Category Archives: CZECH REPUBLIC

Mummified monks and the accidentally interred, in a 17th-century crypt.

Mummified monks and the accidentally interred, in a 17th-century crypt. 

However, we normally associate mummies with Egypt; you don’t have to become a pharaoh to mummify. There are mummies in Brno, the Czech Republic.

Capuchin Monks mummified in the Crypt; Brno, Czech Republic

This happens when you have an environment that enables very little bacteria to grow and thus does not decompose the flesh. This only partially decomposes the body and gives a “tanned” effect. The mummification of the monks in Brno is not like the mummies of Egypt.

The Egyptian mummies have been mummified by wrappings and preparation, they were meant to be mummified. The monks in Brno were mummified by accident.

When I say Capuchin I don’t mean the monkey; the Capuchin is an order of monks found around the world.

The Crypt and church in Brno were founded in the mid. 17th century. The crypt of the Brno monastery is located in the basement, which is probably basement space leftover from houses originally in that location. When the monks died they where brought to the basement in a coffin on mobile gout.

The coffin used was the same coffin used for every monk for one hundred years. Once there, they have laid down with a few bricks below their heads.

The monks were located in the crypt below the altar. This placement below the alter is very symbolic in the Christian faith, in the bible it states that below the altar of God in heaven lie the souls of the Saints. The monks were not meant to be mummified but due to the environment of the crypt the monks where mummified in place.

The Exterior of Capuchin church

The church is still standing today and you can go and view them in the same position that they lay when buried. The entrance is located behind the church in a small white courtyard.

Alley to church; Brno, Czech Republic

It is reached by walking through abnormally (by today’s standards) narrow alleys with whitewashed walls and small beams holding lanterns high above the street.

Some of the monks have the hoods of their cloaks pulled up over their heads to symbolize a special unit within the Capuchin order. Other monks are buried with objects. There is a monk who was buried with a rosary and a wooden cross signifying some status that he held in life.

Mummification did not only happen to the monks, other members of society where placed in the crypt and where subject to the same mummifying conditions. If you go to the monastery today you can view all of the remaining mummies in the crypt, there are about 25 monks and a handful of townspeople of various class. You can see a high-class family that was mummified in all their finery as well as some choir boys and a doctor.

There is also the body of a Saint in the crypt in Brno. this particular Saint is prepared in the “Spanish style.” She is dressed up in clothing that shows the bones. Saints’ bones are very important because they are primary relics of the Siant.

Having the whole body of a saint would be really important as well because that saint would be the church, monastery, and even the town’s patron. The patron saint of a place, in the middle ages, would be the protector of the people against all enemies, divine or mortal. This saint has been placed in a glass coffin to allow visitors and pilgrims to see the body but not to touch it, increasing the otherworldly sense associated with the divine.

Saint in glass coffin; Brno, Czech Republic
Klatovy catacombs

To me, this is interesting because I wonder how the people of the community viewed the mummified bodies from a spiritual standpoint. The fact that the crypt held the remains of monks, commoners and a saint is also unusual.

In the middle ages a saint’s remains where placed in a high ranking location to be viewed and worshiped by the people, not near the bodies of the locals. This change in the organization of the crypt is obviously changed for a museum set-up but It is still curious that all of these bodies were found together in the same location.

Almost all the information on this monastery and church is in Czech, a language that I do not speak, however, it is interesting to think about how the community would react to finding members of their community mummified in the crypt of the church.

What happens when our own people are mummified? Does this change how we see the dead? Is a dead person just a dead person or does the state of their corpse affect the way we see the person? Does it affect the way we see death?

If you are not expecting a body to be mummified, how does that affect how you deal with death?

If, in the future, we discover that out relative that we had buried as a child had been mummified; how would this affect our grieving process? Would this change our perspective on this person or their death?

Suspected Human Sacrifices Unearthed Beneath Medieval Castle

Suspected Human Sacrifices Unearthed Beneath Medieval Castle

In the 1,000-year-old ruins of Breslov Castle in Southern Moravia, archeologists have confirmed that three skeletons have been identified as victims of ritual killings.

The archaeologist Miroslav Dejmal said: “The individuals had been buried in the foundations of the older phase of the rampart right at the time of its construction.

“In very extreme positions, the three skeletons were found close to one another and were probably tied together.”

The castle in Břeclav, South Moravian, the Czech Republic, where the human sacrifice victims were found.

“These unfortunates seem to have fallen victim to some drastic pagan practice, or murder”, explains Dejmal. “It is hard to imagine that all three died at the same time by accident. And most importantly, placing them on the first layer of stones of the newly rampart and the position of the bodies, suggests they were in fact sacrificed.” 

The Sacrificial Origins of Haunted Houses

Dejmal explains that the men had been placed on the first layer of stones of a newly constructed rampart and their positions also suggested they were sacrificed.

Next week a team of anthropologists will attempt to shine light on the mystery of the three sacrificed men, to learn if they were local and perhaps related, and the archaeologist said it is possible they were prisoners of war enslaved into building the stone walls before being sacrificed or executed.

Archaeologists use the term “foundation sacrifice” when referring to burying a human being beneath, within or upon the foundations of buildings.

An article on JSTOR says in medieval times building a structure was an “affront to the spirits and deities of the land” and to appease them, sacrificial rituals were performed.

Believed to have been transformed by death, the sacrificed became protective spirits that guarded the buildings in which they were entombed, and this concept according to Seán Ó Súilleabháin in his 1945 paper “ Foundation Sacrifices ” is perhaps “the root of our modern haunted-house tales.”

Human sacrifice remains found in the South Moravia, Czech Republic.

Child Trafficking in the 11t​h Century

According to Alan Dundes 1995 paper published in The Journal of American Folklore , all across the Balkans, ballads about foundation sacrifices are so renowned that variants of the tale have been embraced as part of national identity in Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and Greece (among other places).

An Albanian version of the tale “ Rozafa’s Castle ,” tells of “three brothers” laying the walls of a mighty fortress when old man said “the castle spirit seeks a human life.”

And there is plenty of evidence for foundation sacrifice substitution where empty coffins buried under houses representing the dead and coins, eggs, books, candles, bottles of wine and playing cards were used as sacrificial substitutes.

An example of human sacrifice is found in the history of the small village of Vestenberg, 2 1/2 hours from Ansbach in Germany, where a large hill surrounded by a deep moat holds the foundations of ancient stone towers built by the Vestenbergs, the wealthiest family of medieval Franconia.

According to D. L. Ashliman of the University of Pittsburgh, in his paper Human Sacrifice in Legends and Myths , an eighty-year-old woman said that when Vestenberg Castle was being built, the mason built a seat into the wall for a small child whose mother had given it up to be sacrificed for “a large sum of money.”

Return to the Ancient Murder Scene

Returning to the Lednice-Valtice valley, and the early 11th-century building of Břeclav castle, considering how commonplace and widespread foundation sacrifices were at that time, the question of the three men chained together upon the first layer of foundation stones is no longer a mystery as much as it is a point of newfound archaeological interest.

As soon as next week, a new team of archaeologists and anthropologists will head to South Moravia to begin their quest aimed at illustrating the circumstances of their deaths, but they are quite convinced that they will find further layers of evidence of sacrificial ritual.

Over 1,000 skeletons discovered during the renovation of Kutná Hora “bone church” the Czech Republic

Over 1,000 skeletons discovered during the renovation of Kutná Hora “bone church” in the Czech Republic

The Ossuary of Sedlec is not a common Catholic chapel in the Czech Republic. This is one of the most unique chapels that you can visit, situated at Sedlec, in the suburbs of Kutna Hora.

Its nicknamed Church of Bones, or sometimes Bone Church visitors may not notice anything extraordinary on the outside but once you enter the chapel you should be prepared to cope with a gruesome sight.

The Sedlec Ossuary is adorned with more than 40,000 human skeletons, and many more are still found. Some think there could be as many as 70,000 or human skeletons arranged into all sorts of formations inside the Sedlec Ossuary.

Inside the Sedlec Ossuary.

During the renovation works of the 14th-century church archaeologists accidentally stumbled upon 34 mass graves with 1,200 skeletons, most of which belong to the victims of the Black Death and famine. Experts say it is the biggest find of its kind in Europe and the finding gives provides researchers with valuable historical information about people who lived in this community.

These bones belong to people who died during the mid-14th-century plague and in the subsequent Hussite Wars. Extensive renovation of the Sedlec Ossuary started in 2014 and two years later archaeologists were granted permission to launch a survey.

“We have been digging around the ossuary. The most significant discovery we have made are mass graves of the victims of a famine in 1318 and the plague in 1348.

“It could be compared to the burial ground in East Smithfield in London, which has some 500 skeletons. We have discovered around 600 plague victims and 600 victims of famine, so altogether 1,200 skeletons.

Archaeologists discovered over 1,2oo skeletons and five mass graves.
Archaeologists discovered over 1,200 skeletons and five mass graves.

This year we also started research in the interior. Below the first pyramid, we found five mass graves, which are even older. So when the ossuary was built, they had no idea that the graves were there,” archaeologist Jan Frolík, who is one of the members of the research team said.

Frolik said the skeletal remains have already unveiled a lot about the population of Kutná Hora at the time:

“They could be characterized as a mining population because there is a significant prevalence of men over women.

The ratio of adults and children is around fifty-fifty, which is a common population make up. But the 30-percent prevalence of men shows that there were new miners constantly flowing into the town and that it was apparently a very dangerous trade.

Otherwise, I would say it was a typical medieval society, judging by the injuries and illnesses reflected in the bones. So there were common fractures of limbs, some of them badly grown together. As for the illnesses that can be detected this way, we have recorded tuberculosis and meningitis,” he explained.

The Church of Bones is a popular tourist attraction but also a place of worship.

The story of the Church of Bones goes back to 1278 when the King of Bohemia sent the abbot of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastery to Jerusalem. The returning abbot returned with a jar of soil from the Golgotha. This “Holy Soil” attracted many people from different places and many wanted to be buried in Sedlec. In time there was no more room for skeletons and, thus the cemetery had to be expanded.

The Church of Bones in the Czech Republic is famous but certainly not the only place where we find walls decorated with bones and skulls of long-deceased people.

Under the city of Rome, Italy there is the Capuchin Crypt also known as the ‘Bone Chapel’. Inside the Capuchin Crypt, there are remains of 4,000 Capuchin monks buried by their order. They ‘decorate’ the underground crypt with vertebrae chandeliers, skulls of real size and cross-bones.

Capuchin Crypt in Rome, Italy.

The skeletons are standing and are dressed in robes. These people who passed away a long time ago are staring from the walls and in the background, there are hundreds of anonymous skulls of those who died.

Even more bizarre are the bodies discovered by art historian Paul Koudounaris who hunted them down in secret Catholic vaults in Rome and churches across Europe.

In his book, Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, Paul Koudounaris offers an intriguing visual history of veneration in European churches and monasteries of bejeweled and decorated skeletons.

The bodies were discovered by art historian Paul Koudounaris who hunted them down in secret Catholic vaults in Rome and churches across Europe.

The bodies were discovered by art historian Paul Koudounaris who hunted them down in secret Catholic vaults in Rome and churches across Europe.

Beneath the streets of Paris, France there is a huge underground labyrinth with dark galleries and narrow passages. The Paris catacombs contain skeletal remains of some 6 to 7 million former Parisians. The bones were deliberately arranged in a macabre display of high Romantic taste.

Paris catacombs.

While visiting these particular chapels and catacombs it may be wise to remember that regardless of how macabre these piles of skulls and skeletons are, these are still places of worship and we should pay respect to those who rest there.

Remains Of Medieval Wall Unearthed In Czech Republic

Remnants of Medieval Wall Dating Back to 1041 Unearthed in Breclav, Czech Republic

A remarkable archeological discovery – remains of a medieval wall at the beginning of the 11th century – was uncovered in the planning for restoring the Břeclav castle.

Archeologists claim the fortification was designed by the Duke of Bohemia, Břetislav, who controlled the area and gave its name to the town of Břeclav.

The city of Břeclav in southern Moravia has a rich past. Just a few months ago archaeologists discovered the remains of a boat that is estimated to be thousands of years old and now archaeological research in the bowels of Břeclav Castle, prior to its planned reconstruction, has revealed the remains of a medieval wall that is believed to have been built in 1041. 

Archaeologist Miroslav Dejmal of the Archaia Brno organization, who is conducting the research emphasized the importance of the find, saying that walls dating back to the 11th century are extremely rare. 

“What you see here are the remnants of a wall made of clay and wood. These are the foundations because the upper part was obviously destroyed by a fire, as you can see from this soft charcoal.” 

The original wall, which was hidden for centuries under a thick layer of clay, is estimated to have been around 8 meters high and parts of it are now being analyzed.

Preliminary results suggest that the wall is nearly a thousand years old and dates back to the first mention of the town in written records. Archaeologist Miroslav Dejmal says it is another part of the jigsaw puzzle falling into place. 

“The date that we have now from the result of preliminary tests is 1041. This leads us to conclude that it was most likely built by Břetislav, Duke of Bohemia.

When Moravia came under Břetislav’s administration, he invested in its castles and forts, pacified the country and eventually Moravia was incorporated into the Bohemian duchy.

If the date 1041 is a correct estimate, we can say with certainty that Břetislav built a fortified settlement here, which we already suspected, because the name Břeclav itself is derived from the name Břetislav.” 

The local authorities are delighted with the extraordinary find, even if it will inevitably delay work on the reconstruction of Břeclav Castle.

The spokesman for Břeclav City Hall, Jiří Holobrádek, says the find has generated great interest among the locals, but it is early days yet to say how and in what way the remnants of this medieval wall will be preserved. 

“It is too soon to say how we will proceed. Much depends on the outcome of the expert analysis that has only just started and we will obviously heed the advice of historians and archaeologists. However, given the importance of the discovery, it would be good to find a way to present it to the public.” 

The first means of doing that is already clear – archaeologists are working on a 3D model of the wall that looks to be as old as the town itself.