Mummies, Palaces, and Booby-Trapped Buildings: 5 Intriguing Ancient Burial Sites
Mummies, Palaces, and Booby-Trapped Buildings: 5 Intriguing Ancient Burial Sites

Mummies, Palaces, and Booby-Trapped Buildings: 5 Intriguing Ancient Burial Sites

Natasha sheldon - April 3, 2017

Mummies, Palaces, and Booby-Trapped Buildings: 5 Intriguing Ancient Burial Sites
Interior of the Sedlec Ossuary. Interfase. Wikimedia Commons

The Sedlec Ossuary

The actions of a nineteenth-century woodcarver at the ossuary at Sedlec in the Czech Republic are equally as perplexing. Sedlec is situated not far from Prague. In the Middle Ages, soil from the holy land was added to the cemetery, making it the place to be buried. The Black Death, followed by the Hussite wars in the fourteenth and fifteenth century ensured it enjoyed plenty of business – so much so it began to run out of space and needed to be enlarged. Matters were made worse by the construction of the Church of All saints in 1400 AD, which displaced a number of graves. With no space to rebury the disturbed dead, the church’s underground chapel was assigned as an ossuary-a storeroom for the orphaned bones.

Initially, the task of sorting the bones was assigned to an elderly, blind monk. Not surprisingly, he made little headway with his task as Sedlec’s ossuary has been calculated to contain between 40,000 and 70,000 skeletons. Little changed throughout the centuries- until 1867, when the local Schwarzenberg family appointed a local woodcarver, Frantisek Rint to sort out the bones.

Rint obliged -but not quite in the way expected. He began by bleaching the bones -and then used them to adorn the chapel. Most of the bones were arranged into four bell-shaped heaps, one for each corner. But the rest were used to provide furnishings and decorations for the chapel. A chandelier formed from at least one example of each bone of the human body, lights the vault, which is festooned with human skulls. Rint even fashioned the Schwarzenburg coat of arms in the chapel out of bones.

Rint’s work took three years and was completed in 1870. What inspired this strange interpretation of his task is not known. Indeed all that we do know of him is his name and occupation, signed on the right-hand wall of the chapel: in bones.

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