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8 Creepy Bone Churches in Europe (PHOTOS)

Posted: 10/18/2011 3:28 pm

What does a cemetery do when it starts running out of room? In some cases, the answer is to store bodies and bones inside the church. Bone churches, called ossuaries, can be found in several countries in Europe and range from piles of decorated skulls to pieces of wall art made up of various human bones. With results ranging from creepy to beautiful, these macabre displays are more common than you might think, and attract tourists from around the world.

If you'd like to make a tour of Europe's bone churches, these are the spots you'll definitely want to have on your list.

Capuchin Crypt - Rome, Italy
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Rome's Capuchin Crypt occupies a tiny space underneath the Santa Maria della Immacolata Concezione dei Cappuccini church in Rome. And while it's not a crypt in the same sense as the Paris catacombs, the walls of this series of small chapels are entirely decorated with the bones of Capuchin monks, so the word "crypt" definitely feels like an apt moniker when you're there.

The soil in the crypt was brought from Jerusalem and is considered holy, so burial space disappeared quickly. To make room for additional people who wanted to be buried in that soil, they began removing bones of previously-buried monks and stacking them. Eventually, someone had the brilliant idea of using those bones to decorate the walls.

The crypt features the bones of more than 4,000 monks who died between 1528 and 1870. There are six small chapels in the Capuchin Crypt, and all but one is creatively adorned with bones. Furthermore, some of the bone-covered chapels feature predominantly one particular bone. For instance, there's a "Crypt of the Leg Bones and Thigh Bones" and a "Crypt of the Pelvises."

My favorite bits of decor are the little grim reaper sculpted from bones, featured on one chapel's ceiling, and the sign in the final chapel which says, "As you are, we once were. As we are, you shall be one day." These may not be signs of the monks having a sense of humor, but they certainly make me giggle.

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For more spooky sites around the world, check out:


Photos by: Johnny Soderberg, Patrick_Down, victor nuno, Mihnea, Rob Sheridan, Ivo Anastacio, scpgt adelecambre

 

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