Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic
In the countryside of the Czech Republic, you’ll find the town of Kutna Hora and its famed Sedlec Ossuary. Why would you want to do that, you ask? Because where else can you see the bodies of fifty thousand people on display?
Before you get too concerned, these people weren’t the victims of some epic massacre, like the ones in Ortranto. What happened was that in the 13th century, the monastery’s abbot returned from a trip to the Holy Land with a small amount of earth from Golgotha, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. He mingled this earth with the earth of the abbey’s cemetery. When word got out, people were impressed and soon everybody was dying (heh) to get buried there.
This was a fashionable time to be dead, what with the Black Death and several wars going on, and soon the cemetery couldn’t hold all the bodies anymore. So in the fifteenth century, an ossuary was built. Corpses were exhumed and their bones piled in the chapel.
Until now this place was creepy, but not that creepy. In the nineteenth century a local man was employed to organize the huge heaps of bones. This guy was apparently the Rob Zombie of his day, because he took to the task with gusto. He made chandeliers, a coat of arms, and even weird skull-and-crossbones versions of string lights:
The dude even signed his name to his work in human bones.
One has to wonder what this guy’s personal life was like after he told people what he did for a living.
There’s a similar bone church, in Capuchin, Italy, and another one in Portugal. But neither one of them boasts more than about 8000 corpses, so it’s pretty clear who’s the rip-off.
Incorrupt Saints, Lucca, Italy
Like Buddhists, Catholics also have a tradition of holy non-decay. Like the Buddhists, though, they can’t just let their holy people not decay in peace; they have to show them to the whole world.
The Catholic model for avoiding bodily corruption is a lot easier than the Buddhist one. You simply live a saintly life of good works or heroic deeds, and then die in whatever way you see fit. Then, if you’re lucky, maybe God will make you incorrupt, meaning divine intervention… with the decomposition process. And then you can be displayed in a church like the head of St. Catherine of Siena:
Some of the incorrupt saints look healthier, if you’re one of the 2% of humanity that doesn’t think wax models are creepy:
Sure, on the surface this type of thing might not seem all that disturbing. But if you were going to choose a holy place to get trapped inside in the middle of the night, which one would you choose? The one filled with harmless old bones or the one with the fresh-looking corpse that you can imagine moving its head slightly the second you look away from it?
The preserved corpse of St. Zita, above, can be found in Lucca, Italy. Similar incorrupt saints can be found all over Europe, but Italy seems to be the winner of the “most semi-rotten corpse” contest. St. Catherine’s head can be found in Rome, and many other incorrupt bodies are scattered all over the country. You can stop off for a creepy Italian corpse-viewing tour on your way back from Japan.
- - The Skull Cathedral, Ortranto, Italy: http://inlinethumb37.webshots.com/44004/2271469410104237032S600x600Q85.jpg http://inlinethumb20.webshots.com/44819/2852070820104237032S500x500Q85.jpg
- - Demon Remains, Kanazawa, Japan: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_XSoRof7RYAM/Si6pwEgVqDI/AAAAAAAAB_Y/-p72xrdbKos/s400/Karukayado+mermaid.jpg http://www.pinktentacle.com/images/kappa_mummy_3.jpg http://www.geocities.co.jp/Technopolis/7651/uma/g/0341.jpg
- - Self-Mummified Monks, Yamagata, Japan: http://gonorth.jp/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/sokushinbutsu1.jpg http://www.sonic.net/~anomaly/japan/image/dbudd_s.jpg
- - Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic: http://www.richard-seaman.com/Wallpaper/Travel/CzechRepublic/SedlecChandelier.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4b/SedlecInitials.JPG/324px-SedlecInitials.JPG
- - Incorrupt Saints, Lucca, Italy: http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1427/985887784_255829267b_m.jpg http://listverse.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/bernprof-tm.jpg?w=415&h=300&h=300 http://listverse.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/lucca.san-frediano17-tm.jpg?w=400&h=300&h=300