural feats surrounded by the bones of ordinary people like you and me are not ordinary houses, but in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, human bones became a part of the interior designing in the churches of various countries. What was the story behind it? If you want to know, you have to visit the churches of that time.

Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins:

The Church of Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins in Rome is decorated with the bones of about 4,000 Christian monks who died between 1500 and 1870 AD. As described by Marquis de Sade, the bones are arranged in the ‘Baroque’ and ‘Rococo’ styles that prevailed in various seventeenth- and eighteenth-century art. The skeletons of three monks are arranged in such a way that it looks like the macabre himself (a ghostly character) is welcoming you into the church.

At the time the church was built, plague was raging all around. Millions of people lost their lives in the outbreak of this epidemic. When it was not possible to cremate all the bodies even with mass graves. It was then that the old bones were arranged by building churches such as Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins. During the reign of Pope Urban VIII, in 1626, permission was granted to exhume the bones from the catacombs below this church in Rome.

As a memento on the church, there is a message written in three languages ​​which reads, ‘What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be’. With this profound spiritual message, it has been attracting countless tourists for ages with a magical pull.

Sedlec Ossuary:

Inspired by the Church of Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins, a chapel was built in the Czech Republic suburb called the Sedlec Ossuary. The word ‘Ossuary’ means ‘impermanent receptacle’. To prove the validity of the name, about 40-70 thousand bones including human skulls have been used here to make beautiful chandeliers, pylons and pyramid-shaped designs.

And it is not surprising that the history of this church, which is different from the ten churches, will also be exceptional. The whole story begins when Henry, the abbot of a group of monks from the Czech Republic, enters the Holy Land of Palestine. He brought with him a lump of soil from Jerusalem’s ‘Holy Sepulchre’ or Holy Sepulcher, Golgotha, where Jesus Christ is believed to have been crucified.

On his return to the Czech Republic, Henry spread the soil over a cemetery near Sedlec. Rumors spread very quickly that touching this holy soil would bring merit. Gradually, Sedlec became a desired burial place throughout Europe. Within a few days, the plague spread across Europe. Countless dead were quickly cremated at Sedlec.

But it was becoming difficult for the authorities to accommodate so many people. The construction of the ossuary was planned after thinking about everything. The entire responsibility of building the ossuary was entrusted to a half-blind monk who somehow arranged the bones and erected a structure. Within 300 years an artistic structure was built which we can still see.

In 1870, a woodcarver named Frantisek Rind was commissioned to decorate the interior structures of the chapel with bones. He ended up with about 40,000 bones at the time. The number is increasing day by day. And with that, the church became known as ‘Church of Bones’ or ‘Unsteady Church.

Monastery of San Francisco:

The ‘Monastery of San Francisco’ in Lima, the capital of Peru, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site or one of the best heritage sites in the world. It was built with the skeletons of the people of Lima. The catacombs are located just below the church, which leads through a series of secret tunnels leading directly to the tribunal judge’s chapel. Large circular and other geometric artefacts decorated with skulls and femurs have been found underground.

In 1943 thousands of skulls and bones were excavated under the monastery. It is believed that the site was used as a burial ground until 1808. As the central cemetery was located outside of Lima, the burial site was under great pressure. About 25,000 bodies are said to have been buried here. The mausoleum is made of brick and mortar so strong that even an earthquake could not budge it.

San Bernardino alle Ossa:

From the outside, the ‘San Bernardino alle Ossa’ church in the southern Italian city of Milan looks no different than ten ordinary churches. But once you open the heavy wooden double door gate, your eyes will be drawn to the ornate ossuary next to the chapel. A wall of stacked bones arranged in the shape of a crucifix is ​​bound to catch anyone’s eye.

In 1210, a cemetery in Milan ran out of space. A new house is built and the old bones are stored there. A church was built next to it in 1269. In 1679 an initiative was taken to reform the church. That year, Giovanni Andrea Biffi was asked to redecorate the chapel after a fire that had destroyed it nearly 400 years earlier.

He then arranged the old bones in an aesthetic way and presented them to the audience. The previous church was damaged in 1712. Another large new church was built there and dedicated to the memory of Saint Bernardino.

Czermna Chapel:

The Czermna Chapel accommodates the cremation and preservation of the remains of those who died in the ‘Thirty Years’ and ‘Silesian’ wars in Poland. In 1176, a local priest, built the walls of this church with human bones. Crossbones pattern design with skulls across the ceiling. Bones of those who died in various epidemics such as plague, cholera, syphilis and even famine have been used to decorate churches.

They are also embedded in the structure of the church with deep respect for the memory of the builders of the chapel. Their skulls can be found in the center of the church.

Capela dos Ossos:

Located in Portugal’s medieval walled city of Évora, Capela dos Ossos is a 16th-century Franciscan chapel whose interior is designed with human skulls and bones. It is a little different from other Church of Bones. Here human bones are not only used for design, but also an initiative has been taken to spread different messages by creating graffiti or motifs with skulls.

Entering the Capela dos Ossos Chapel, you are greeted by two lonely corpses in chains. One body is that of an adult male and the other is that of a child. From the ceiling next to them hangs a Latin version of the Bible saying, ‘Birth is better than death’.

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