viernes, 31 de agosto de 2012

The Bone Church: Sedlec Ossuary, Kutná Hora

 I realize my posts have been taking a turn for the macabre of late... I guess I'm just gearing up for halloween, so bear with me and be warned, there is more to come!

 This treasure located south of Kutná Hora, Czech Republic appears to be a relatively nondescript Gothic Roman Catholic chapel from the outside. When the structure was being built, a huge cemetery filled with tens of thousands of skeletons was unearthed. The skeletal remains were stacked up dutifully in the chapel for centuries. 

That is, until the 19th century, when a woodcarver, František Rint, was tasked with straightening up the piles of bones by the Schwarzenberg family. And what a job he did, festooning the church with garlands of skulls, a coat of arms made entirely of bones, a chandelier using every bone in the human body, a bony Jesus on the cross … It’s haunting, macabre and grotesque.  

Between 40,000 and 70,000 deceased members of the clergy reside here dating back to 1278 when Sedlec became known as a particularly desirable burial site, after the ground was consecrated with dirt taken from Calvary, the site of Jesus' crucifixion. 

Among the bones are countless victims of the Black Death, who flooded the cemetery in the mid 14th century. I have yet to see this stunning chapel in person but I hope to travel there some time within the next year. Here are some photos inside Sedlec Ossuary.

jueves, 30 de agosto de 2012

El Museo De Las Momias

Listed as #7 on's 7 Most Horrifying Museums of All Time, El Museo De Las Momias located in Guanajuato, Mexico is described as a "nightmarish carnival of the rotting dead..." Over a hundred naturally preserved mummies line the walls of this crypt-come-museum. 
Its residents were once six feet under, until around 1865 it was determined that families must pay a yearly grave-tax, and if they could not their relatives were exhumed and stacked in a sunken crypt. Those who were buried had become unintentionally mummified because of the very dry condition of the earth. In the 1900s the mummies began to attract tourists, and cemetery workers would charge passers by a few pesos.  Eventually the collection became so large that it was turned into a museum where you can still visit. The law of the grave tax was overturned in Guanajuato in 1958, but the museum is here to stay.  

When the museum first opened, the dead were lined up along the walls, facing inward, dressed in long white robes, one can only imagine what it would be like to walk down that corridor with nothing at all between you and rows of unseeing dead...
Among the various horrifying attractions are infants, the elderly, the smallest mummy in the world (a fetus from a pregnant victim of cholera) and various mummies who were actually buried alive during a rampant cholera outbreak. 
To cut the spread of disease many victims were buried immediately resulting in some premature burials- which may explain the horrified expressions on many of the faces.

Here is the article on El Museo De las Momias:

The El Museo is the museum of HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THAT!

Why... does that exist anywhere?

To say this is a museum full of mummies doesn't even come close to conveying the unspeakable horror of this place. How about this: In ancient Rome, and college fraternities, there is a brutal and humiliating tradition known as running the gauntlet, during which you strip naked and run through a valley of horrors. Guanajuato's El Museo De Las Momias ("Museum of the Mummies") is just like that, except that it's the spectators who are naked. And dead.

You know one of those hands will reach out and grab you.

The Mummies of Guanajuato are naturally preserved bodies from a cholera outbreak that hit Guanajuato way back in 1833. Since this is basically just a huge open grave with floodlights, its legality and moral status continues to be the subject of much discussion everywhere except in Mexico.

Most of the mummies on display were corpses whose families could not afford to pay a grave tax levied on their families once they died. If you failed to pay the taxes, you guessed it...

You went up on display.

smallest mummy in the world

Hey, have we mentioned the babies?

"Come play with us..."


"...and ever..."

martes, 28 de agosto de 2012

Capuchin Monastery

In Sicily, where the relationship between the living and the dead has always been strong, the city of Palermo hosts one of the world's more bizarre and morbid tourist attractions. Through the doors of the Capuchin Monastery, which looks like any other building from the outside, visitors can descend into the large Capuchin catacombs.

Pinned to the walls, sitting on benches and shelves and tucked away in open coffins are nearly 8,000 corpses, each one dressed in their Sunday best. In Western culture, the long dead are generally kept out of sight, hidden from the living. Here, it is exactly the opposite. Nothing stands between the living and dead, except maybe a rope with a sign asking visitors to be respectful.
The ill-lit, musty catacombs have been separated into a few corridors, each one hosting a specific type of person. There is a room for religious figures, mainly those affiliated with the monastery, for professionals, such as doctors, and a room for women, virgins and infants. The oldest corpse in the macabre collection is that of Silvestro da Gubbio, a friar who passed in 1599. 

It is believed that the particularly dry atmosphere allowed for the natural mummification of the bodies. Initially, priests would lay the dead on shelves and allow them to drip until they were completely depleted of bodily fluids. A full year later, the dried out corpse would be rinsed with vinegar before being re-dressed in their best attire and sent to their proper room, to stand for eternity.

One of the most recent to be interred was Rosalia Lombardo, only two years old when she was embalmed in 1920. The embalming procedure has kept Rosalia looking so well preserved that she has been dubbed "Sleeping Beauty." The embalming procedure, which was lost for decades, consists of "formalin to kill bacteria, alcohol to dry the body, glycerin to keep her from overdrying, salicylic acid to kill fungi, and the most important ingredient, zinc salts to give the body rigidity." 

miércoles, 22 de agosto de 2012

He Descends

By Teratism

lunes, 20 de agosto de 2012

Château de Bonnelles


 The incredible, abandoned Château de Bonnelles photographed and explored by French Urban Explorer Pierre-Henry Muller.

jueves, 16 de agosto de 2012

Images of Atlantis

 Andreas Frank's surreal and wonderful imagining of the lost city of Atlantis; the exhibit can only be seen by diving off the coast of Florida.

lunes, 13 de agosto de 2012

Castle of Mesen

 Built and destroyed many times, what remains from this building dates mainly from the beginning of the 17th century. In the middle of a pretty public park of 7 hectares, the castle has a lot of outbuildings like stables and an orangery. After 1796, the castle was not used as a living place anymore. During the next century, the castle was used for the local industry A gin distillery, a sugar refinery, a potash refinery and a tobacco factory took place in the caves of the castle. Still a lot of machines remain there. 
In 1897 the castle was sold to a religious order that built the impressive neo-gothic chapel. After the First World War an institution bought the complex and established a school for the local children. A new aisle was added, the nice Dutch pavilion, and also a school.

Lede Boarding School (1914-1970)

This boarding school was first located in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, founded by Mrs de Maintenon. After its destruction, it moved to Lede in Belgium. The teaching was performed in French. Only female students here, the school is reserved to the penniless aristocracy. Later on, militaries daughters were allowed.

The education was very 18th century oriented: strict and rigorous. The motto was "I'd maintain". For instance, the girls had to greet their teachers with a curtsey performed in three movements when they entered in the classrooms. Then when the teacher went out, the pupils stood up and made another curtsey while saying "Miss, we thank you for the lessons you taught us".
The school was financed by the Belgian aristocracy. The Boël baroness, Miss Carton de Villard among many others. The pupils paid also an expensive tribute.
The days started up early. At 6am they had to wake up and wash. After the 7pm mass, the breakfast and the lessons followed. The mass was given by an external priest, no religious person was allowed to stay inside the school. The chapel, nowadays in a derelict state, had a beautiful long blue carpet in the center alley, with an heraldic lily painted on it.

The education was particularly refined: the girls had to know everything to behave in the high society and in 'great houses'. Learning how to receive important persons but also being able to manage employees, while being able to perform any housework. This on top of the primary and secondary lessons. Actually, one started the school at the age of 5 to finish at 18 years old! The professors taught principles such as "Misses, if you have the chance to manage employees, it is absolutely necessary that you can do everything they can do, at least as well as you expect from them. And if you don't, well this would be at least extremely useful for your family and yourself".

150 pupils lived there. The studies were extremely well followed. The girls received one visit per month, and were allowed to go back home only one month per year.
The leisure? Reading, walking in the country, and gym.

Each 5-6 years old pupil was patroned by a 12 to 18 years old girl who was responsible of her. She had to guide her little one and take care of her, for example watch out her clothes and behavior. The little girls slept in dormitory rooms while the oldest ones had private rooms, equipped of baths.


Problems appear then; Then the problems arose: the castle belongs in 1970 to the Ministry of Defence that let the complex rot. Costs for restoration became so high that it was refused to list the castle as a historical monument.
Associations are fighting for a rehabilitation, but as often money and procedures problems impeach any action to be taken. Still it remains a quiet and peaceful place to explore, although dangerous because everything is collapsing. Sad...
Greatness and decline is the motto here... The location gets more and more vandalized. A place that keeps its own char that we tried to revive by these ancient pictures. Happy exploring.

Many thanks to Mr Guy André de Pauw for all his invaluable information regarding this location and his old pictures.
In memory of his late mother, pupil at the boarding school from 1925 to 1938.

Now lets enter this magnificent castle...

The Chapel

 Photos and information via Forbidden Places