Church decorated in bones?

Hey, has anyone seen “this quaint Roman Catholic Church located in the Czech Republic”? How is that a respectful use of their dead bodies? I thought the Church taught – according to Catholic Answers – that bodies were supposed to be respectfully reposed, buried or cremated, and that for this reason scattering ashes was condemned. So what gives?!

There are more churches like that, which I find it scary…

I would be horrified :eek: lol

I have seen Churches in Europe (not in person) where crypts and such are arranged in such a manner. Often, what happens is that cemetery is “found” or becomes full, the land developed or what not. So the Church (it often seems to be monks and monasteries) will collect the bone and arrange them in a space saving manner, that keeps the “body” together. Many of these are very old.

There is a Capuchin Crypt in Rome that is similarly decorated. I believe there are a few others.

Unbelieveable! I never knew such a church existed.

I’ve seen the Bone Church in Rome, which is a string of attached chapels decorated with the bones of thousands of Capucchin monks. Not disturbing, but rather interesting to see in person.

My only thoughts on it are that it is another example, like existence of the incorruptibles, that God has a sense of humor. Oh, and that catholics aren’t boring.

In looking at some pictures of the Church, the bones are on display under the actual church, in what is typically called crypts, not in the main church. Crypts are very common under the apse, and naves of old churches. Saint Peter’s Basilica has a crypt, under it, though the bones (except for some saints) are kept in tombs.

It wouldn’t really “keep the body together” since these are disarticulated bones from many bodies.

Still, building the bones into religious architecture is IMNAAHO far more respectful and dignified than heaps of limb bones and pyramids of heads, as done elsewhere.


I may or may not have something known as “Trypophobia” it’s a non-recognized phobia nonetheless. But some of those pictures made me feel very uncomfortable, not because of the bones, but the way some of the skulls are displayed. Google it, you’ll understand what I mean.

this may sound morbid but I think its incredible it shows the beauty and design our lord put into the making of our bodies the complexities of the skeleton, also these were I believe interred here when the remains of thousands of plague victims were exumed, I think its no different than those of us with cremated ashes in our homes or jewelry or the dia de los muertos or all souls and all saints day festivities, people do have a primal fear of bones and death but remember Our Lord gave Ezekial the vision of dem dry bones walking around and Our Lord also conquered death on the Cross our ash wednesday services all reminders of returning to the dust of the earth its the soul and the life there after that is soo important not our bodily prisons. Also someone had to care about the remains to have took time to arrange them I believe monks did it.

I think that such displays are meant to remind us of the inevitability of death and - by extension - of the “last things” (Sirach 28): death, judgement, heaven and hell.

It’s the architectural equivalent of an old-fashioned “fire and brimstone” sermon, and meant to instil a “holy fear” (if you will) in viewers.

(On a lesser note, I’ve seen crypts with skulls-and-crossbones embossed on them in old Catholic churches, presumably with the same idea in mind.)

I find it quite beautiful, a powerful reminder of our mortality and a link between the earthly and divine. Think of it : mass being celebrated on An altar decorated with human bones. How beautiful. The boes are those of victims who died from the plague in the Middle Ages. Very old. Very beautiful.

I was here a few years ago. It’s the first church I’ve ever been to where I didn’t point at a ‘‘work of art’’ and say, '‘Wow, that’s beautiful!’.

I never knew there were places like this. It was amazing and creepy at the same time, yet I didn’t find it disrespectful.

I believe the this is exactly the reason for this. There’s also a reminiscence of the early Christians worshiping in the Catacombs. As a interesting side note which I think is appropriate given the topic, the earliest recordings of Christians by Roman documents are of classifying the Early Christian not as a religion but as a “burial society”, go figure. :stuck_out_tongue:

memento mori

I am walking a fine line between thinking the display of bones en masse is disrespectful, but meant to shock us all into remembering that death comes to us all.

In the linked article, a crypt had the quote, “As you are, we once were. As we are, you shall be one day.” I’ve often read that inscription on the gravestones of the Puritans in New England.

We don’t revere or venerate the bones of these holy people, but they do remind us of the four last things in an in-your-face manner. I wonder if I’m uncomfortable because I have to face my own mortality when I see this.

I like it. We venerate and display the bones of Saints. You can see the skull of St. Valentine on display in Rome, for instance. All those good Capuchin monks over the years are likewise displayed, and not forgotten. I think it’s a beautiful example of the Catholic belief that Jesus has overthrown the power of death, which is why Saints’ feast days are on the date of their deaths (often by martyrdom), not their birthday. It’s why the folk practice of dressing as skeletons and ghosts began on the eve of the Feast of All Saints’ Day. St. Paul mocked the power of death, which so terrified the pagan world, with the promise of everlasting life: Death, where is thy sting?

Modern secular culture denies the inevitability of death, with its obsession with youth. These older cultures bravely confront it.

Over the Capuchin crypt in Rome, made of thousands of bones of the faithful departed, is posted a blunt reminder to reform while there is still time, mixed with a hope for Salvation: “What you are now, I was. What I am, you shall be.”


The chapel in Evora Portugal was constructed for this reason. The cemeteries were filling up and the bones were relocated. Evora was a very wealthy area so the Franciscans (I think) built a chapel out of the bones to remind the faithful that their wealth was transitory and that life here is temporary.


What really hit me was the imagined scene of all these skeletons being imbued again wtth flesh and blood, bursting to life, and being brought to the Final Judgement of Christ at the Resurrection of the Dead at the end of the world.


In addition to what others have said, another reason why this can seem very jarring to us with modern sensibilities, is that modern life has removed us to an extent from the physical process of death and dying. Very few people in the West have to actually kill and prep their food, we have literally renamed the main room of a house to “living” room to disassociated from the previous practice of holding wakes and viewings for our deceased family members in it, etc. etc. Even the Liturgy of the Church has played down the physical part of death in a favor for more focus on the Resurrection, not that I’m offering this a critique of the Liturgy but merely as an observation.

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