Amazing Places

These 5 Creepy Churches Are Decorated With Human Bones

Halloween's a-coming, which means now is the time to explore the creepiest places in the world. Churches made of bones are not exactly a new topic for us. What we weren't quite prepared for, though, was just how many terrifying churches made from human remains there were out there. These five sacred buildings are straight out of a doom-metal video.

5. Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic

Sedlec Ossuary

There are churches with a major skeletal theme, and then there are bone churches. Sedlec Ossuary is definitely the latter. It's got two massive chalices of bone, obviously. It's got four baroque candelabras of bone, because of course it does. But then it's got some distinctly church-y skeletal elements as well. Embedded in the walls, you'll find two monstrances. Those are vessels to display the Eucharistic host — picture a skull with a display of femurs radiating out from the center. It's a striking image, but you might not even notice them. Hanging above the morbid nave is an enormous chandelier composed of nearly every bone in the human body.

4. Capuchin Crypts in Rome, Italy

We took you inside the crypts at Santa Maria della Concezione once before. But if there's any place that's worth revisiting in the spookiest season of all, it's the crypt that features a skeleton in the image of the Grim Reaper, complete with a scale and scythe — also made of bones, of course. Despite the macabre decor, this crypt was adorned with the remains of Capuchin friars who died between 1528 and 1870 when the order relocated to Rome so that all of the monks, living and dead, could be kept in the same place.

3. Hallstatt Karner in Hallstatt, Austria

Many bone churches and ossuaries are decorated with femurs and pelvises, but at Hallstatt Karner, the skulls themselves are decorated. More than 600 of the skulls on display in this beinhaus (bone house, in English) bear their former owners' names, professions, and the date of their death. Many are also adorned with decorative garlands and flowers. But perhaps what makes this bone church stand out the most is the fact that the most recent remains to be interred here belong to a woman who passed away in 1983, after having requested the beinhaus as her final resting place. What's more, she might not be the last — the church is still open to receiving similar requests.

2. Wamba Ossuary in Wamba, Spain

Unlike Sedlec and the Capuchin crypts, Wamba Ossuary isn't so much decorated with bones as much as packed to the gills with them. These remains weren't placed here for religious or sentimental reasons. They were stacked here out of necessity, as the local cemetery became overcrowded between the 12th and 18th centuries. There are thousands of bodies here. And the wall you see upon entering the space might take you a moment to resolve into what it really is: a densely packed wall of bones, studded with more than 3,000 human skulls.

1. Skull Chapel in Czermna, Poland

The bones and skulls of more than 21,000 people fill Skull Chapel. This isn't like Sedlec, where all of the furnishings of the church are made of bone. Here, the walls themselves are lined with bones and skulls instead of drywall. It was created by a local priest, Vaclav Tomasek, who between the years of 1776 and 1804 gathered and cleaned the remains from the shallow graves left behind after the Thirty Years' War, Silesian Wars, and cholera outbreaks. He placed what he deemed significant bones on the altar, including the skull of the local mayor, skulls with bullet holes, a skull deformed by syphilis, and the bones of a supposed giant. When Tomasek died, his skull was placed on the altar as well.

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Most bone churches and ossuaries are found in Europe, but we've got plenty of creepy places stateside too. Colin Dickey's "Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places" (free with your trial membership to Audible) takes you all the way from abandoned homes in Los Angeles to indigenous burial grounds in West Virginia.We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas October 4, 2018